Hospital Schizophrenia Treatment: What to Expect

Hospitals can be the best place for people with schizophrenia to learn to live with their illness. A hospital can help you get the full picture of your symptoms and learn how to treat them. You may need to go to one if you have hallucinations or if you want to harm yourself.

The type of facility you'll go to and how long you'll need to stay vary from person to person. No matter where you go, they all combine:

You might also get cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to help you change unhealthy or harmful ways of thinking. You can learn how to improve your mood and deal with what life throws at you.

Here’s what you can expect with different types of hospital stays:

Emergency Room Visits

The ER can help you if you are in a mental health crisis. Go there if you need help right away. You don’t need an appointment. If you want to hurt yourself or someone else, ER doctors and nurses can help you get your symptoms under control.

The staff will ask what you're going through. It may make you feel awkward or even embarrassed. But be as open and honest as you can. This will help them create the best treatment plan for you. You’ll also get instruction on what to do if another mental health emergency comes up.

You may be there for a few hours or longer. You'll spend most of that time waiting to see a doctor or get tests. Bring a book, your phone, or another electronic device with you to make the time go by easier. If you go high-tech, don't forget a charger in case your battery gets low.

Leave things that could hurt you or someone else, such as a pocketknife, at home. Wear cozy, comfortable clothes and shoes to put you at ease.

If the doctor decides you need more medical help than the ER can give you, you’ll move to the hospital for a longer stay. They might also suggest a mental health facility.

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Overnight Stays

A psychotic episode -- when it’s hard to tell what is or isn’t real -- often needs more medical attention than an ER can give. In that case, you'll need to go to the hospital or mental health facility for a few days or more. The goal is a short stay that prepares you to be safe when you leave.

The doctor will review your medications and decide what needs to change. You'll also get help from a team of specialists, including a psychiatrist. This is someone who diagnoses and treats people with mental health issues. Group therapy is also possible. It allows you to talk to other people with schizophrenia. You might practice reality testing, too. This can help you learn to see a situation for what it is, instead of what you want it to be.

The doctor may start you on new drugs, or they may change your dose. If your medications don’t work, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be your next option. With ECT, you'd get general anesthesia that sends you into a deep sleep. Then, small electric currents will go through your brain. The hope is that those currents will make changes to improve your mood and mental health.

You'll also learn to stick to a schedule. This includes things like eating and sleeping at the same time every day. Other treatments you may have include:

  • Nutrition management
  • Self-help therapy
  • Social skills training

You can leave your room, walk around, and talk to others. But the door to your section of the hospital will stay locked.

Daytime Stays

After you stay overnight at the hospital or a mental health facility, you may start a daytime program. You'd go for a couple of hours each day for a few weeks or months. This would help you stick with your treatment plan.

Daytime programs offer:

  • Medical care
  • Group therapy
  • Medication management
  • Support for work and education

You’ll work with:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Therapists
  • Social workers
  • Others who specialize in mental health rehabilitation

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 22, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Yale School of Medicine: “When Should Hospitalization Be Considered?”

McLean Hospital: “Schizophrenia Treatment.”

American Psychological Association: “What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?”

Dignity Health: “Mental Health Emergency: What to Expect in the ER.”

Fairview: “What to Expect in the Emergency Room (ER).”

National Alliance on Mental Health: “Psychosis.”

American Psychiatric Association: “What is Psychiatry?”

Good Therapy: “Reality Testing.”

Mayo Clinic: “Schizophrenia,” "Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).”

Gulf Bend Center: “Schizophrenia Treatment -- Hospitalization.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Adult Schizophrenia Clinic.”

Your Health in Mind: “Psychiatric hospitals.”

Skyland Trail: “How to Choose the Right Level of Psychiatric Treatment.”

Indiana University Health: “Schizophrenia and Thought Disorders.”

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