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Schizophrenia: An Overview

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How Is Schizophrenia Treated?

The goal of schizophrenia treatment is to reduce the symptoms and to decrease the chances of a relapse, or return of symptoms. Treatment for schizophrenia may include: 

  • Medications: The primary medications used to treat schizophrenia are called antipsychotics. These drugs do not cure schizophrenia but help relieve the most troubling symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, and thinking problems. Older medications used include: Thorazine, Prolixin, Haldol, Navane, Stelazine, Trilafon, Loxapine, and Mellaril. Newer drugs used to treat schizophrenia include: Abilify, Clozaril, Geodon, Invega, Latuda, Risperdal, Saphris, Seroquel, and Zyprexa.
  • Psychosocial therapy: While medication may help relieve symptoms of schizophrenia, various psychosocial treatments can help with the behavioral, psychological, social, and occupational problems associated with the illness. Through therapy, patients also can learn to manage their symptoms, identify early warning signs of relapse, and develop a relapse prevention plan. Psychosocial therapies include:
    • Rehabilitation, which focuses on social skills and job training to help people with schizophrenia function in the community and live as independently as possible.
    • Individual psychotherapy, which can help the person better understand his or her illness, and learn coping and problem-solving skills.
    • Family therapy, which can help families deal more effectively with a loved one who has schizophrenia, enabling them to better help their loved one.
    • Group therapy/support groups, which can provide continuing mutual support.
  • Hospitalization: Many people with schizophrenia may be treated as outpatients. However, people with particularly severe symptoms, or those in danger of hurting themselves or others may require hospitalization to stabilize their condition.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): This is a procedure in which electrodes are attached to the person's head and a series of electric shocks are delivered to the brain. The shocks induce seizures, causing the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. This form of treatment is rarely used today in the treatment of schizophrenia. ECT may be useful when all medications fail or if severe depression or catatonia makes treating the illness difficult.
  • Psychosurgery: Lobotomy, an operation used to sever certain nerve pathways in the brain, was formerly used in some patients with severe, chronic schizophrenia. It is now performed only under extremely rare circumstances. This is because of the serious, irreversible personality changes that the surgery may produce and the fact that far better results are generally attained from less drastic and hazardous procedures

Are People With Schizophrenia Dangerous?

Popular books and movies often depict people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses as dangerous and violent. This is usually not true. Most people with schizophrenia are not violent. More typically, they prefer to withdraw and be left alone. In some cases, however, people with mental illness may engage in dangerous or violent behaviors that are generally a result of their psychosis and the resulting fear from feelings of being threatened in some way by their surroundings.

On the other hand, people with schizophrenia can be a danger to themselves. Suicide is the number one cause of premature death among people with schizophrenia.

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