When you find out that you have schizophrenia, the news may bring a wide range of emotions. But knowledge is power. Work closely with your doctor to learn as much as you can about the condition, how it's treated, and ways to stay on track.
Meet the Care Team
Some people with schizophrenia manage the condition with help from their doctor, therapists, loved ones, and support groups.
Other people need more help because they have severe symptoms that make them more likely to be hospitalized or become homeless. A plan known as assertive community treatment brings a team of professionals together to coordinate their care, actively help them stick to their treatment, and assess their physical and mental needs.
Aside from the people mentioned above, your team could include a:
- Social worker or case manager
Learn About Medications
Prescription antipsychotic drugs can keep your symptoms in check. Talk with your doctor about the best options. They might have you try a few kinds at different doses to see which combination works best and causes the fewest side effects.
Follow the doctor’s directions on how to take these meds, and keep taking them even after things start to improve. Symptoms could come back or get worse if you stop. Schizophrenia is a long-term disease, so it’s common for medication to be lifelong.
As far as side effects go, when you first start to take your meds, it’s common to have:
These may fade over time. If you have side effects, tell your doctor. They might change the medication or the dose to see if things get better.
Whatever you do, don’t stop taking schizophrenia medication unless the doctor tells you to.
Ask About Therapy and Social Support
Along with taking medication, people with schizophrenia usually get both therapy and social support. Your doctor may call these “psychosocial treatments.” They can make a big difference, especially once you find some that work well. Your doctor may recommend things like:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of talk therapy with a psychologist or counselor that can change your thinking patterns and ease mood disorders like depression
- Illness management skills, which help you manage the day-to-day challenges of having schizophrenia
- Peer counseling, where you'd talk with someone with schizophrenia who’s far into their recovery
- Self-help groups, which offer you support and advice from other people with the condition
- Family education to teach loved ones how to adapt and be there for someone with schizophrenia
- Rehabilitation, which can help if you need a hand finding a job, keeping a job, or attending school
- Drug and alcohol treatment, if you also have a substance misuse problem
Find Out About Self-Care Strategies
You can get the most out of your treatment plan if you:
- Set goals that encourage you to follow your plan exactly. Your doctor can help you come up with these.
- Learn stress-relief techniques like meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and recreational drugs.
Ask About Social Services Assistance
Your doctor might be able to refer you to a case manager who can help you:
- Get financial assistance.
- Find affordable housing.
- Get transportation.
If Your Loved One Is Struggling
If someone close to you has schizophrenia, you can play an important role in their treatment. Some newly diagnosed people struggle to believe they have the condition. Work closely with their doctor or therapist to come up with supportive ways to encourage them to follow their treatment plan.
When you talk with your loved one, do so with respect, kindness, and compassion.