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Help With Schizophrenia

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that affects about one percent of the population. When schizophrenia is active, symptoms can include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, trouble with thinking and lack of motivation. However, with treatment, most symptoms of schizophrenia will greatly improve and the likelihood of a recurrene can be diminished.

While there is no cure for schizophrenia, research is leading to innovative and safer treatments. Experts also are unraveling the causes of the disease by studying genetics, conducting behavioral research, and using advanced imaging to look at the brain’s structure and function. These approaches hold the promise of new and more effective therapies.

The complexity of schizophrenia may help explain why there are misconceptions about the disease. Schizophrenia does not mean split personality or multiple-personality. Most people with schizophrenia are not any more dangerous or violent than the general population. Most people with schizophrenia live with their family, in group homes or on their own.

Read more on symptoms & treatment

  • Jan 18, 2022
Effective Psychotherapists Must Focus on Trustworthiness, Says New Book

While there is broad agreement—among therapists, students, and patients alike—that trust is important in psychotherapy, author Jon Allen, Ph.D., argues in a new book, “Trust in Psychotherapy,” that it deserves a closer look, and we should shift the focus. While therapists are inclined to focus on patients’ problems with trust, Allen suggests that therapists should give equal attention to becoming trustworthy to their patients. Cultivating trusting psychotherapy bonds—especially for patients who have experienced developmental trauma in close relationships—is complex, challenging, and a critically important topic, Allen suggests.

  • Jan 06, 2022
Study Asks: Can a Hit Song Help Prevent Suicides?

In 2017 the song “1-800-273-8255,” by the hip-hop artist Logic, featured the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number and a hopeful story of survival. A new study finds that this song was associated with a noticeable increase in calls to Lifeline and a reduction in suicides.

  • Jan 04, 2022
7 Check-ins For New Year’s Mental Health

We often focus more on treating illnesses, both physical and mental, than on staying healthy. But the absence of mental illness does not necessarily mean good mental health. And we’ve all been dealing with the ups and downs, losses, uncertainties and changes brought on by the pandemic. The start of a new year is a good opportunity for self-assessment with a brief mental health checkup.

My friend with schizophrenia smokes marijuana and drinks a lot, it that related to the schizophrenia?

Substance abuse is a common problem in persons with schizophrenia, including tobacco, marijuana, alcohol and other drugs. Abuse has all the usual health-related problems, but the presence of schizophrenia complicates this issue. Patients may stop their antipsychotic medications if they believe it interferes with the marijuana or alcohol effect. Disorganized thinking and behavior may be made worse. Marijuana increases the risk of schizophrenia in vulnerable young people and may complicate the course of schizophrenia. Impaired cognition is common in schizophrenia and misused drugs adversely affect cognition, such as attention, memory, task orientation and the like. There are many good reasons to avoid substance misuse. More

Does everyone with schizophrenia need to take medication? Can therapy help someone with schizophrenia?

All persons with schizophrenia need drugs some of the time and most will do better with continued use of medication to help control symptoms and prevent relapse. But the drugs are not effective for all aspects of the illness. Cognitive behavioral therapy may help with certain symptoms and supportive psychotherapy can support personal strengths and improve quality of life. Vocational programs increase the chances of successful employment. Family psychoeducation can give patients and family members a better understanding of the disorder and what will be helpful. A relationship with a case worker may help with the problems of daily living and supportive psychotherapy may help. New treatments such as neuromodulation are being developed and drugs with novel mechanisms of action are being tested. 

So, yes, drug treatment is important, but many patients will not take medication continuously for long periods and many experience side effects that have to be addressed. An integrated, comprehensive approach works best. More

What are the first symptoms someone would notice if they had schizophrenia?

The earliest signs and symptoms come before a diagnosis can be certain. There is now a growing emphasis on identifying young people at high risk for a psychotic disorder and offering treatment and services in advance of a full psychotic experience. At this stage symptoms and signs include problems with personal relationships and school or work performance, experiencing odd phenomena such as hearing a voice or noise but being uncertain if it was really heard, or becoming excessively suspicious. Also, some people may develop a “loner” lifestyle, a sense that something is wrong and that one’s mind is playing tricks, and other things that mark a change in life course. These may are not always early schizophrenia symptoms, but it is a good time for clinical assessment and care in hopes of preventing a progression to a full first episode of psychosis.

At first episode of schizophrenia, common symptoms include paranoia, hearing voices or seeing visions, disorganization of thoughts and behavior, low motivation and reduced experience of pleasure, anxiety, fear, depression, sleep disturbance, social withdrawal and sometimes poor emotional control seen as anger and hostility.

All the signs and symptoms can occur at a mild level in people who are not ill. A diagnosis must look at the severity of the symptoms, their impact on function and resulting distress. It is critical to rule out other possible causes of these symptoms before a diagnosis of schizophrenia. More

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About the Expert:

William Carpenter Jr., M.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology
University of Maryland School of Medicine
Editor-in-Chief, Schizophrenia Bulletin
October 2020

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Myles’ Story

Myles was a 20-year old man who was brought to the emergency room by the campus police of the college from which he had been suspended several months ago. A professor had called and reported that Myles had walked into his classroom, accused him of taking his tuition money and refused to leave.

Read More 

Editor's Choice

NOV 3, 2021
Digital medicine system may reduce schizophrenia symptoms
Healio

A digital medicine system appeared to improve clinical schizophrenia symptoms beyond the effects of oral pharmacotherapy alone, according to new study. “This work uses data from a digital medicine system that consists of tablets of the atypical antipsychotic aripiprazole, embedded with an ingestible event marker,” J. Corey Fowler, PhD, director of global clinical development at Otsuka Pharmaceutical Development & Commercialization Inc. in New Jersey, said during a virtual presentation. “When a pill is ingested, a signal is sent from the ingestible sensor to a wearable patch, and this ingestion record is then sent to a smartphone application via Bluetooth. The system is indicated for treating adults with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and as an adjunctive treatment for major depressive disorder.” 

OCT 28, 2021
What is the connection between dopamine and schizophrenia
MedicalNews Today

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that can cause disruptions in thought processes, perceptions, emotional responsiveness, and social interactions. Changes in brain chemicals, including dopamine, can contribute to the development of schizophrenia symptoms. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are chemical signals that identify and coordinate specific types of nerve cells throughout the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. They can also carry signals to muscles and glands that release hormones. When the neurotransmitter reaches a target cell, it attaches to specific receptors and triggers a certain action in the cell.

OCT 15, 2021 
A Racial Disparity in Schizophrenia Diagnoses in Nursing Homes
New York Times

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that involves a disconnect from reality.  Along with symptoVms that affect concentration and memory, people living with schizophrenia experience psychosis, which includes hallucinations and delusions. They might lose interest in their usual activities, struggle with self-care, and withdraw from loved ones. If your loved one lives with schizophrenia, you might wonder how you can best offer support. Here’s a look at seven ways to help, along with some tips on what to avoid: Read up, Validate, Ask questions, Stay in touch, Make a crisis plan, Offer encouragement, Help with goals.

Resources

Additional Resources and Support

Physician Reviewed

Felix Torres, M.D., MBA, DFAPA
August 2020