Can You Live a Normal Life with Schizophrenia
Around 1 percent of the American population suffers from schizophrenia, a mental illness characterized by symptoms as severe as delusions and hallucinations. A majority of these people get a formal diagnosis before they even reach the age of 30. Schizophrenia can be a pretty scary word to hear for anyone struggling with a mental health challenge. The diagnosis alone can make anyone wonder how this disease will affect their future life.
Can you live a normal life with schizophrenia? Despite many contradicting opinions, the most appropriate answer to this question is yes. Many advancements have been made in medicine and therapy to handle schizophrenia treatment, making it easier for patients to continue living their lives normally. They can expect to live healthily, establish meaningful relationships, and build careers with the proper support.
People diagnosed with schizophrenia may display different symptoms of the disease. These symptoms often tend to come and go, and many patients eventually learn how to deal with them so they do not become noticeable. These symptoms include the following:
A schizophrenic person may hear, feel, smell, or see things that are not there. Most people with this disorder report hearing imaginary voices who may warn them about potential dangers or ask them to do things. A patient is likely to spend considerable time talking to these voices inside their head. These voices may sometimes speak to each other only, making the patient listen to what they are saying.
People with schizophrenia often carry false beliefs and notions about certain things. For example, they may believe someone is out to get them or that their next-door neighbors are spying on them. As a result of these deluded thoughts, patients may spend a lot of time worrying about what others are doing to them.
Movement and Thought Disorder
Movement and thought disorders are a common part of schizophrenia life. As a part of this problem, patients may have difficulty organizing their thoughts and getting something meaningful out of them. They may stop speaking abruptly or speak in a confused or distorted way. Their body movements can get agitated, or sometimes the individual cannot move.
A person with schizophrenia may exhibit a disruption in their everyday behaviors and emotions. They also show a lack of interest and lose pleasure in daily activities. Other issues include being unable to maintain planned activities and being unresponsive when spoken to.
Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia can only be found with testing. These symptoms include an inability to effectively understand information and issues with attention and focus. Individuals may also have problems using the data once they have received it. Cognitive issues related to schizophrenia can make it hard for a person to live normally and lead to lots of emotional distress.
Getting a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be complex and overwhelming for anyone. However, the reality is that the condition is entirely manageable. Living an everyday life with schizophrenia does not always mean never experiencing symptoms again. What it truly means is that you can be in a better position to manage this chronic illness so that you can continue living independently and do all things that others do, such as having families and keeping a job. Remember that treatment is key to managing this condition and living well with it.
If you have been taking care of your mental health on your own so far, it can be difficult to accept that you may need help from therapy and medication. The sooner you seek help for it, the less likely you are to acquire more serious symptoms that may trigger a steep decline in your physical and mental health. Good and ongoing treatment can make it possible to live a fulfilling and enjoyable life. Recurrences are possible; however, having certain factors in life can minimize them while boosting improvement in function. These factors include:
- Functioning well before the diagnosis of schizophrenia
- Having a higher IQ
- No family history of schizophrenia
- Being older when the symptoms first initiated
While these factors seem to contribute a lot to success in recovering from schizophrenia, those without can also improve and live normally with good treatment plans. Specific symptoms of schizophrenia, such as delusions and paranoia, may make a person suspicious of giving out personal information or taking the medication prescribed to them. However, you must remind yourself that your treatment team is there to help you feel heard and safe, so never hesitate to express your concerns. Bringing a loved one with you to appointments is another way to fully embrace it and allow it to help you out. Take notes of your discussions with your care team and go through them whenever you have any confusion to ensure ongoing treatment.
Symptoms of schizophrenia can be extremely disruptive and troubling and can easily cause significant impairment in a person’s life. These symptoms may sometimes become severe enough to prompt temporary hospitalization. Hence, for anyone who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia recently, residential treatment is highly encouraged.
Residential care gives all schizophrenic individuals a chance to focus on their treatment and engage in it without worrying about work, family, home, and other life responsibilities. This type of treatment is more intensive and supports patients in jump-starting recovery while teaching them exercises and strategies that will help them manage this lifelong illness once they are back home. Residential treatment also provides patients with all tools they need to maintain their recovery for the future years. Treatment at these facilities usually includes:
Medication for symptomatic management
The most crucial part of schizophrenia treatment is medication. It is next to impossible to control the symptoms of this illness without using any antipsychotic drugs. Antipsychotics are of two types: first-generation and second-generation. It may take a doctor a few attempts with different medicines from either class to find the one that works best for a patient with the fewest side effects. Sometimes, a doctor may also add an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication to people battling other mental illnesses.
It is imperative to keep taking the medication even when you start feeling a lot better. If you stop taking it or do not consume it as prescribed, the symptoms may return or likely worsen. Stopping the medication on your own may also put you at risk for self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, which also worsens schizophrenia symptoms.
Therapy for positive life changes
While medication is essential for treating schizophrenia, therapy makes it easier for patients to learn how to live with this disease. For example, behavioral therapies can help patients learn how to catch the signs and symptoms of an episode while taking positive steps to change negative behaviors and thoughts that are still under their control. Therapy also provides patients with action-oriented tools and strategies to manage stress, cope with challenges, and set and meet goals.
Other types of therapy can also work well when combined with behavioral therapies. These include creative therapies that are frequently offered in residential treatment centers and can be used to explore emotions or find positive ways to cope with the diagnosis. Some other examples of these complementary therapies are art and music therapy, animal-assisted therapy, drama therapy, and meditation.
Social and family support
While medication and therapy are necessary elements of schizophrenia treatment, it is not possible to overlook the role of support in helping patients live with this illness. Support can come from friends, family members, therapists, and even other people living with schizophrenia. Support groups and group therapy can be particularly helpful in providing schizophrenics a channel to share their harrowing experiences and emotions while relying on others who understand what it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes.
When possible, family support is also constructive for people living with schizophrenia. Family members can offer practical support to the patients, such as with money and housing, along with providing guidance, comfort, and love whenever needed. Many residential treatment centers regularly encourage their patient’s family members to participate in their loved one’s treatment through family therapy and psychoeducation sessions. These types of programming teach family members about what schizophrenia is and how they can best support someone living with it.
Can someone with schizophrenia be normal without any symptoms at all?
It is not possible for someone with schizophrenia to keep living without any return of their symptoms. Sometimes, when these people are exposed to specific triggers, such as high-stress levels or drugs, their symptoms may return or get amplified. However, it is possible to manage these symptoms through medications, therapy, and other services. When these symptoms get under control through proper treatment and the patient continues to take their medications and attend therapy regularly, they can experience marked improvement in their everyday functioning and lead normal lives.
How long will someone struggle with schizophrenia?
Unfortunately, schizophrenia is a lifelong illness with no permanent cure. The only way to cope with this illness is by keeping it well-managed and under control through regular follow-ups with a care team.
Can a schizophrenic live alone?
Yes, it is entirely possible for a person with schizophrenia to live alone and function normally as other people do. Research suggests that up to 28 percent of the people diagnosed with this illness live without any support and go through their daily chores on their own. However, it is always a good idea to have someone check on you from time to time to ensure that you are doing well. Moreover, the concept of living alone with schizophrenia is only possible if you are compliant with your ongoing treatment plan, which involves taking medications on time and attending therapy regularly.
Is my schizophrenia likely to get worse if I don’t get treatment for it?
Yes, untreated schizophrenia can make the brain vulnerable to serious damage from the disorder, the impacts of which can be long-lasting. With each successive episode of schizophrenia, its symptoms tend to increase in severity and duration, ultimately making it harder to manage the disease. If this continues to go on past a certain point, a person with schizophrenia may not be able to function in everyday life at all. Therefore, starting treatment as soon as you get a diagnosis is a good idea.
Is schizophrenia manageable with a healthy life?
People with schizophrenia are at very high risk for premature death, partly because of their poor lifestyle habits. Such people are less likely to maintain a healthy diet plan, rarely exercise, and commonly engage in substance abuse and smoking. Many of them continue to gain weight as a side effect of their medications. To make this a manageable disorder outside of rehab, talk to a doctor about how you can improve your general health status and decrease the risk of experiencing a relapse of the symptoms. A therapist can also help you list several coping strategies that boost your mood and energy. These activities may include spending time with family members and friends, engaging in different hobbies, practicing yoga or mindfulness techniques, and attending a support group.
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