Living With Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is the most serious of all psychiatric disorders. It is typically chronic and life-long, the symptoms are severe, and there is a painful stigma attached to the disorder. All of these things can make living with schizophrenia very challenging. However, many people with schizophrenia are able to live productive and fulfilling lives in spite of their illness.

Preventing the recurrence of a psychotic episode and minimizing symptoms as much as possible are two of the primary goals when it comes to living with this complex disorder. Adhering to one’s treatment program, choosing healthy lifestyle habits, creating an environment which is both supportive and as stress-free as possible are steps which can be very helpful. Also, learning as much as possible about the disorder and being able to recognize any indicators of a potential relapse of decline in functioning as soon as they first appear can help thwart a full blown relapse.

Sticking to the treatment plan

It is hard living with any kind of disorder, whether physical or psychological. But it is very important with schizophrenia that you stick to your treatment plan, including taking all medication as prescribed. If side effects are problematic, or if the medications don’t seem to be working, then it is very important that you discuss this with your psychiatrist or other healthcare provider. Most people with schizophrenia require medication to control symptoms, so finding one which works best with the least amount of side effects may take some trial and error. Staying on medication is one of the best ways to prevent a relapse.

Also, psychotherapy, vocational training, and any other type of treatment your provider has recommended can help you learn to manage the disorder and cope with related issues. Following through with these will also help prevent relapse and help you live life more fully.

Choosing a healthy lifestyle

As with any illness, it is especially important to develop healthy habits. These include eating a well-balanced diet, getting regular exercise, adhering to a regular sleep schedule, and avoiding alcohol and street drugs.

Maintaining a good support system

People with schizophrenia often have a tendency to withdraw socially. It is particularly important to maintain a good support system as much as possible with friends, family and healthcare providers. They can provide much needed encouragement and support, help you stick to your treatment program, and help spot changes in behavior or symptoms which may signal an impending relapse.

Keep stress at a minimum

Stress typically makes any illness worse and can definitely increase the risk of relapse in schizophrenia. As much as possible, strive to avoid situations or settings which are particularly stressful.

Learn about your disorder

Learn as much as you can about your disorder. The more you understand your illness, the better equipped you will be to manage it.

written by Dr. Cheryl Lane, PsyD

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