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Schizophrenia - For Family and Friends

Schizophrenia affects everyone around the person who has the illness. It can be hard to watch a family member or friend develop symptoms and perhaps act in very different ways.

You may feel helpless, but you play an important role in the life and treatment of a loved one who has schizophrenia.

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Schizophrenia Diagnosis

There is no test that can make a schizophrenia diagnosis. People with schizophrenia usually come to the attention of a mental health professional after others see them acting strangely. Doctors make a diagnosis through interviews with the patient as well as with friends and family members. Psychiatrists have the most experience with diagnosing schizophrenia. A psychiatrist or other licensed mental health professional should be involved in making a schizophrenia diagnosis whenever possible. A schizophrenia...

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What you can do

You can also help the person with good health habits, like getting enough sleep and avoiding alcohol and drugs.

Sometimes people who have schizophrenia are too sick to seek treatment on their own. If the symptoms are severe, you may have to force the person to get treatment. Talk with your health care providers and/or local law enforcement officials about the laws and procedures in your area for getting treatment in this situation. If you have this information before you need it, it will reduce your fears and concerns and may make it easier for you.

Emergency help

Some people who have schizophrenia may become aggressive or violent at times. Call 911 or other emergency help if you notice:

Helping yourself

Supporting or caring for someone who has schizophrenia isn't easy. Finding your own support can help you deal with the illness and the sense of loss you may feel.

  • Take care of yourselfTake care of yourself. Do things you enjoy, such as seeing family or going to movies.
  • Don't feel that you need to do everything possible to help a loved one who has schizophrenia. Remember that you need to respect the wishes and choices of your loved one, unless those wishes and choices are dangerous. Everyone learns from a wrong choice or mistake. Recovery may be faster if your loved one believes that family members trust him or her with decision making.
  • Don't do it alone. Ask others to help you, or join a support group. The more support you have, the more help you can give.
  • Get help from a local organization. Your city or state may have programs to help you. Ask at your local or state health department. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides contact information for support organizations nationwide. For more information, go to www.nami.org.

For more information, see the topic Caregiver Tips.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 31, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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