There are many misconceptions about schizophrenia. Misconceptions are mainly due to sensationalization in the media, misinformation, and an overall lack of education about mental illness in the general population. Because of this, many people fear, mistrust and believe that people with schizophrenia are dangerous and unreliable. This often results in discrimination and a lack of opportunities for people living with schizophrenia.
The truth is, people with schizophrenia are not any more dangerous or less reliable than anyone else. With proper treatment, medication, and support, people with schizophrenia can lead normal, productive, and fulfilling lives. Living well with a mental illness requires life adjustments and strong social support.
Life with Schizophrenia
Without treatment, having schizophrenia can be an incredibly scary and isolating experience. For most people, when we share our thoughts and experiences with the people around us, we can safely assume that others also share an understanding of what thinking and perceiving the world with senses feels like. We think that we can openly talk about what we are thinking without having to explain why our brains connect different pieces of sensory information from memory to create thoughts. We rarely have to wonder if we can trust our perceptions or worry about seeing things that are not there.
For someone diagnosed with schizophrenia, even the most simplistic thinking and perceiving processes are fundamentally altered. While there is no “one-size-fits-all” set of symptoms, a person with schizophrenia may experience a wide range of perceptual and thought-related disturbances including visual and auditory hallucinations, difficulties with cognition, and compulsive irrational, obsessive beliefs.
Even after responding well to antipsychotic medications, some people with schizophrenia may continue to have some altered perceptual experiences and intrusive or delusional thoughts. Medication and treatment can reduce the intensity of symptoms and help those living with schizophrenia distinguish more easily between what is and is not real. Much like having a bad dream and realizing that you are dreaming, it is possible to experience hallucinations and know that they are not real. Psychologists refer to this as metacognitive awareness.
Tips for Coping
In addition to ongoing treatment, learning self-help strategies to manage symptoms and build self-confidence and self-reliance is an integral part of managing schizophrenia. There are many things you can do in your daily life to help change the course of your illness.
- Find ways to manage your stress: Sustained periods of high stress can trigger symptoms and cause a downward spiral, creating roadblocks on the road to recovery. Consider starting a relaxation practice such as meditation, yoga, music therapy or art therapy.
- Make sure you are getting adequate sleep: Sleep deprivation exacerbates symptoms of schizophrenia and overtaxes the body. Many antipsychotic medications cause users to need more than the standard 8 hours of sleep. Therefore, do not feel ashamed if you need to rest more often than others.
- Exercise regularly and avoid substances including alcohol, drugs, and nicotine which can trigger symptoms. Keeping an active daily routine and watching what you put in your body will give you a more stable foundation to make progress.
- Seek social support: Connecting with others and spending time with loved ones is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress and fight feelings of isolation. Support groups can be a great way to meet other people who understand your experiences, share stories, and learn strategies for living well with schizophrenia.
The more you can help yourself or your loved one, the easier it is to make progress in their journey to living better.
Living well with schizophrenia typically involves a long-term commitment to using learned coping skills and/or medication to effectively manage symptoms. Ongoing sessions with a psychiatrist, group/family therapist, and/or in-home rehabilitation services are amazingly beneficial resources for people living with schizophrenia. Collaborative care providers such as the highly qualified professionals at Life Adjustment Team significantly improve outcomes for people living with schizophrenia.
While medication is often necessary for reducing psychotic symptoms including hallucinations, paranoia, and disordered thinking, medication alone is not a cure for schizophrenia. The insights, coping methods, communication skills, life skills, and training learned in therapy can help in ways medication cannot and provide you with an invaluable toolkit in an effort to manage schizophrenia.
Life Adjustment Team can assist you with daily activities that may seem easy for others but might be challenging for you. We help you regain a sense of “normality”. The number of visits someone requires depends on many factors, some of which include the severity of the illness, medication compliance, level of insight, and family support. If you want to learn more about how Life Adjustment Team can help you or a loved one, please contact us today.