Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that can cause symptoms such as psychosis, delusions, behavioral changes, and difficulty with social interactions. There is currently no cure, but treatments can effectively manage symptoms.
Therapies and effective care options can help people with schizophrenia lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Treatments generally include talk therapy and medications and are usually lifelong. Some people may require assistance with daily living or continual help from a mental health professional.
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This article will explain whether there is a cure for schizophrenia and what treatments doctors currently use. It will also explore ways to manage symptoms and living with schizophrenia.
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Schizophrenia can vary for each person. While some may find that treatment reduces the frequency of schizophrenic episodes, others may find that symptoms worsen before improving. Mental Health UK reports the following statistics regarding people who have received schizophrenia treatment:
- 1 in 10 experience a lasting recovery
- 1 in 5 experience some improvement
- 1 in 2 manage the condition as a long-term illness
Because schizophrenia can profoundly affect a person’s life, it is important to understand the management of the condition.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) states that although many will experience the occasional return of symptoms, most people recover after experiencing a schizophrenic episode. Recovery can include experiencing fewer psychotic episodes or the effective management of hallucinations.
The NHS suggests that with treatments and lifestyle adjustments, if required, it is possible to experience fewer instances of symptoms returning, although this may look different for each person.
- symptom remission
- improvements in relationships and functioning at work
- living independently
- changes in attitudes, feelings, goals, and skills
- having symptoms that are mild enough not to affect daily activities
Treatment for schizophrenia can vary for each person but usually involves a combination of talk therapy, medications, and lifestyle management.
Medications for schizophrenia
These medications are called antipsychotics and may include the following:
Diazepam, clonazepam, and lorazepam may help with behavioral disturbances.
Talking therapies may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the main type of psychotherapy used for schizophrenia.
CBT focuses on how thoughts, feelings, and attitudes can affect a person’s behavior. It may help people adjust thought patterns and behaviors as needed.
CBT may help people with:
- learning to deal with symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations
- managing symptoms such as anxiety and depression related to schizophrenia
- managing stress
Alongside talking therapy, the NHS recommends that people work with a community mental health team for day-to-day support, while ensuring they have as much independence as possible. This team may include occupational therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers.
Although there is currently no cure for schizophrenia, managing symptoms is the first step to recovery.
- Psychotic: Psychosis can change how a person thinks or behaves. They may lose their sense of reality and experience distortions in which they have trouble differentiating between what is real and what is not.
- Negative: Negative symptoms can include a loss of interest in usual daily activities or difficulty being motivated. A person experiencing these symptoms may talk in a low, expressionless voice, demonstrate limited facial expressions, or, in rare cases, experience catatonia, where they stop moving or speaking for a period.
- Cognitive: Cognitive symptoms can include issues with attention, memory, concentration, and making decisions.
Psychosis can range from mild to severe and involve delusions, which are unusual beliefs not based on reality, and hallucinations, in which a person sees or hears things that are not there, such as objects, people, lights, or voices.
It may also include illogical thoughts and movement disorders, such as repeating certain motions.
Depression and schizophrenia
According to the NHS, many people with schizophrenia experience periods of depression, increasing their risk of suicide. Recognizing depression and reporting any suicidal thoughts a person may have is important.
A person experiencing this may talk about death or suicide or engage in the following behaviors:
- giving away possessions
- signing a will
They may also experience a sudden lift in mood after deciding to end their life.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 and then 988.
Without treatment, symptoms of schizophrenia may become more severe.
Schizophrenia does not have to be a debilitating condition. With treatment, a person can manage the effect symptoms have on their life. Practicing self-care may also be important in helping with a person’s quality of life.
Self-care can include:
- focusing on maintaining good health, both mental and physical
- being careful and attentive to one’s needs and avoiding illness or accidents
- having a good relationship with a community mental health team
- avoiding illegal drugs, alcohol, and smoking, if applicable
It may also help to be able to spot the signs of an oncoming episode or mental distress, such as experiencing sleep difficulties or symptoms of depression or anxiety.
The NHS states that other early symptoms of an oncoming schizophrenic episode can include:
- feeling suspicious or worrying excessively about others and their motives
- occasionally hearing voices that are not there, even quietly
- having difficulty concentrating
Family members or friends may play a role in helping a person manage schizophrenia, as they may become aware of changes in their mental state that might indicate a potential episode. They may also help remind a person to take medication and attend therapy sessions, if necessary.
Although there is currently no cure for schizophrenia, a person with the condition can lead a healthy, fulfilling life with the right treatment.
This may include medications, talking therapies, and utilizing a community mental health team to ensure a person has the right level of support.