How Can Medicine Help Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a condition that affects how an individual thinks, feels, and behaves. It is considered a spectrum disorder because its symptoms can vary in intensity from mild to severe. In other words, every individual with schizophrenia is affected differently. 

Due to decades of misinformation, schizophrenia is a highly stigmatized disorder. However, contrary to what many individuals may believe, those with schizophrenia are capable of living happy and healthy lives. Typically, managing life with schizophrenia requires a variety of treatment interventions, including medication. Medication can help reduce and, in some circumstances, eliminate symptoms of schizophrenia. It therefore allows individuals to go about their daily lives without symptoms interfering with their ability to function. 

What Is Schizophrenia?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), schizophrenia affects nearly 24 million individuals worldwide. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that schizophrenia is a serious mental illness characterized by symptoms that cause an individual to lose touch with reality. As mentioned previously, it is a spectrum disorder, which means that specific symptoms, as well as the intensity of those symptoms, vary from person to person. 

Signs and Symptoms

Although they vary, individuals with schizophrenia often experience symptoms that fall into three categories: psychotic, negative, and cognitive. Psychotic symptoms interfere with the way an individual thinks, behaves, and experiences the world. Some examples of psychotic symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations: Seeing, hearing, smelling, or feeling things that are not actually there – for instance, many individuals with schizophrenia hear voices 
  • Delusions: Strong beliefs that are untrue or may seem irrational to others – for instance, individuals with schizophrenia may believe that newscasters are sending special messages to them 
  • Thought disorder: Unusual or illogical thought patterns – for instance, individuals with schizophrenia may struggle to organize their thoughts and speech
  • Movement disorder: Abnormal body movements – for instance, individuals with schizophrenia may experience “tics” or repeat certain body movements compulsively

Negative symptoms reduce functions that are necessary for operating normally in daily life. Oftentimes, negative symptoms are mistaken for symptoms of depression. Examples of negative symptoms may include:

  • Loss of motivation
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities
  • Withdrawing from social life
  • Reduced facial expressions
  • Low energy
  • Issues with planning

Finally, cognitive symptoms shed light on issues with attention, concentration, and memory. Such symptoms may make it difficult to follow conversations and learn new things. Examples of cognitive symptoms include:

  • Issues processing information to make sound decisions
  • Issues using information immediately after learning it
  • Issues keeping focus or paying attention

Addressing Stigma

The common stigma surrounding schizophrenia causes individuals to believe that those with the condition are dangerous, “crazy,” or unable to recover. It is important to understand that these stigmas have developed from misinformation and a lack of understanding.

According to the NIMH, individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of harm and violence rather than perpetrators. Additionally, schizophrenia can be treated, allowing individuals with it to achieve manageable recovery. 

Treatment Options for Schizophrenia

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains that individuals with schizophrenia can “pursue their goals, have relationships, keep jobs, and be productive members of their communities” when they utilize medication and therapy. Living well with schizophrenia means continuing these treatment interventions long-term, possibly for life. 

Medication Options

The most common medications prescribed for schizophrenia are antipsychotics. Antipsychotics help reduce the severity of psychosis symptoms, “making them less intrusive and disturbing,” according to SAMHSA. Oftentimes, individuals will need to try a variety of different medications — and doses — before finding the most effective prescription for their unique symptoms. 

Antipsychotic drugs target and regulate important brain areas that are responsible for producing symptoms of schizophrenia. These medications can produce side effects as the individual’s brain reacts and adjusts to their presence. Therefore, it is vital that individuals starting any new medications are closely monitored by a physician. Likewise, individuals must take their medication exactly as prescribed by their doctor.  

In some cases, antidepressants or other mood stabilizers may be prescribed to help with the negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. Participating in professional treatment can ensure that individuals are prescribed the type of medication that will benefit them the most. Likewise, it encourages individuals to utilize therapy in combination with medication to make treatment as effective as possible. 

Therapeutic Options

Engaging in additional therapeutic options, such as individual psychotherapy or group psychoeducation, can also be beneficial for those with schizophrenia. These treatment options allow individuals the opportunity to recognize the patterns and links between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Additionally, they will be equipped with stress reduction techniques and coping mechanisms that can further reduce the stress that may potentially trigger an episode. 

Individuals with schizophrenia can benefit from knowing treatment options are available to help them manage their symptoms long-term. Utilizing personalized, professional treatment from an accredited facility like Alter Behavioral Health can strengthen lasting symptom management and recovery. 

Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition that interferes with the way an individual thinks, feels, behaves, and experiences the world around them. Contrary to common stigma, schizophrenia can be well managed with medication and therapy. Alter Behavioral Health is a mental health treatment center that focuses on treating the whole person. We utilize individualized care in addition to stressing the importance of psychoeducation and a strong community. We can provide medication in tandem with psychotherapeutic approaches to ensure lasting symptom management for our clients. If you are struggling with schizophrenia, we want you to be in good hands for treatment. To learn more about our programs, call us at (866) 691-4386.