Schizophrenia is a very serious mental illness that can affect how you think, feel, and behave. If you have this diagnosis, you or those around you may feel as though you have lost touch with reality. These symptoms can make it difficult to access the care you need to begin recovery. Fortunately, many rehab centers are equipped to treat schizophrenia.
Untreated schizophrenia can have disabling long-term effects. But with a coordinated plan of care, you can still engage in school or work, achieve or maintain your independence, and enjoy personal relationships. In order to begin recovery, you can learn more about your illness, its impact on your life, and which types of treatment are currently available.
It can be overwhelming to receive this diagnosis. Schizophrenia is often unfairly maligned, although those views are changing with time. And despite the associated stigma, appropriate treatment can empower you to manage your symptoms and live a fulfilling life.
Because the symptoms of schizophrenia often appear in early adulthood,1 many patients benefit from developing certain life skills in addition to receiving medical care. Rehabilitation often involves education, career training, and practicing good self-care habits.
A positive outlook is essential to achieving and maintaining stability. Remember that a diagnosis of schizophrenia doesn’t mean your life is over. You deserve care and compassion. A good-quality rehab program will guide you through addressing challenges while recognizing and supporting your many personal strengths. There are a number of ways to approach this process of recovery; what’s important is choosing an option that suits your unique needs.
Antipsychotic medications,2 such as risperidone (Risperdal)3 or olanzapine (Zyprexa),4 are commonly prescribed for schizophrenia. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), these medications are used to treat patients who have experienced “some loss of contact with reality.” Some symptoms, like hallucinations, should abate within days of starting an antipsychotic. Other symptoms may take weeks to resolve, even if the drug is taken as directed. If you’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia, your prescribing doctor will likely recommend that you take medication on an ongoing basis, even after completing treatment for an acute episode.
In art therapy, you can process difficult emotions and experiences through creative expression. This modality may help you get in touch with your feelings and make sense of your inner world.
Because art therapy can include nonverbal expression,5 this technique can help people with schizophrenia practice communication skills in a low-stakes environment. The act of creation can strengthen your sense of self, while the art you produce invites you to relate with other people in a new way. According to one study, art therapy can alleviate some symptoms of schizophrenia6 in some people.
Talk therapy can help you cope with hallucinations or delusions in a healthier way. Many experts recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a treatment for schizophrenia.7
CBT works by helping you to identify the thought patterns that cause your unwanted feelings and behaviors. You can then use specific tools to challenge these thought patterns and eventually work towards more beneficial, actionable thoughts.
Family members are an important source of support for people with any mental health diagnosis. And a wealth of data supports the importance of family therapy as a treatment for schizophrenia,8 in particular. Many rehab programs offer family therapy—and some define “family” broadly, inviting chosen family members to participate in the process.
In this type of therapy, you’ll meet with a trained therapist as a group, and may also have individual sessions. These are opportunities to discuss your condition and explore solutions that may help you and your family work towards remission.
In order to maximize your health outcomes and reduce the impact of your illness on your day-to-day functionality, it’s important to maintain a strong support network. The more your friends and family understand your diagnosis, the better equipped they’ll be to help you heal. Although it can go into remission, schizophrenia is a lifelong condition. If you and your loved ones work together, you can make an even more sustainable plan for ongoing care.
This illness is a severe, chronic diagnosis characterized by disturbances in thought, perception and behavior. Schizophrenia affects approximately 24 million people,9 which is 0.32% of the global population.
As scientists seek to pin down its causes, this condition is the subject of plenty of research. Although anyone can develop it, researchers believe schizophrenia may be linked to the following factors:10
Understanding the symptoms and causes of schizophrenia is the first step in learning to manage your illness. A serious condition like schizophrenia can impact your life in many different ways.
Because this is a chronic condition, you can expect to have the diagnosis for the rest of your life. Despite this, it’s important to note that schizophrenia can go into remission.11 According to one group of experts, “research suggests that remission can be achieved in 20–60% of people with schizophrenia.”
Even if you achieve remission, you’ll likely need ongoing support. To plan for ongoing care, you can start by learning about the most common difficulties people with schizophrenia face. This may empower you to build a support network of loved ones and mental health professionals with the expertise you’ll need if acute symptoms arise.
A schizophrenia diagnosis doesn’t only affect the person with this condition. It often ripples outward, having a noticeable impact on your spouse, family, friends, and colleagues. Family therapy isn’t just intended to heal your relationships; it can also help your loved ones cope with their experience.
Because the illness can lead to lower self-esteem and isolation, and also because of the heavy stigma associated with a diagnosis, many people identify personal relationships as the biggest area of their lives impacted by schizophrenia.12 In one survey, 27% of people with schizophrenia said that they had experienced discrimination from romantic and sexual partners on the basis of their diagnosis, and over half expected it to occur.
“Schizophrenia makes it hard for people to form close bonds,” says Dost Öngür, MD, Director of the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Research Program at McLean Fernside in Princeton, Massachusetts.
Social support is crucial for people with schizophrenia.13 According to one study, “schizophrenia patients with higher frequencies of social interaction are more likely to achieve symptomatic remission.” Another found that being married or living with someone long term even had positive outcomes on employment14 in people with this diagnosis.
Schizophrenia can interfere with your professional goals. With untreated symptoms, it can be incredibly difficult to complete your education or job training, and to function in the workplace on a day to day basis.
Data shows that people with schizophrenia may experience a decline in employment14 after being diagnosed. This can mean reduced hours or a lower position. Some patients stop working entirely, and instead make use of disability benefits.
Several characteristics are linked to a higher employment rate after diagnosis, including a high level of education, older age at the first registered diagnosis, fewer previous hospitalizations, and an absence of substance use issues.
Substance use complicates the process of diagnosing and treating schizophrenia. If you are struggling with addiction alongside schizophrenia, you’re not alone. Substance abuse disorders are up to 5 times higher in people with schizophrenia15 than the general population.
Addiction occurs in nearly 50% of people with schizophrenia, and presents with a wide range of drug classes (e.g. smoking, cannabinoids, alcohol, stimulants, etc). In addition to complicating diagnosis and treatment, it can also exacerbate patients’ symptoms.
If you’re struggling with schizophrenia and addiction, treatment for both conditions should happen concurrently. Ask centers you’re considering if they offer specialized treatment for co-occurring disorders.
There is no cure for schizophrenia. But with the right treatment, healthy habits, and a solid support network, you can still lead a rewarding life with less chance of a severe relapse.
Schizophrenia is one of the most heavily stigmatized mental illnesses, subject to a great deal of misinformation. But cultural norms are shifting towards more acceptance. You are more than your diagnosis and your illness. Because your healing process will be unique, just like you, it’s important to find a treatment program that’s tailored to meet your specific needs.
Discover treatment centers across the U.S. that specialize in this condition and see information on pricing, insurance, occupancy, and more in our schizophrenia rehab directory.
Reviewed by Rajnandini Rathod