Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition that requires ongoing treatment. Using complementary and alternative remedies alongside medical treatments may help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Its symptoms can make it difficult for a person to participate in daily activities.

Treatment for schizophrenia typically involves a combination of antipsychotic medications and psychotherapy. Complementary and alternative treatments used alongside these traditional treatments may help a person manage their symptoms.

This article discusses some alternative and complementary treatments for schizophrenia.

Complementary and alternative treatments should not replace treatment by a healthcare or mental health professional. They are meant to be used alongside these traditional treatments.

Medications are an important part of managing schizophrenia. A person should discuss all complementary treatments with their care team before using them.

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According to a 2021 review of research, people with schizophrenia are less likely to eat a balanced diet. They may be more likely to have deficiencies in certain vitamins, such as vitamin D.

A review from 2015 suggests that vitamin supplementation may play an important role in the treatment of schizophrenia.

Review authors state that vitamins, such as vitamins B12 and D and folic acid, alongside traditional medications may help manage symptoms. Review authors also explain that low levels of these vitamins are a common finding in many people with schizophrenia.

A person should discuss possible vitamin supplementation with a qualified healthcare professional.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure where a surgeon implants electrodes into certain areas of the brain. These electrodes can generate electrical impulses to control abnormal activities in the brain.

According to a small 2020 trial with eight participants with schizophrenia, DBS has the potential to be an effective treatment for schizophrenia, especially in cases when medication is not effective.

However, the evidence for DBS and schizophrenia is limited. This is partially because it is challenging to know where to place the electrodes.

A 2023 study came to a similar conclusion and suggests that digital monitoring following the DBS procedure may help to show further behavioral changes.

More research is needed on the effectiveness of DBS as a treatment for schizophrenia. However, early trials are promising.

Some researchers believe that nutrition may play a role in the development, progression, and management of schizophrenia.

Their research has shown that people with schizophrenia may be more likely to have poorer eating habits than those without the condition. This may include an increased intake of sodium, cholesterol, saturated fats, and sugar, and a lower intake of fiber.

These dietary habits can lead to other health issues, such as obesity and metabolic syndrome. Higher levels of these conditions have also been seen among people with schizophrenia.

Some evidence shows that nutritional intervention can help improve mental health. For example, diets such as the Mediterranean diet may help support mental health and lower the risk of medical conditions. However, more research is needed.

A 2019 review suggests that the ketogenic (keto) diet may be beneficial for people with schizophrenia. This may be due to the keto diet’s ability to help restore the brain’s energy metabolism.

Sleep disturbances are common among people with schizophrenia. A review from 2021 looked at studies that researched the use of melatonin in people with schizophrenia.

Melatonin is a hormone that the brain naturally produces in response to darkness. It helps with sleep and regulating circadian rhythms.

Benzodiazepines are a common treatment for sleeping issues in people with schizophrenia. However, they are not typically recommended for long-term use and may cause side effects.

The studies in the review found positive results in melatonin use. It helped regulate sleep and better metabolize antipsychotic medications. However, there was no evidence that melatonin use allowed people to stop taking benzodiazepines.

More research is needed on the use of melatonin as a complementary treatment for schizophrenia.

There is some evidence that cannabidiol (CBD) may help reduce and manage symptoms of psychosis in schizophrenia.

According to a 2021 study, recent clinical trials have shown CBD to have antipsychotic properties. CBD may have a positive effect on thinking ability in younger people with severe schizophrenia.

However, more research is needed. There is no current recommendation for the use of medical cannabis or CBD for the treatment of schizophrenia.

People with schizophrenia should not use CBD or other cannabis-related products without speaking with a healthcare professional first.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

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Some people with schizophrenia may find that other complementary therapies may help them manage symptoms.

These alternative and complementary therapies may include:

  • Ecotherapy: a therapy that focuses on outdoor activities in nature
  • Art and creative therapy: therapies that help a person express their feelings through painting, clay, drama therapy, and music, among other things
  • Aromatherapy: a therapy that uses essential oils to help improve a person’s health and mood
  • Reflexology: a noninvasive therapy that uses pressure points on the soles of the feet
  • Acupuncture: a therapy that involves placing needles into the skin in targeted areas of the body

Traditional treatments focus on managing the symptoms of schizophrenia, improving daily functioning, and achieving life goals.

These treatments include:

Typically, a combination of treatments is used.

Read more about treatment for schizophrenia.

Treatment for schizophrenia typically involves a combination of antipsychotic medications and therapy. However, there is some evidence that complementary and alternative treatments may help manage symptoms of schizophrenia.

Vitamin supplements, dietary changes, deep brain stimulation, and melatonin are examples of complementary treatments for schizophrenia. More research is needed on the effectiveness of these treatments, but early evidence shows they may be beneficial.

People interested in exploring any complementary or alternative therapies for schizophrenia need to talk with their healthcare professional first. They can make sure the potential treatment is safe to try.