Symptoms of schizophrenia can create challenges in several aspects of life, such as employment and relationships. Treatment and support can help with managing the condition.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that affects thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Without effective treatment, it can have a significant effect on a person’s day-to-day life. The condition is one of the top fifteen causes of disability worldwide.

This article provides some advice for people living with schizophrenia, including a focus on employment.

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Schizophrenia symptoms fall into three categories:

Symptoms that may affect work performance include hallucinations and delusions, a loss of motivation and interest in activities, and difficulties with concentration and memory. The condition may also cause social challenges by affecting communication and the process of building relationships with colleagues.

Without effective treatment, these symptoms can make employment challenging. However, people with the condition can still secure and maintain a job. Proper treatment can help individuals live with schizophrenia and may also improve productivity in the workplace.

Common treatments include antipsychotic medications and psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This involves examining thought patterns and adapting them where possible, if necessary, to improve relationships, achieve goals, or manage functioning in other areas of life.

Employer responsiblities

Workplaces should take steps to create an environment that supports people with schizophrenia to work effectively. For example, less formal strategies to manage symptoms in the workplace include breaking down tasks into manageable parts, allowing people to work in a quiet and organized environment, and ensuring they have time to take regular breaks.

It is also beneficial for employers and colleagues to have a basic understanding of schizophrenia, which can help create a supportive work environment.

A range of courses is available to help employers and coworkers learn about understanding, identifying, and responding to mental health challenges, such as Mental Health First Aid for workplaces.

According to the American Psychological Association, common signs of schizophrenia include:

People with schizophrenia may experience episodes of psychosis. This typically refers to the onset of delusions and hallucinations with incoherent speech and inappropriate behaviors.

Some early signs of an episode include:

  • suspicion and paranoia of others
  • trouble thinking clearly
  • withdrawing from social engagements
  • intense ideas
  • the absence of emotions
  • a decline in personal hygiene or other areas of self-care
  • trouble sleeping
  • sudden changes in performance at work or school

Treatment for schizophrenia typically involves a combination of medication and psychological and social therapies.

Psychological and social therapies can include psychotherapies or education and support. These treatments will vary depending on the individual. For example, someone who experiences alcohol or drug misuse may receive specific treatment to address this.

Following a treatment plan is necessary to reduce the risk of complications. A 2015 study that followed participants over 14 years found that people with untreated schizophrenia were more likely to experience homelessness and early death than those who received treatment.

Lifestyle changes may also help manage symptoms of schizophrenia.

Diet and exercise

A large review of 59 studies suggests that diet and exercise interventions may reduce symptoms of schizophrenia. Diet and exercise are also important ways of lowering physical health risks, which may be higher in people with schizophrenia than in the general population.

People with schizophrenia may find it useful to follow a healthy and balanced diet and exercise regularly where possible.

Avoiding smoking

A 2021 study states that around 70–80% of people with schizophrenia smoke. The study highlights that smoking increases the intensity of some symptoms and worsens symptoms related to thought patterns.

For these reasons, avoiding or quitting smoking may help people with schizophrenia improve their mental and physical health.

Avoiding drugs and alcohol

Substance use disorder is common among people with schizophrenia. Research suggests around 47% of people with schizophrenia also experience issues with substance misuse in their lifetime.

Substance misuse can intensify symptoms of the condition and increase their frequency. It may also increase the risk of complications, such as hospitalizations and suicide attempts.

It is important for people with schizophrenia to avoid using drugs and alcohol to help manage their symptoms and reduce the likelihood of possible adverse interactions with medications.

Suicide prevention

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 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Treatment and support are important in improving the quality of life of people with schizophrenia. Treatment typically focuses on managing symptoms, day-to-day functioning, and achieving personal life goals.

It is best for a person experiencing signs or symptoms of schizophrenia to contact a healthcare or mental health professional who can assess their symptoms and help create an effective treatment plan based on individual circumstances.

The National Institute of Mental Health recommends that people who know someone experiencing psychosis do the following:

  • help the person find and stay on treatments where possible
  • understand that the delusions and hallucinations they are experiencing seem real to them
  • be respectful and supportive without tolerating any potentially dangerous behaviors
  • look for support from local groups or education programs

The following are answers to some questions people commonly ask about living with schizophrenia.

What is the average life expectancy of people with schizophrenia?

People with schizophrenia typically have a shorter life expectancy than those without the condition. A 2017 study found the average life expectancy in those with schizophrenia was 14.5 shorter than those who did not have it.

Can you live a typical life with schizophrenia?

People with schizophrenia can experience symptoms that may lead to challenges in several areas of life, such as employment and relationships. However, effective treatments are available that allow many people with the condition to engage in school or work, enjoy their relationships, and live with independence.

Schizophrenia can cause symptoms that affect emotions, behavior, thinking, and daily functioning. For this reason, individuals with the condition may experience challenges in certain areas, such as employment.

However, effective treatment and support can allow people with schizophrenia to manage these symptoms. Living with the condition involves a varied approach that includes medical treatment, support, and lifestyle adaptations. It is important that workplaces create supportive environments that cultivate equality and accessibility.

Healthcare and mental health professionals can provide more information on support and resources for individuals with schizophrenia and their loved ones.