Managing Symptoms

One of the most important things a person with a serious disorder of any kind can do is learn to manage the symptoms. Schizophrenia has particularly challenging symptoms, and managing them is a difficult task for many individuals with this disorder.

Two things which will play a significant role in terms of managing symptoms are:

  1. learning as much as possible about the disorder, and
  2. closely following the prescribed treatment plan.

Learning about schizophrenia

Patient and family education is vital in terms of managing any illness. Schizophrenia is a particularly serious and complex disorder. It is also a life long illness which can be very disabling. A diagnosis can be devastating for both the patient as well as his/her family.

Learning as much as possible about the disorder is one of the most important steps for the patient as well as his/her family or significant other. Symptoms can be very severe, confusing and frightening if they are not understood. Also, the more the patient and his/her family understand the disorder, the more quickly any indicators of an impending relapse can be spotted and dealt with.

Learning about the disorder will also help keep expectations realistic. While each individual is different, schizophrenia can significantly alter the course of one’s life and may require adjusting one’s expectations. While many people with schizophrenia have been able to live quite productive and fulfilling lives, others may find that with the disorder come many unanticipated limitations. Learning about the disorder can help both patient and those closest to him/her readjust expectations accordingly. This can help prevent the potential conflict, frustration and disappointment which can be part of learning to live with any serious illness.

Educating himself/herself about schizophrenia also allows the patient to make informed choices about his/her treatment.

Adhering to treatment

One of biggest challenges with schizophrenia (as with many serious illnesses) is treatment compliance. The very nature of the disorder which often includes paranoia, lack of motivation, and impaired thought processes can make it especially difficult for some patients to stick with any treatment plan. However, taking one’s medication as prescribed and participating in psychotherapy or other aspects of treatment are essential to keeping symptoms at bay or at least at a minimum.

With regards to medication, it is very important that it be taken exactly as prescribed. If a dose is missed it can be tempting to “make up for it” the next time. This can be counterproductive and even harmful with some medications. Many patients find that using a pillbox, in which they can put their medications for each day of the week, can help prevent them from missing a dose as well as tracking what they have taken.

If a medication doesn’t seem to be working or the side effects are too distressing or uncomfortable, it is very important to let your healthcare provider know. Work with him/her to find a medication which better suits your needs.

Learning to manage the symptoms of schizophrenia can seem like a daunting task at first, for both the patient and family members. But the better the symptoms are managed, the better chance the schizophrenic person has to live a productive, full life.

written by Dr. Cheryl Lane, PsyD

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