What to Do When a Loved One Has Schizophrenia
Saying that life is hard is a great understatement, but imagine how much more difficult it is for people with schizophrenia to lead a normal existence. My brother, Bob, was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of sixty-one, and it was not easy for either of us. My mother and I felt so badly for him and his condition and how Bob must have felt about himself. Thinking back about how helpless all of us felt, it is my wish that people learn from what I experienced with this situation so that they don’t have to go through what we did.
My experience with my brother helped me learn that understanding what’s going on first can help out a lot in processing and dealing with any situation. In this day and age, we are now given more information about what mental disorders are, when they get triggered, and how to deal with episodes that happen to be side effects of the disorder or the medication. Although I encourage people to do more research on their own, time might be an issue, so I present to you a guide you can quickly scan through to get a general idea of what schizophrenia is and what you can do when someone you love is showing symptoms or is having an episode.
What Is Schizophrenia?
Meaning “split mind,” it does not mean multiple personality disorder, but it means that a person has a fragmented pattern of thinking. It is, however, a severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Normally, people suffering from this feel like they have lost touch with reality, and the symptoms are disabling.
What Is the Cause of This Mental Disorder?
Nobody knows. Scientists have been trying to find out why without success, but they think it has something to do with an increase in levels of dopamine. Some experts say that schizophrenia can be linked to exposure to viruses, malnutrition before birth, problems during birth, psychosocial factors, and genetic traits. Despite these theories, nobody has come up with a real cause. This is an important thing to know, and you should never blame yourself for this occurring in your loved one.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Usually appearing between the ages of sixteen and thirty, the symptoms of this disorder have three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.
Positive symptoms are psychotic behaviors that are not seen in mentally healthy people. These include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech and behavior, and catatonic behavior.
Negative symptoms are disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. This includes reduced expression of emotions, reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life, difficulty starting and sustaining activities, and reduced speaking.
Cognitive symptoms usually affect memory of some aspects of thinking. This includes poor understanding of information and decision-making, a short attention span, difficulty in focusing or paying attention, and problems with the ability to use information immediately after learning it.
How Should You Care for Your Loved One with Schizophrenia?
Here are some tips from experts:
Aside from learning all about this mental disorder and how it affects your loved one, it is important to reach out to others for connection and support.
Be there for your loved one when exploring treatment and the management of the disorder, and always encourage taking medication as prescribed.
Accept that living with this will be difficult, but try your best to stay positive despite relapses and setbacks. Be realistic and set manageable goals, and never push too hard.
Create a relaxed, structured, and supportive environment for you and your patient. Schizophrenia can flare up in stressful situations, and by creating this safe space, you will be reducing chances of outside triggers and, at the same time, providing for your own need to relax.
Empower your patient. Treating anyone with a mental disorder like a baby is insulting, and just because someone has a disorder doesn’t mean they are disabled. Let your loved one do things that they are capable of doing on their own, and always encourage independence and self-help as much as possible.
Remember, caring for people with schizophrenia is difficult but not impossible. Just do your reading, be supportive, and do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help should you need anything. For more information and affirmation, check out this website for more details.
National Institute of Mental Health. 2016. “Schizophrenia.” Last modified February 2016. Accessed on on February 28, 2017. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml.