Schizophrenia Treatment

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that affects about one percent of Americans, according to the US Library of Medicine. There are multiple types of schizophrenia, each one with its own set of symptoms, but all types of schizophrenia make it almost impossible for the patient to function in the world.

Some patients hear voices. Others believe that people are following them, trying to control them, or are otherwise involved in a conspiracy to harm them in some way. These delusions can cause a high degree of anxiety and agitation, and can sabotage old and new relationships alike. To the objective viewer, many patients living with schizophrenia may seem completely normal until they talk. Many will not make sense when they speak while others may sit for hours on end without moving or speaking at all.

Though rare, symptoms can show up in early childhood, but in most cases, they become apparent during the teen years or early adulthood, and there is no statistically significant difference in the rate of schizophrenia in either gender or across cultures.

Common Characteristic

Each type of schizophrenia manifests differently in patients, but all have certain things in common:

  • Intense symptoms. No matter which type of schizophrenia is at issue, the symptoms are severe and significant.
  • Disruption to day-to-day life. Patients cannot work or interact normally with others.
  • Disruption to family life. Family members are deeply affected by the symptoms that come with untreated schizophrenia.
  • Treatable. Psychotherapy and medications can treat every type of schizophrenia.

Researchers are constantly developing new treatments that will work to augment the current treatments and therapies that are available to help those struggling with schizophrenia. If you or someone you care about is living with schizophrenia, contact us today for more information about which mental health treatment options are right for you.
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schizophrenia treatmentCauses

Though there is no single or proven cause of schizophrenia, according to the Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia, experts believe that there are a number of different factors that can come together to cause the disorder. Among these are:

  • Genetics. Schizophrenia happens in 10 percent of people who have a first-degree relation diagnosed with the disorder (e.g., mother, father, sister or brother). Those with a second-degree relation have a higher incidence as well, but the highest risk is for an identical twin of someone with schizophrenia at 40 to 65 percent.
  • Environment. It is believed that genes alone are not enough for schizophrenia to develop. Prenatal issues, problems at birth, trauma and other psychosocial issues may play a part.
  • Brain chemistry. Another possibility is an imbalance in neurotransmitters like dopamine and glutamate that control communication between brain cells.
  • Brain structure differences. Whether it’s prenatal structural differences or changes triggered by puberty, some experts believe that the differences identified in the brain tissue of those diagnosed with schizophrenia may be one of the causes of the disorder.

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A Schizophrenia Diagnosis

A schizophrenia diagnosis can be obtained by a psychiatric professional and is achieved by evaluating and testing the individual. In most cases, the evaluation is made based on the symptoms reported by the patient and, occasionally, close friends and family. In general, schizophrenics report that they have a hard time maintaining employment or holding onto friendships. They also often have problems with depression, anxiety or suicidal tendencies, according to PubMed Health.

Patients may first feel irritable or tense and have a hard time sleeping or concentrating. As the illness progresses, they may begin to experience more serious symptoms including delusions, hallucinations, erratic thought patterns, lack of emotion, bizarre behavior and an increased desire to isolate.

According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of schizophrenia can be broken up into three basic groups: negative symptoms, positive symptoms and cognitive symptoms:

  • Positive symptoms. Hallucinations and delusions are the most common types of positive symptoms seen among schizophrenics. They demonstrate how the patient has “lost touch” with reality, are never evidenced in the healthy, and are generally obvious and immediately recognizable.
  • Negative symptoms. A lack of emotion or pleasure in daily life, a lack of ability to plan and follow through on plans, and an inability to even interact with others are all negative symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Many who exhibit these symptoms need help with basic daily tasks like hygiene maintenance and eating.
  • Cognitive symptoms. Difficulty processing information and using it to make decisions, inattention, and an inability to utilize their “working memory” are all cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. These are a bit more difficult to recognize initially but they can make it very difficult for patients to work and lead a normal life.

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Catatonic Schizophrenia

A report in Schizophrenia Bulletin says that catatonic schizophrenia is one of several types of schizophrenia and is characterized by extremes in behavior that range from a still, quiet state in which the patient won’t speak, respond or move to the opposite end of the spectrum – high-energy, erratic, bizarre behavior. The inside emotions may be the opposite of the outside action. That is, those who refuse to speak or respond to those who attempt to communicate with them may appear to lack emotion but in reality may be experiencing high degrees of anxiety.

This is a very rare form of schizophrenia and the state of catatonia may be more likely evidenced in other mental health illnesses. However, when it is identified, it is highly treatable.
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schizophrenia signsDisorganized Schizophrenia

Losing touch with reality is a hallmark of schizophrenia, especially disorganized schizophrenia. The psychosis experienced by patients can make them say things that don’t make sense and behave inappropriately. Considered to be one of the more serious types of schizophrenia, according to the Mayo Clinic, it can mean vicious outbursts from the patient as well as an inability to bathe or prepare their own meals.

Also known as hebephrenic schizophrenia, disorganized schizophrenia can manifest as disorganized thinking, jumping from one topic to another, making up words, making inappropriate clothing choices, displaying emotions that are inappropriate to the situation, and making a scene in public – or it can manifest as flat affect (no emotion) and isolation.
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Paranoid Schizophrenia

Seeing and hearing things that aren’t there characterize paranoid schizophrenia. Though patients may be better able to function in day-to-day life with this type of the disorder as compared to other types, it is still a serious condition that can make it difficult to have healthy relationships or be functional at work. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can also lead to violent outbursts, intense anxiety, argumentativeness, delusions, hallucinations and suicide attempts – but like other types of schizophrenia, it is highly treatable.

With effective treatment, you can manage the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia and work toward leading a happier, healthier life.
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Schizoaffective Disorder

A number of schizophrenia symptoms manifest in the patient struggling with schizoaffective disorder, especially hallucinations and delusions. However, mood disorder symptoms like anxiety and depression are also an issue among patients as well. Because there is a mixture of symptoms that define multiple disorders, there is often difficulty getting a correct diagnosis, according to PubMed Health. Each person with the disorder may have a different combination of symptoms and therefore a different experience with untreated schizoaffective disorder. However, those who do not seek treatment are often isolated and lonely, unable to handle large responsibilities like working or going to school, and often rely heavily on their family to meet their basic needs. With treatment, the outlook for their lives changes dramatically.
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Though schizophrenia may be painfully obvious to everyone around the patient, some schizophrenics do not believe that they are ill or in need of treatment. Even hallucinations and delusions are not viewed by the patient as evidence of a mental health disorder, and any evidence designed to demonstrate the need for treatment is ignored. This condition is called anosognosia, and it affects 60 percent of those diagnosed with schizophrenia. Rather than being a secondary diagnosis, it is usually a symptom of the illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Unlike denial, anosognosia is not short term; it can last for years. It is an unshakeable belief, even in the face of hard evidence to the contrary, and patients may come up with illogical arguments as a defense, firmly believing that their explanation is irrefutable. Often, anosognosia must be addressed before the patient can get treatment for schizophrenia – and in many cases, it can be an insurmountable obstacle to proper mental health care.
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schizophrenia helpHow Schizophrenia Is Treated

The focus of schizophrenia treatment is eliminating the symptoms that are experienced by the individual patient. This usually involves a comprehensive treatment plan that includes both antipsychotic medication and a wide range of psychotherapeutic treatments. Each person should have a unique experience in treatment

  • Medication. This is the first stop in any comprehensive treatment plan and most will take antipsychotics that may include Thorazine, Haldol, Etrafon or Trilafon, and/or Prolixin, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Each of these drugs address different symptoms of schizophrenia, including hallucinations and delusions. Other medications, including Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify and others, may be prescribed as well to help with other symptoms of schizophrenia. Some are taken in pill form while others are shots given once or twice a month. Hallucinations and agitation often disappears within days, delusions may go away within a few weeks, and after six weeks, most patients are on track to see a high degree of improvement. Patients should prepare to be persistent as they try different medications in different doses until they find the right combination.
  • Psychosocial treatment. According to “Treatment of Schizophrenia,” published in the British Medical Journal, patients who have stabilized on their medication can benefit from psychosocial treatment that helps them deal with managing the remaining symptoms of their illness in daily life. Regular psychosocial treatment not only provides these coping mechanisms but also increases the chances that patients will stay on track with their medications and avoid relapse or hospitalization.
  • Co-occurring disorder treatment. Many patients living with schizophrenia have co-occurring disorders, like substance abuse, anxiety or depression. Substance abuse is the most common since many attempt to self-medicate their schizophrenia symptoms prior to receiving medical treatment for the disorder. Drug rehabilitation that is provided together with schizophrenia treatment will be most effective.
  • Illness education. Learning about schizophrenia and how it works, as well as how different types of treatment will affect symptoms, can help patients to get and stay in control of their own care and take responsibility for their treatment and their lives.
  • Vocational assistance. Because many schizophrenics have never been able to do well in school or manage a job, they will need assistance to prepare for the workforce. Vocational training will help them to take advantage of their newfound balance and give them skills to start a career in school or on the job. In some cases, life skills may be the first step as patients learn how to navigate public transportation, open and use a bank account, or get copies of important documents, for example.
  • Family assistance. Family members of schizophrenics not only need treatment to deal with the difficulties that come with caring for a family member living with untreated schizophrenia, but they also need education and assistance in learning how to help their family member be successful in treatment.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This type of therapy is recommended for those in schizophrenia treatment because its focus is on behavior and the thought patterns that inform that behavior. Modifying these two things can have a significant impact on the patient’s ability to manage symptoms in everyday life.
  • Support groups. Meeting with others who similarly struggle with the symptoms of schizophrenia helps patients to realize that they are not alone in their difficulties, to learn from the mistakes and successes of others, and to connect with other people after a lifetime of dysfunctional friendships and personal relationships due to the untreated disorder.

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Schizophrenia Treatment: A Phone Call Away

Getting the help you need for yourself or someone you care about is only as far away as your phone. Contact us today to learn more about your options in mental health care and allow us to connect you with a treatment program that will help you find the balance in your life that you need and deserve.