According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 1.5 million adults in the U.S. have schizophrenia. That’s less than 1% of the population, making it an uncommon condition but a serious one. Schizophrenia is a chronic disease that can wreak havoc on individuals if they don’t seek treatment. However, the good news is that treating schizophrenia is entirely possible for every patient. Professional treatment centers can identify which treatment options work best for individuals and help them manage their symptoms to live a fulfilled, happy life.
Unfortunately, some people don’t seek treatment or support family members correctly because of the stigma regarding schizophrenia. Many people confuse schizophrenia with having a split personality or multiple personality disorder. Additionally, the portrayal of this condition in Hollywood is of a crazy, dangerous person who can’t be helped. In fact, the stigma has gotten so bad that many medical and scientific community advocates are proposing a name change for the condition to slightly alleviate the problem!
It’s important that people know treating schizophrenia can help individuals live normal, stable lives. Spreading this information will help dispel the harmful stereotypes and give hope to those who live with this diagnosis and don’t yet know what treatment can do.
What Is Schizophrenia?
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines schizophrenia as a “chronic brain disorder … [when] active, can include symptoms of delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, trouble with thinking and a lack of motivation.” While there’s no known cure for schizophrenia, the APA stresses that treating schizophrenia can improve and diminish most symptoms.
Commonality of Schizophrenia
Less than 1% of the global population has schizophrenia, totaling about 24 million people worldwide. On average, 1 in 300 people gets this condition. Rates of schizophrenia are consistent globally, meaning no cultures or countries have higher-than-average rates.
Men and women are affected by schizophrenia equally, although men tend to display the condition earlier in life.
Causes of Schizophrenia
The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown, which is partially why it’s also been so hard to develop a cure. However, research has found some factors that increase an individual’s risk of having the condition:
- Genetics: Individuals with a family history of schizophrenia
- Small differences in brain development
- An imbalance in two types of neurotransmitters: dopamine and serotonin
- Pregnancy and birth complications including low birth weight, premature labor and asphyxia during birth
Consequences of Schizophrenia
If left untreated, schizophrenia can have severe consequences on a person’s life. People can experience overwhelming symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations and disorganized thoughts. Over time, this can lead to paranoia, the inability to hold down a job or keep up with everyday tasks, isolation from friends and family and even suicidal tendencies.
Sadly, individuals with schizophrenia are two to three times more likely to die young compared to the general population. This is why treatment is so important. While schizophrenia is treatable, patients need to realize and commit to the idea that treatment is a lifelong process.
Treatment Options for Schizophrenia
If you’re wondering how to treat schizophrenia, the answer is that treatment is usually a two-pronged approach. Most individuals can benefit from both therapy and medication for schizophrenia. However, this decision is made on a case-by-case basis as each patient’s individualized needs, preferences and responses to treatment should be considered.
Medication is a crucial part of treating schizophrenia. While some patients may choose to go without therapy, it’s essentially necessary for all patients to take medication to subdue the symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Still, there’s room for personalization in the type of medication and dosage that individuals take. Individuals often work with their doctor to find the best drug and dosage to feel like their symptoms are managed without impacting their mood.
The most common meds for schizophrenia can be divided into two categories: conventional antipsychotics and atypical antipsychotics.
Conventional antipsychotics include popular medications like chlorpromazine, haloperidol and fluphenazine. While these medications have been used to treat schizophrenia effectively for years, they sometimes come with side effects of tremors and dystonia (involuntary muscle contractions).
Atypical antipsychotics are the “newer” medications available on the market that look to have the same effectiveness as the conventional drugs but without the common side effects. Popular atypical antipsychotics are aripiprazole, clozapine, risperidone and quetiapine. As with most medications, these atypical antipsychotic drugs come with their own risk of side effects. Most commonly, the side effects affect the metabolism, resulting in an increased risk of high cholesterol and diabetes in patients.
Starting schizophrenic medication is usually done on a trial basis. Doctors will work with their patients to identify which drug and what dosage is optimal as there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.
In addition to medication, most individuals can benefit from regular therapy treatment for their schizophrenia. This condition can feel overwhelming, isolating and confusing to many people. A therapist can help keep individuals cope with their diagnosis, as well as monitor and spot the warning signs when someone stops taking their medication.
Some of the most popular therapies for schizophrenia are:
- Individual psychotherapy: Personal one-on-one therapy sessions where the therapist teaches the patient to deal with their thoughts and behaviors and offers tools to manage everyday life. This type of therapy will also familiarize the patient with how to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not.
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on helping individuals change how they think and behave. Additionally, the patient will learn how to deal with hallucinations and may even be able to identify what triggers their psychotic episodes.
- Cognitive enhancement therapy (CET): CET, also known as cognitive remediation, focuses on teaching the patient social cues and triggers. It also aims to improve memory, attention and the ability to organize thoughts. CET is usually a combination of computer training and group sessions.
- Family therapy: Family education can be helpful for family members to learn about schizophrenia and how they can best support their loved one. Additionally, family therapy can be a safe space for loved ones to work through their problems without blame or accusations.
- Group therapy: Patients may benefit from attending group therapy sessions to meet others with schizophrenia. Often this condition can feel isolating, so it can help to talk to people who are going through a similar experience. This can also be an inspiring place to see people living thriving lives with the condition.
Dual Diagnosis: Schizophrenia and Drug Use?
Individuals with schizophrenia are more prone to drug abuse. Some studies estimate that as many as half of all individuals with schizophrenia may have a drug or alcohol disorder. Unfortunately, this dual diagnosis often makes it harder to seek effective treatment.
Patients need to be up front about their dual diagnosis as both conditions need to be treated to achieve long-term, positive results. Luckily, many rehabilitation and treatment centers are well-equipped to treat dual-diagnosis patients and can offer the type of support needed.
Get Help Today
You don’t have to live with untreated schizophrenia. The compassionate professionals at Restore are here to help with personalized treatment plans that fit your needs. Finding the proper treatment can give you the freedom and stability you’ve been looking for. Contact us today at (877) 594-3566 to find out how we can help.