Living With Schizophrenia: An Inside Look
Living with schizophrenia, whether you are schizophrenic or someone close to you has the disease, can create chaos and many challenges. However, if schizophrenia is properly diagnosed and treated, most symptoms of schizophrenia can largely improve. With continued treatment, recurrences can become less and sometimes stop completely allowing life with the disease to become manageable.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disease that affects less than 1% of people in the United States. This disorder has various signs and symptoms that are unique but can co-occur with other forms of mental illness, making it harder to diagnose and treat.
Schizophrenia mainly affects a person’s ability to feel, think, behave, and function normally. There are different types of schizophrenia, and depending on which one someone has, symptoms and treatment will always vary. When a person suffers actively from schizophrenia, symptoms can include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech and thoughts, decision-making, and lack of motivation, and more.
Some signs and symptoms of schizophrenia include but are not limited to:
- Delusions: Thoughts and beliefs that are not true
- Hallucinations: Sensory experiences that appear real but are created by the mind
- Disorganized Speech: A collection of speech abnormalities that can make a person’s verbal communication difficult or impossible to comprehend
- Altered Perception & Cognition: Not normal understanding of things that are happening
- Inactivity: Unmotivation to complete tasks or activities
Schizophrenia is a very complex disease hence why there are so many misconceptions about the incurable illness. Schizophrenia is often confused to mean someone has a split personality or multiple personalities. While it is true that when schizophrenics do not seek diagnosis or treatment that it may lead to homelessness and/or hospitalizations, it is a fallacy that those affected with schizophrenia end up homeless or living in mental hospitals. In reality, most people living with schizophrenia live with their families, in group homes, or on their own.
The Life of a Schizophrenic: What it’s Really Like
Schizophrenia is a complex disease and can often lead to depression because one affected by this rare illness does not know how to feel or what to think about what is happening. Schizophrenia can be brought on by a traumatic experience or situations involving a high amount of stress, like college.
One young lady explained her battle with schizophrenia when she was attending college at the age of 23. She started having odd symptoms like feeling paranoid, seeing things, and hearing voices. She became so confused by the symptoms that depression symptoms started and she stopped wanting to get dressed or even get out of bed. Just one short year later, she was hospitalized believing it to be a mood disorder, and diagnosed her as bipolar and placed her on several medications. She was released from the hospital and stopped taking the medications as directed since her symptoms had stopped and she truly believed she would be fine.
Unfortunately, the symptoms eventually returned, paranoia, seeing things, and hearing voices. Her family convinced her to check herself into a psychiatric hospital again. The diagnosis was the same, a mood disorder. Thus, they started her on a new round of medications that had devastating effects. She began twitching uncontrollably and enough so that she was no longer able to maintain her restaurant job since they required her to hold a tray, she felt as if her world was crashing all around her and that there was no help in sight.
Her grandmother became ill and was dying in the local hospital. This created a breaking point for the young lady and she ended up in an altercation with a neighbor landing her in the county jail. This is where she finally met a therapist that suggested she come off of her medications for a mood disorder and officially diagnosed her with schizophrenia.
She was placed on medications (injections) specifically to treat schizophrenia. Once on the medication, her symptoms were under control. She remained in inpatient treatment for three months learning how to cope with her symptoms, participated in therapy, and soon enough was back out in the real world and looking for employment.
She eventually took a job at a physical rehab facility and continued treatment and medication. 3 years later, she is doing great and has a successful and fulfilling career. Living with schizophrenia is hard but it does not mean that you can not have a “normal” life with medication and treatment.
What is it Like Living With Someone who is a Schizophrenic?
As with the story of the young lady above, you can imagine that living with someone who is either an undiagnosed schizophrenic or is not currently receiving treatment, life can become mismanaged and difficult. This is why families and loved ones of those living with a persona affected with this disease, it is important that a support system is in place to help manage the side effects of the medication and the symptoms of the disease.
Their physician usually will ask family members to talk to a therapist, who will teach family members and loved ones about coping strategies and a management plan. Family members and loved ones may also learn how to make sure a loved one knows how to stay on their prescribed medication and continue with their treatment. Families should have all the contact numbers of the health care professionals and know where to take their loved ones for continued care and treatment.
Self-help groups are also available for all parties affected by schizophrenia. Health care professionals can recommend self-help groups or other outpatient treatment in their area. It provides relief to all involved to know and understand that others are going through the same or similar situations when dealing with schizophrenia. The disease can feel very isolating so it is important for schizophrenics and their loved ones to know that others are facing the same struggles. It is important to ask questions and learn what works best for those involved, and learn coping mechanisms to deal with the effects of living with schizophrenia.
Living With Schizophrenia: A Normal Life is Possible
If you have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, the best thing you can do is to take an active role in managing your illness. Learn the warning signs of increased symptoms, and have a plan of action to deal with those symptoms. The sooner you respond, the less time you will spend recovering from these types of episodes. You can also learn coping skills to deal with the worst and most persistent symptoms.
Some mental health treatments available for the treatment of schizophrenia include but are not limited to:
- Individual psychotherapy– Individual psychotherapy is a form of mental health treatment for individuals who talk with a psychotherapist.
- Group therapy– Group therapy is a counseling session where individuals are grouped with others dealing with similar struggles while being supervised by a licensed therapist.
- Family therapy– Family therapy is psychotherapy that focuses on building and maintaining positive family relationships.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a psychotherapy that is structured with a psychotherapist. CBT allows patients to become aware of negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in an attempt to change the negative outcome.
- Equine therapy: Equine therapy involves horses during therapy to assist with improving patients’ mental health.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): The DBT method focuses on changing negative behaviors, developing new coping skills, whilst improving communication.
- Holistic healing: Holistic healing focuses on treating the whole patient rather than just the illness. It does so by identifying and developing mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual issues within their mind, body, and soul.
- Meditation: Meditation is a holistic practice where individuals focus and calm the mind bringing relief from an array of mental health issues.
- Art therapy: Art therapy provides many therapeutic benefits by allowing individuals to express themselves without words.
- Music therapy: Music therapy also provides many therapeutic benefits by allowing individuals to express themselves without words.
Interested in Learning How to Live With Schizophrenia?
Are you interested in getting treatment and learning how to live a normal life with schizophrenia? Montare Behavioral Health has a mental health treatment program that includes both traditional treatments with something fun, effective, and non-intrusive. The trained staff at Montare Behavioral Health is excited to help you improve the symptoms of this disease whilst unlocking your creativity and your path to wellness in the process! Give mental health therapy at Montare Behavioral Health a try today!