Schizophrenia is an oftentimes debilitating mental disorder that causes people to lose touch with reality. Schizophrenia may result in hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior that impair daily functioning and can be disabling. There is no cure for schizophrenia and individuals with this disorder require life-long treatment.
Origins of Schizophrenia
Scientists are not sure what exactly causes this mental health disorder. There are, however, some known risk factors:
- Family history of schizophrenia is the biggest risk factor
- Pregnancy and birth complications due to inadequate nutrition or exposure to toxins in utero
- Taking psychoactive or psychotropic drugs as a teenager or young adult
Characteristics of the Disorder
Symptoms of schizophrenia can be divided into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.
Positive symptoms are atypical additional behaviors. These symptoms often include hallucinations and delusions.
Negative symptoms are abilities that are restricted or absent. Often, these negative symptoms include a flat affect and vacant stare. Social withdrawal is almost always present.
The last group of symptoms is cognitive in nature. These include impairment in the ability to think clearly, make timely decisions, or remember information.
Symptoms of schizophrenia can differ significantly from person to person and become more severe over time. An individual with schizophrenia typically experiences periods of lessening and worsening of symptoms. However, some symptoms are almost always present to some degree.
Schizophrenia affects each person differently, so two people with the same diagnosis may have different experiences. For some people, the symptoms are mild, and they can function well with little or no support. Others are incapacitated to the extent that they need help with daily living skills.
People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality because their thoughts and behaviors don’t make sense. As a result, they may act out of character, seem agitated or withdrawn, and have difficulty beginning or continuing activities. Some people with schizophrenia may need to be placed in hospitals or residential schizophrenia treatment center if they become severely ill or pose a danger to themselves or others.
Effective Treatments for Schizophrenia
Unfortunately, the symptoms of schizophrenia can make it difficult for people to seek help. Antipsychotic medications are the best treatment for schizophrenia right now. They can reduce the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, usually allowing a person to function more effectively and appropriately. However, antipsychotic drugs don’t cure schizophrenia or ensure that there will be no further psychotic episodes.
The first generation of antipsychotic medications, known as typical antipsychotics, were introduced in the 1950s to treat psychosis. Unfortunately, these drugs, while effective, can have serious side effects, including sedation, dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, and weight gain. That is why it is essential to work closely with a mental health professional to find the proper medication and dosage.
The newest generation of antipsychotics, known as atypical antipsychotics, are less likely to cause side effects. This means they can also be effective when prescribing traditional medicine haven’t worked for you before.
Clozapine was the only drug indicated for the disorder for decades. Now, however, there are several others including:
- INVEGA (paliperidone)
- Risperdal (risperidone)
- Abilify (aripiprazole)
- Seroquel (quetiapine)
- Zyprexa (olanzapine)
- Caplyta (lumateperone)
It is essential to talk to your doctor before making any changes in medication.
The newer atypical antipsychotic drugs are safer regarding tardive dyskinesia (TD), an involuntary movement disorder that can develop after long-term use. Some of these medicines may cause weight gain and diabetes in addition to metabolic side effects such as elevated cholesterol or blood sugar levels. They also have several neurological risks including parkinsonism without shaking, otherwise known as akathisia, which causes motor restlessness but not with the rigidity seen with Parkinson’s disease.
Compliance Can Be a Barrier
Medication compliance is often one of the most significant challenges of long-term treatment for schizophrenia. Individuals with this condition are often very resistant to medications and struggle to take them consistently.
That is why alternatives such as long-acting injectables are given to patients. The individual receives an injection every few months. This makes it much more likely that the medication will stabilize symptoms. Long-acting injectables are a promising new treatment option for people with schizophrenia who have difficulty complying with their medication regimen.
Making lifestyle changes is one way to manage symptoms related to schizophrenia. Exercise, diet, sleep, and avoiding substance abuse can help improve symptoms and overall well-being. Getting regular exercise can help improve sleep and mood. Eating a nutritious diet and avoiding processed foods can also help.
Most people with schizophrenia need more sleep than the average person, so getting eight hours of sleep each night is essential. Avoiding alcohol and drugs is also crucial, as substance abuse can worsen symptoms of schizophrenia.
These lifestyle changes can help individuals feel better and manage symptoms more effectively.
Seek Residential Treatment
Successful treatment for schizophrenia depends on a combination of effective medication and self-help strategies. While medication is essential for managing the symptoms of schizophrenia, it is not enough on its own. It is also important to educate yourself about the illness, communicate with your doctors and therapists, build a strong support system, take self-help measures, and stick to your treatment plan. Pursuing self-help strategies such as changing your diet, relieving stress, and seeking social support may not seem like effective tools to manage such a challenging disorder as schizophrenia, but they can have a profound effect on the frequency and severity of symptoms, improve the way you feel, and help you function better in daily life. When combined with effective medication, these self-help measures can make a real difference in the lives of people with schizophrenia.