When schizophrenia is under control, and the symptoms stop or get better, it can be easy to think it’s behind you. But relapses can happen. That means that the symptoms come back. You can help prevent them by watching out for early warning signs.
Talk to your doctor right away if you -- or your family and friends -- notice any of these signs. The doctor may be able to adjust treatment or help you get back on track if you stopped taking your meds.
Early Warning Signs of a Relapse
Be alert to these early signs:
- Trouble sleeping
- Eating less
- Trouble concentrating or being disorganized
- Staying away from other people or disappearing unexpectedly
- Mood changes, nervousness, or irritability
- Having strange ideas or disorganized thinking
- Poor personal hygiene
- Speech that doesn't make sense
- Hearing voices
- Delusions, suspiciousness, or increased paranoia
- Aggressive talk
- Suicidal thoughts
Some later signs may include:
- Physical aggression against yourself or others
- Smiling for no reason
- Strange thoughts
- Breaking things
It's important to avoid relapses, because each one can raise the chance of future relapses. And when relapses happen, symptoms may become harder to treat.
Tips to Help Prevent Relapses
Take medicine as instructed. Do this even if schizophrenia symptoms have gone away. Stopping medicine is the most common cause of relapses. How quickly this happens varies. It can be days, weeks, or months after stopping.
Work closely with your doctor to find the lowest dose to control symptoms, as well as the best method and type of medication. For example, a once-a-month, long-acting antipsychotic given by a shot helps some people stay on track.
Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs. They make symptoms worse and a relapse more likely. Friends and family members can help you find services that treat substance abuse problems.
Find positive ways to manage stress. For people with schizophrenia, stress can trigger symptoms. When you feel overwhelmed, step back and take a break. If you're supporting a friend or relative with schizophrenia, try to help them find healthy ways to relax.
Aim for 30 minutes of exercise each day. Some studies suggest that exercise, along with medications, may help schizophrenia symptoms. To stick with it, find an exercise partner.
Do your best to get the sleep you need. Sleep can be a problem for people with schizophrenia. Exercise and limiting caffeine help.