When someone you love is diagnosed with schizophrenia, it’s normal to feel confused, overwhelmed, and even afraid. But it’s also important to know you’re not alone: According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in 100 American adults is living with schizophrenia – that’s over 2.4 million people nationwide.
Unfortunately, misconceptions about this very serious mental health disorder have led to widespread stigma and fear. Despite what you may have heard, it is possible to live well with schizophrenia. And with your help, your loved one can learn to manage their symptoms and lead a healthy, productive life.
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that impedes a person’s ability to think clearly, control their emotions, or make informed decisions. The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown, but it’s believed to be influenced by a combination of genetics, environment, and brain chemistry. Obtaining a diagnosis is not always easy, particularly because the symptoms can mimic those of other conditions, such as bipolar disorder, brain tumors, or chronic drug use.
To support your loved one and effectively advocate for their care, it’s important to understand as much as you can about schizophrenia. By learning how to recognize the symptoms and risk factors associated with the disease, you can help them to get the treatment they need, when they need it.
Establishing a Treatment Plan
While there is no cure for schizophrenia, there are ways to manage the condition and keep symptoms under control. Some people with schizophrenia require an inpatient treatment program or partial hospitalization program to achieve stability, but many patients thrive under a carefully supervised outpatient program.
Your loved one must play an active role in their own recovery, by taking all required medications and attending all therapy sessions. However, you can help them stay on track by monitoring their symptoms and working with their doctors to understand their treatment goals.
Providing safety and support
For most people living with schizophrenia, the support of loved ones can have a huge positive impact on their quality of life. Here are some ways you can offer emotional support:
Listen to concerns, without judgment.
Don’t give advice unless specifically asked for it.
Offer to help with errands or tasks around the house.
Spend time together doing fun activities you both enjoy.
Always offer kindness and respect.
Knowing how to respond in a crisis
Even the most stringent treatment plans and emotionally nurturing environments may not prevent a crisis. Schizophrenia is unpredictable, and psychotic episodes can come on quickly. When this happens, you’ll need to know how to respond fast, so it’s important to come up with a plan ahead of time.
Work in conjunction with your loved one’s treatment team to decide who to contact in case of an emergency. But if you’re concerned that your loved one is suicidal, or if you feel as though anyone’s life is in danger, including your own, call 911.
Taking care of yourself
Caring for a loved one with schizophrenia can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally. To provide anyone with the support they need, you must first care for yourself. Connect with other people who are in the same situation by joining a support group for family members of those living with schizophrenia. Learn ways to manage your stress, such as yoga or meditation, and ensure you are eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Finally, make sure you take breaks; it’s impossible to be on-call 24/7.
Alvarado Parkway Institute Offers Treatment for Schizophrenia
At Alvarado Parkway Institute, we understand the challenges of caring for a loved one with schizophrenia. Learn more about our inpatient treatment program for schizophrenia in San Diego. Whether they need intensive inpatient care or would benefit from a less restrictive outpatient setting, Alvarado Parkway provides each patient with a customized treatment plan to help them manage their symptoms and live their best life. We also provide a wealth of resources to assist our patients’ family members, including family support groups and a robust education program.
You are not alone. Call us today at (619) 667-6125.