As a loved one to someone struggling with schizophrenia, it’s in your best interest to offer help whenever possible. However, being that schizophrenia is such a complex disease that affects everyone differently, it can be difficult to tell how to help your loved one.
Often, people with schizophrenia struggle with relationships (friends, family, significant others), finding and maintaining work, getting through their education, and achieving their life goals.
Although schizophrenia may present a lot of difficulties for your loved one, it’s very possible for him/her to lead an independent and fulfilling life. This prospect becomes even more obtainable when those around him/her provide the right support.
Throughout this article, we’re going to look at a number of different ways you can help someone with schizophrenia. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
Encourage Professional Treatment
It might seem obvious, but without professional treatment, your loved one is more likely to struggle with day-to-day activities. Why? Because professional treatment puts your loved one on the course to better understand themselves, how schizophrenia affects them, and what they can do to curb symptoms.
There are two important factors to schizophrenia treatment:¹
- Psychotherapy – also known as “talk therapy,” is a type of treatment that looks into the thought process of someone struggling with schizophrenia. By identifying his/her thought process, a mental health professional is able to help the person struggling to discover new ways of changing their thought pattern for the better and, in turn, lower symptoms.
- Medication – through treatment, a doctor will prescribe antipsychotic medication as a means of curbing hallucinations, delusions, and jumbled thoughts. These medications can cause side effects (such as fatigue or nausea) and may cause your loved one to stop taking them. If so, it’s vital you influence the importance of medication.
You might have a loved one who’s already in (or has been in) treatment, yet, they still struggle with a variety of daily tasks. This is normal as treatment isn’t a one-and-done situation. Rather, it’s something that takes months and years to become effective.
With that, it’s important you influence your loved one to make treatment appointments on time.
It’s only natural your loved one may not want to visit treatment. In these situations, you may find yourself arguing and/or growing angry at your loved one. However, this is not an effective way of helping.
Instead, we suggest you remind your loved one of his/her life goals as a reason to go to treatment. Though it may not seem like it, treatment is giving them the opportunity to reach their goals without the struggle of schizophrenia.²
Be Informative About the Dangers in Drugs and Alcohol
People with schizophrenia may feel the need to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol when symptoms are at their worse. This feeling is an extreme danger as addiction produces even worse symptoms than schizophrenia alone.³
It’s important for you to advocate this danger. However, there are a few other things you can do in order to make sure your loved one stays away from drugs and alcohol. These include:
- Abstaining to using drugs or alcohol yourself
- If already abusing, influence treatment
- Removing any drugs or alcohol from the house
People struggling with schizophrenia want to carry on with their lives as though they had never been diagnosed. No matter what age your loved one is, s/he will not benefit if you’re trying to force your influence.
You may mean well in your actions. But what many forget is handling someone with schizophrenia is to manage a very delicate mind. People who struggle with the disease aren’t entirely in control of their emotions. In fact, they are easily influenced by what’s happening around them. If you want to be someone who influences them for the better, it’s vital you understand the importance of patience.
Treating schizophrenia isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. And with this treatment, you’re going to have moments of frustration – moments where you’re trying to get through to your loved one, but nothing seems to work.
If you continue fighting with patience, you’ll inevitably leave your loved one with more stress than they already have to handle. And stress is one of the biggest issues when it comes to schizophrenia.⁴
People struggling with the illness have a hard time overcoming it simply because they’re simultaneously trying to overcome stress. In fact, some medical professionals believe stress could even lead to psychosis symptoms.⁵
If you’re living with your loved one, the best thing you can do it offer them a calm and safe living environment – or, if you’re not living with him/her, you can offer them a calm and safe environment when you’re around.
Stress has a way of intensifying symptoms of schizophrenia, such as delusions and hallucinations. By offering your loved one a calm and safe environment, you are limiting how much these symptoms intensify. You are offering them a place to retreat to when things get a little too difficult for them to handle on their own.
Try to Influence Social Activities
It’s important for everyone to maintain a social life to one degree or another – humans are social creatures and life becomes ten times more difficult without friends.
People with schizophrenia face a problem of their own. Certain symptoms lead them to live a more isolated lifestyle.⁶
Take sleeping as an example. People with schizophrenia tend to stay up later in the night and wake up late in the morning or early in the afternoon. This kind of routine actually has a negative impact on one’s social conduct. It places them in a cycle where they’re more likely to be alone.
As a loved one, you have the ability to influence this by planning more social activities and days where your loved one is out and about. Be sure to find out what your loved one likes to do most and embrace that activity.
Still have questions concerning how to help someone with schizophrenia?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any personal or professional knowledge on the topic, we’d also love to hear from you.
We try to reply to each legitimate comment in a prompt and personal manner.
¹ Pharmacy and Therapeutics: Schizophrenia: Overview and Treatment Options
² HHS Public Access: Life and treatment goals of individuals hospitalized for first-episode nonaffective psychosis
³ PubMed: Substance-abusing schizophrenics: do they self-medicate?
⁴ HHS Public Access: Patterns of stress in schizophrenia
⁵ HHS Public Access: Could Stress Cause Psychosis in Individuals Vulnerable to Schizophrenia?
⁶ UCLA Newsroom: Why schizophrenia leads to social isolation