Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition that causes various psychological symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, and changes in behavior. Getting support and treatment is important, including taking medications, performing self-care, and engaging with community mental health teams.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says schizophrenia is an uncommon condition that affects 1 in every 300 people worldwide and around 0.25 to 0.64% of people in the United States.

People with schizophrenia can still live a healthy, fulfilling life, and some may make a full recovery with only occasional relapses. With the right support and treatment, a person can minimize its impact on daily living. And certain coping strategies and tips can make the condition less challenging overall.

This article will explain coping tips for those with schizophrenia, including emotional and social coping tips and tips for loved ones.

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The term “coping” can refer to various conscious or unconscious methods of managing stressors in a person’s life. Flexible and healthy coping strategies are important for managing schizophrenia, with studies finding that coping strategies centered on emotion were of the highest importance to those with the condition.

As symptoms can vary for each person, managing them with coping tips and strategies will be different for everyone.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says symptoms of schizophrenia usually fall into three categories:

  • Symptoms of psychosis: Psychosis can involve a person losing a sense of reality. They may experience sensory distortions and be unable to tell what is real. Symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions may occur.
  • Negative symptoms: Negative symptoms refer to the loss of characteristics a person once had, such as interest in daily activities. People with negative symptoms may show complete disinterest in anything around them, speak in a low, monotone voice, or have limited facial expressions. In rare cases, a person may experience catatonia, which is stopping speaking, moving, or engaging with anything over a period of time.
  • Cognitive symptoms: Cognitive symptoms can include issues with memory, decision-making, and concentration.

Learning to recognize symptoms such as psychosis can help manage oncoming episodes. Warning signs of an oncoming episode can include:

  • disturbed sleep
  • hearing quiet voices or seeing hallucinations
  • beginning to worry about the motives of others

Once a person learns to recognize these signs in the initial stages, they can ensure prompt treatment and support.

Treatment for schizophrenia

Treatment for schizophrenia usually includes:

  • medications that aim to treat psychosis symptoms, including antipsychotics such as aripiprazole and olanzapine
  • medications that treat behavioral disturbances and anxiety, such as diazepam
  • talk therapies, which may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • working with a community mental health team for daily support

Learn more about schizophrenia.

Dealing with schizophrenia can be challenging, particularly as hallucinations and delusions can make a person feel scared and alone.

Coping emotionally with schizophrenia can involve:

  • Receiving therapy: The main therapy for schizophrenia is CBT, which can help a person understand how their feelings, thoughts, and attitudes can affect their behavior. CBT may also help a person deal with psychosis symptoms, such as hallucinations, by helping them understand that altered perceptions of reality are just a symptom of an illness.
  • Improving nutrition: Nutrition is just as important for the mind as it is for the body. A person may wish to follow a balanced diet, including lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and fiber.
  • Avoiding bad habits: This may include unhealthy habits, such as smoking, excessive drinking, or taking illegal drugs. According to the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), those with schizophrenia are three times more likely to smoke, and alcohol and drugs can contribute to worsening psychosis symptoms.

Self-care

Self-care involves reminding people to provide nourishment, love, and care for themselves. Self-care looks different for everyone, but some examples include:

  • taking a long bath, looking after the skin, and doing a skin care routine
  • spending time with a pet
  • reading a favorite book or watching a favorite movie
  • eating a favorite meal
  • doing hobbies, such as drawing, writing, or cooking

Learn more examples of self-care.

There are many stigmas surrounding schizophrenia, mainly due to misconceptions about the condition. New people, places, and situations can be overwhelming, particularly if a person’s perception of the world differs from reality.

Schizophrenia does not have to be an isolating condition. Ways to cope socially include:

  • ensuring that symptoms such as psychosis are managed with medications before accepting help from loved ones and family members on managing negative symptoms such as withdrawing, lack of motivation, and asociality
  • having a solid support system, which can include a person to confide in, family members, doctors, mental health professionals, colleagues, and even beloved pets
  • engaging with schizophrenia support groups, such as the NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group or Schizophrenia Alliance.

Psychosis usually occurs in episodes and can include:

  • seeing or hearing things that are not actually there, known as hallucinations
  • believing in things, ideas, or situations that are not real, known as delusions

Coping with psychosis is important, as hallucinations and delusions can be frightening, and other people may not be able to see, hear, believe, or relate to what a person is experiencing. Spotting the warning signs of impending psychosis can help a person get through it.

Coping strategies can include:

  • recognizing triggers, such as stressful life events or lack of sleep, and taking notes on how to avoid or manage them
  • having family and friends also recognize triggers
  • learning to relax, doing activities such as yoga, or practicing mindfulness
  • getting enough sleep, since sleep deprivation can induce hallucinations
  • doing daily exercise
  • being in nature
  • externalizing the psychotic episodes, writing down what a person may see, hear, think, and feel
  • remembering to take medications

Activities of daily living (ADLs) are essential and standard tasks that people do daily without any assistance. People with schizophrenia may find it hard to cope with routine tasks, particularly during episodes.

These skills are important for coping with schizophrenia, and anyone can learn to live independently despite the condition. The NHS mentions the below tips for living with schizophrenia:

  • Seeking employment support: If you cannot work with schizophrenia, you could be entitled to benefits. The NIMH lists the condition as one of the leading causes of disability globally, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) can assist people if they meet certain requirements. In the U.K., the Equality Act 2010 mentions that employers must make reasonable adjustments for those with disabilities. A community mental health team or mental health professional can put a person in touch with the right people regarding employment and financial support.
  • Creating structure in the week: Day centers for those with mental health conditions can help a person feel motivated to go out during the week and be active in the company of other people.
  • Creating a community of support: This can include:
    • charities or support groups that help those with mental illnesses
    • community mental health teams
    • peer support
    • mental health professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists
    • crisis services
    • an outreach team
    • advocates to act on a person’s behalf
  • Choosing which ADLs are important: It is important not to put any pressure on a person to engage in all the aspects of daily living. This can include personal hygiene, diet, errands such as cleaning or laundry, and managing money. Managing to do even one of those things can be a step in the direction toward independence.

Schizophrenia can be a challenging condition for loved ones too. Ensuring support is available for family members and friends of those with a mental illness is vital for well-being.

Some coping tips for loved ones can include:

  • understanding the condition thoroughly to maximize empathy and offer the best support through episodes
  • understanding the condition, so a person does not feel disheartened or down about what their family member is experiencing
  • joining support groups for people with family members who have mental illnesses, such as the NAMI Family Support Group
  • practicing self-care
  • getting support to cope with feelings and emotions related to schizophrenia

According to the NHS, people with schizophrenia can also experience periods of depression, which increases their risk of suicide. Recognizing low periods in a person experiencing the condition and reporting any suicidal thoughts they may have is important.

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 and then 988.

Click here for more links and local resources.

Schizophrenia can be a difficult mental health condition to manage, but with the right treatment and support, a person can live a joyful, healthy life to the fullest.

Coping tips can help a person manage symptoms such as psychosis or depression. These include practicing self-care, taking medications regularly, and engaging with a community mental health support team to ensure the utmost support.