Guide To Schizophrenia Treatment

September 26, 2023

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that causes individuals to interpret and respond to reality abnormally. The disorder is chronic and doesn't have a cure, so lifelong treatment is necessary. It can also be seriously disabling, though there are many treatments available to help to make it manageable. Schizophrenia has a variety of symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thoughts and behaviors, which often impact day-to-day functioning and relationships. Early diagnosis and treatment help prevent the development of serious complications. Schizophrenia manifests differently in every individual who has it. Hallucinations occur when the patient sees or hears things that aren't there. Delusions are beliefs that aren't true. Individuals with schizophrenia also tend to exhibit disorganized speech, abnormal physical behavior, and a lack of ability to function.

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Prescription Medication

Prescription medication tends to be the first line of treatment. The most common type of medication prescribed is an antipsychotic. Antipsychotics help treat symptoms of psychosis, such as paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. The goal is to reduce symptoms so the patient can perceive reality and engage in rational thought processes. Two types of antipsychotic are on the market: typical and atypical. Typical antipsychotics, also called conventional or first-generation antipsychotics, are antipsychotics that have been used to treat schizophrenia for a long time. They have proven results, but they also often have pronounced side effects that can cause distress and issues with functioning. Atypical antipsychotics are newer, and they're sometimes more expensive, especially if a generic version hasn't been released onto the market yet, but they also tend to cause fewer side effects. Since there are many different options, patients can try a few if need be. Schizophrenia involves memory issues, problems keeping track of time, and problems understanding the necessity of medication, so it's important to have a strong support network and plan to keep from missing doses.

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Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is typically used alongside medication, and serves several purposes. A therapist can help patients keep taking their medication and set up plans and support networks regarding their treatment. In addition, therapists help with the difficulties in day-to-day function. Schizophrenia affects every aspect of a patient's life, right down to how they experience the world, and this often comes with relationship issues, problems keeping a job, and struggles to maintain basic self-care. A therapist is an objective third party who can evaluate a patient's mental state and determine if their medication is working. Patients can talk to them about their concerns and any fears regarding treatment. Therapy is also a place to work through emotional and trauma-based issues that may or may not be related to the schizophrenia. For example, it's common for schizophrenia patients to experience abuse-related trauma that can cause post-traumatic stress symptoms, or depression because of a decreased quality of life. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help, as this helps teach self-awareness of irrational thought processes and behavioral patterns.

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Social Skills Training

When patients have been stabilized through medication and therapy, and they have a good support network surrounding them, they might benefit from social skills training. Social skills training is made up of learning activities that allow patients to acquire independent living skills. In addition to schizophrenia, individuals with other disabling mental health issues can benefit. The goal is to help patients lead an independent and well-adjusted and fulfilling life while continuing to manage their illness. Living independently is something every person is entitled to, but schizophrenia can complicate matters. Social skills training is different for each patient. The type of training and frequency of sessions will vary depending on what phase of the disorder the patient is in. Both independent and social living skills are taught. With their therapist and social skills trainer, patients will develop a treatment plan they can stick to. They'll create systems to make sure they stay on track with treatment even if they have trouble keeping track of time or remembering to take their medication.

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Hospitalization is sometimes necessary for schizophrenia patients. Decades ago, hospital stays tended to be long and sometimes included permanent institutionalization, but with today's regulations and standards of treatment, hospital stays tend to be much shorter. The goal of inpatient hospitalization is to stabilize patients through medication adjustments and therapy. Patients may be evaluated to see if there are any co-occurring mental health disorders or physical illnesses that need treatment. The reason for hospitalization varies from case to case. Some schizophrenia patients will be hospitalized because they are malnourished or dehydrated due to erratic eating habits. Some are hospitalized because of a public break with reality. If the patient is suicidal, they may be hospitalized following a suicide attempt. Even if the patient hasn't attempted suicide or isn't physically injured, hospitalization might still be necessary for suicidal thoughts if they can't establish a plan of safety. Long-term hospital stays for schizophrenia are much rarer than they used to be, but they may be required in severe cases. In all cases, the goal is to help the patient, not hurt them.

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Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a treatment used for schizophrenia and severe depression. It is typically suggested after a patient has tried many different medications without success. ECT is among the most effective and fastest-acting methods of providing symptom relief to suicidal, severely depressed, or manic patients. When used for schizophrenia, the most common reason is catatonia. An individual becomes catatonic when their muscles are rigid, and they can't be moved by others. They don't respond to external stimuli like conversations or touch. Severe catatonia may be treated with electroconvulsive therapy if the patient hasn't responded to other treatment methods. ECT is sometimes used for other schizophrenia symptoms like disorganized cognitive patterns, hallucinations, and delusions. Research indicates the treatment has a better effect on psychosis when a patient also presents with mood-related symptoms like depression.

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