How to accept a schizophrenia diagnosis

Articles On Schizophrenia Overview

  • What Is Schizophrenia?
  • Early Signs of Schizophrenia
  • Schizophrenia Symptoms
  • Schizophrenia Tests
  • Schizophrenia Medication

To get an official diagnosis of schizophrenia, a person has to show at least two of the following symptoms most of the time for a month, and some mental disturbance over 6 months:

  • Delusions (false beliefs that the person won’t give up, even when they get proof that they’re not true)
  • Hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there)
  • Disorganized speech and behavior
  • Catatonic or coma-like daze
  • Bizarre or hyperactive behavior

How to Get a Diagnosis

The first step is to see a primary care doctor or psychiatrist. Tell them what you have noticed, and ask them what steps you should take, especially if the person isn’t interested in getting help.

The first thing the doctor will do is a psychological evaluation and a complete medical exam. They’ll want to know about people in the family who may also have these symptoms or been diagnosed with schizophrenia, how the person’s been behaving lately, and if they’ve ever been hospitalized for a mental condition.

The doctor will track the person’s symptoms to rule out other conditions, like bipolar disorder, and other possible causes.

Tests Used to Diagnose Schizophrenia

The doctor may also want to do a urine or blood test to make sure that alcohol or drug abuse isn’t causing the symptoms.

Tests that scan and make pictures of the body and brain, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT scan), might also help rule out other problems, like a brain tumor.

They’ll also do tests to measure how much the person understands (they might call these cognitive tests), personality tests, and open-ended tests like the inkblot test (you might hear a doctor call it the Rorschach test).

Getting the diagnosis as early as possible will improve your loved one’s chances of managing the illness. If they get the proper care, which will probably include medication and psychotherapy, a kind of talk therapy, they are likely to do better.

Sources

American Psychiatric Association,В Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, text revision (DSM-IV-TR), American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Keith, S.В Schizophrenia Bulletin, 1991.

Andreasen, N.В Schizophrenia Bulletin, 1991.

National Alliance on Mental Illness: “Schizophrenia.”

Mayo Clinic: “Schizophrenia, tests and diagnosis.”

Find Your Local NAMI

Call the NAMI Helpline at

800-950-NAMI

Or in a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741

Accepting My Schizophrenia Diagnosis

My first episode of psychosis happened when I was 24 years old. I had just finished college and was making my way to New York to begin my new engineering job. Slowly my paranoia and fear that people were out to get me overtook me and in a panic, I drove to an airport and rushed to the nearest security officer. From there I was put in an ambulance and taken to a hospital where I received my diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Once released from the hospital, I rushed to my new career and disregarded my new diagnosis. My diagnosis was just a fluke, I told myself. Two years later, back at home in Indiana, the symptoms returned. This time worse than the first time. I was sent to an in-patient psychiatric hospital and had my schizophrenia diagnosis confirmed. It was here that I was fortunate enough to learn about first episode psychosis (FEP) clinics. Even though this was technically my second psychotic event, it was only two years since my first psychotic episode. Therefore, fortunately, I was accepted to the FEP clinic in Indianapolis named PARC (Prevention and Recovery Center for early psychosis).

In order to focus on my health and be close to family and friends, I resigned from my job in New York to stay in Indiana and get help at PARC. This was the beginning of my road to recovery. I started all the main aspects of coordinated specialty care (CSC) that a FEP clinic offers: cognitive behavioral therapy, low dose antipsychotic medication (a long acting injectable), case management, continued employment in the form of a new engineering job close to home, and family and peer support.

In addition, I participated in research at the FEP clinic to help further the understanding of the disease. I also joined my local NAMI and MHA support groups. After my second psychotic episode, I made the choice to not only get better but be a better person; these support structures were there to assist me in that goal.

During the last 15 months I have been receiving care at PARC, I believe I have gotten much better. My psychotic symptoms such as paranoia and delusions have gone away. I have grown closer to my family with the help of therapy and an excellent therapist. My existing friendships have also been strengthened, and I have made new friends through my support groups. My antipsychotic dosage has been lowered and may be reduced again in the future. In addition, my therapy appointments have been reduced from four times a month to two.

In the next few years, I would like to reduce therapy as I have discovered my own healthy coping habits to overcome any difficulties I may encounter. As with therapy, my psychiatrist appointments will also be reduced from once a month to once every two or three months. I plan to continue going to my local support groups because they are close to home and help me to feel less alone and part of a community. Eventually I plan to move into my own place and once again be completely self-sufficient.

With the help of my FEP clinic team, community, family, and friends, I have gotten back on track. With all of this support, I am refocused on achieving my professional, travel and retirement goals.

Share your story, message, poem, quote, photo or video of hope, struggle or recovery.

Note: This personal story was prepared by its author in his or her personal capacity. The opinions expressed are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

How Yoga Taught Me To Accept My Son’s Schizophrenia

When my son’s diagnosis turned my life upside down, yoga taught me how to hold my balance

By Miriam Feldman

How to accept a schizophrenia diagnosis

I was leading the typical, busy, working-mother lifestyle in Los Angeles when things started to go terribly wrong. What first seemed like normal teenage behavior ended in a schizophrenia diagnosis for my son, Nick. If you know anything about serious mental illness (which I didn’t) a diagnosis brings no closure. There is no clear path to treatment or recovery. It just delivers chaos and fear and helplessness. Feelings that a type A control freak like myself did not know how to handle. I had yet to come up against a problem I couldn’t solve, and I was sure I could somehow “fix” this as well. But schizophrenia is like a tornado that rips through your life, leaving everything in shambles, broken or upside down. There was no fixing it.

After three years of trying to help my son, take care of his sisters, maintain my marriage, and run my business, I was exhausted, angry, and filled with grief. One day I walked by our local, funky yoga center and thought, “That’s what I need.” My hope was that some regular exercise would help my mental state and get me in shape.

I was a shell of my former self as I stood in the back of the light, airy studio and unrolled my weird-smelling mat. Everything I had previously held as true was in question; nothing made sense anymore. But I had a lot of empty space inside, now that my hard-line ideas and opinions had been decimated. I started going three days a week to beginner classes. I worried that I wasn’t getting enough “exercise” but decided to give it a month. One day, I found myself doing a balance pose that had previously been impossible. I swelled with contentment and thought, “I can’t save Nick, but I can do this. Right now, I am balancing on one leg, and that’s not nothing.”

I stopped thinking about it and just stood there.

This wasn’t about exercise.

How to accept a schizophrenia diagnosisI started going every day. The girls who taught the poses also brought a lot of theory and philosophy to class — things I had scoffed at most of my life as hippy-dippy nonsense. I began to listen. The concept of surrender was something I’d always associated with failure, giving up. In yoga it is a deliberate act that leads to a higher consciousness. I realized I had been throwing myself against a brick wall for years, trying to change reality. My son has schizophrenia. I could either lead a life bruised from denial or accept that truth and make peace with it. I learned about mindfulness, slowing down, letting go of my death grip on “the result,” and existing in present time.

Going into the practice of yoga in such a depleted state resulted in a shift that never would have been possible in my younger, more confident days. I began to take some of the concepts I was learning on my mat into my approach to Nick. So much of my energy had been focused on finding the answer and returning him to his old self that I spent very little time considering the bigger question.

When we were in the throes of the worst of it, I used to lock myself in the bathroom at night and cry with the shower running, so my daughters wouldn’t hear. One night I walked out and there was my youngest, “What’s wrong, Mom? Why are you crying?” I told her I was crying because I missed Nick. She said, “What do you mean? Nick’s not gone, he’s here.” I looked at her, “I know, but he’s not who he was supposed to be.” She looked at me and said, simply, “Yeah he is. It’s just not what you thought.” I watched her as she walked to her room and wondered what an 11-year-old understood that I don’t.

One day on my mat, in child’s pose, the sweat pooling below my forehead, I remembered that exchange. I sat up and looked at the coin-sized puddle reflecting colorful light from the room. Suddenly I understood the bigger question. Could I apply the concepts of surrender and acceptance as I understood them through yoga to my relationship with my son?

I found myself approaching him in a gentler way. I had more patience. I allowed space for who he was now without clinging to my idea of who he should have been. He began to relax because I wasn’t pushing him. I realized that my drive to “fix him” was sending a constant message that his very existence was somehow broken, wrong. What a terrible message to send your child. I understood that if I could stand with balance, one leg in the air, he could stand beside me, just as he is. And that is fine.

I am not saying that it’s fine with me that he has schizophrenia and I am not going to continue to search for answers. Of course I will. But I will move more carefully, mindfully, through the process. Now I know what an 11-year-old understood that I didn’t. I had to let go of all my notions of how it was supposed to be and allow for what is, to find peace. Nick is my son. He has schizophrenia. We move forward from here.

How to accept a schizophrenia diagnosisMiriam Feldman is the author of He Came With It: A Portrait of Motherhood and Madness , as well as an artist, writer, and mental health activist who splits her time between her Los Angeles studio and her farm in rural Washington State. She has been married to her husband Craig O’Rourke, also an artist, for 34 years and they have four adult children. Their 33-year-old son, Nick, has schizophrenia.

If your friend or relative with schizophrenia won’t get treatment, there are steps you can take to help.

First, listen to their concerns in an open-minded, supportive way. Then talk about how treatment will help. Explain that they have an illness and it’s treatable.

“You’d get treatment for diabetes or hypertension , and you should get treatment for this,” says Sonia Krishna, MD, of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in Los Angeles.

What You Can Do

Focus on your concern for your loved one’s safety and try to form a partnership. Don’t confront delusional or inappropriate thoughts.

“Try to listen and empathize whole-heartedly with your loved one’s perspectives, even when his or her beliefs seem outlandish, bizarre, distorted, or delusional,” says Jason Bermak, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist in San Francisco.

If your loved one is paranoid, talk with them alone so they don’t feel threatened by a group, says San Diego psychiatrist David M. Reiss, MD.

If they are not paranoid, having a group of known and trusted friends or family members talk to them may give them a sense of agreement and concern. A group is also best if they have a tendency to “turn” on one person.

How to Encourage Them to Get Help

Reiss suggests following these guidelines when you and others talk to your loved one about getting treatment:

  • Don’t use a threatening or confrontational tone.
  • Close and trusted family members or friends should lead the conversation.
  • Don’t include people your loved one doesn’t trust or feel close to, which can cause moreВ anxiety, fear, or confusion.

Get Support for Yourself

It’s really stressful to have someone you’re close to deal with a mental illness such as schizophrenia.

“Support groups for patients and families are not only helpful, they are essential,” Bermak says. They can also help you get your loved one into treatment.

Try these organizations for help:

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has an information helpline (800-950-NAMI), referral service, and programs for individuals and families.
  • The Treatment Advocacy Center has information about treatment options. Or try its cell phone app, the Psychiatric Crisis Resources Kit, which has resources for emergency situations.
  • Local psychiatric hospitals, clinics, and universities run support groups and give referrals to other groups.

Get Help in an Emergency

First, call the police or 911. Explain the situation so they send someone trained to deal with it. “It takes the pressure off you,” Krishna says.

Some states will send a mobile crisis unit or psychiatric emergency team, often called a PET or SMART Team, to your house. The team often has a social worker or psychologist who can assess and de-escalate the situation.

If your loved one is calm and doesn’t need to be hospitalized, the team will talk to them about getting treatment on their own. Or they may take them to a hospital with the help of police.

Involuntary Hospitalization

In some situations, your loved one may need to get treatment in a hospital even though they don’t want to go. You may hear this called “involuntary hospitalization” or “involuntary commitment.”

“Laws governing involuntary commitment differ from state to state,” Reiss says. Most states allow it only if someone withВ schizophreniaВ is in one of these situations:

  • An immediate danger to themselves or others
  • “Gravely impaired” and unable to function (for example, being unable to provide basic things for themselves, like food, clothing, and shelter)

Continued

If your loved one is in danger, doctors may place them in psychiatric “hold.” This means that the hospital can keep them there for a certain period of time.

The length of time and who can write the hold vary from state to state. It’s important so doctors can keep the person safe, watch them closely, and rule out or treat upset or threatening behavior and medical orВ substance abuseВ problems.

More Ways to Get Help

Besides involuntary hospitalization, there are other options for someone who refuses treatment. The choices vary depending on where you live:

Outpatient commitment. When they get out of the hospital, a court order requires them to stick with treatment, or they will be sent back to the hospital. You may hear this called “assisted outpatient treatment,” or AOT.

Conservatorship. The court gives a family member or guardian the right to make medical and legal decisions for the person with schizophrenia.

Assertive case management. A team of professionals will go to your loved one’s house if they don’t go to their appointments.

Continued

Advance directives. These are legal documents, written when a person is in a competent state of mind, that outline the treatment they want if they later lose their ability to make reasonable and informedВ health careВ decisions.

Court-ordered treatment.В In some situations after a person has been arrested, a judge may offer them treatment in a residential program as an alternative to prison.

Sources

Jason Bermak, MD, PhD, psychiatrist; medical director, SF-CARE, San Francisco.

Sonia Krishna, MD, medical director of behavioral health, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, Los Angeles.

David M. Reiss, MD, psychiatrist, San Diego.

National Alliance on Mental Illness: “Support & Programs.”

Treatment Advocacy Center: “Options for Assisted Treatment.”

If your friend or relative with schizophrenia won’t get treatment, there are steps you can take to help.

First, listen to their concerns in an open-minded, supportive way. Then talk about how treatment will help. Explain that they have an illness and it’s treatable.

“You’d get treatment for diabetes or hypertension , and you should get treatment for this,” says Sonia Krishna, MD, of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in Los Angeles.

What You Can Do

Focus on your concern for your loved one’s safety and try to form a partnership. Don’t confront delusional or inappropriate thoughts.

“Try to listen and empathize whole-heartedly with your loved one’s perspectives, even when his or her beliefs seem outlandish, bizarre, distorted, or delusional,” says Jason Bermak, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist in San Francisco.

If your loved one is paranoid, talk with them alone so they don’t feel threatened by a group, says San Diego psychiatrist David M. Reiss, MD.

If they are not paranoid, having a group of known and trusted friends or family members talk to them may give them a sense of agreement and concern. A group is also best if they have a tendency to “turn” on one person.

How to Encourage Them to Get Help

Reiss suggests following these guidelines when you and others talk to your loved one about getting treatment:

  • Don’t use a threatening or confrontational tone.
  • Close and trusted family members or friends should lead the conversation.
  • Don’t include people your loved one doesn’t trust or feel close to, which can cause moreВ anxiety, fear, or confusion.

Get Support for Yourself

It’s really stressful to have someone you’re close to deal with a mental illness such as schizophrenia.

“Support groups for patients and families are not only helpful, they are essential,” Bermak says. They can also help you get your loved one into treatment.

Try these organizations for help:

  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has an information helpline (800-950-NAMI), referral service, and programs for individuals and families.
  • The Treatment Advocacy Center has information about treatment options. Or try its cell phone app, the Psychiatric Crisis Resources Kit, which has resources for emergency situations.
  • Local psychiatric hospitals, clinics, and universities run support groups and give referrals to other groups.

Get Help in an Emergency

First, call the police or 911. Explain the situation so they send someone trained to deal with it. “It takes the pressure off you,” Krishna says.

Some states will send a mobile crisis unit or psychiatric emergency team, often called a PET or SMART Team, to your house. The team often has a social worker or psychologist who can assess and de-escalate the situation.

If your loved one is calm and doesn’t need to be hospitalized, the team will talk to them about getting treatment on their own. Or they may take them to a hospital with the help of police.

Involuntary Hospitalization

In some situations, your loved one may need to get treatment in a hospital even though they don’t want to go. You may hear this called “involuntary hospitalization” or “involuntary commitment.”

“Laws governing involuntary commitment differ from state to state,” Reiss says. Most states allow it only if someone withВ schizophreniaВ is in one of these situations:

  • An immediate danger to themselves or others
  • “Gravely impaired” and unable to function (for example, being unable to provide basic things for themselves, like food, clothing, and shelter)

Continued

If your loved one is in danger, doctors may place them in psychiatric “hold.” This means that the hospital can keep them there for a certain period of time.

The length of time and who can write the hold vary from state to state. It’s important so doctors can keep the person safe, watch them closely, and rule out or treat upset or threatening behavior and medical orВ substance abuseВ problems.

More Ways to Get Help

Besides involuntary hospitalization, there are other options for someone who refuses treatment. The choices vary depending on where you live:

Outpatient commitment. When they get out of the hospital, a court order requires them to stick with treatment, or they will be sent back to the hospital. You may hear this called “assisted outpatient treatment,” or AOT.

Conservatorship. The court gives a family member or guardian the right to make medical and legal decisions for the person with schizophrenia.

Assertive case management. A team of professionals will go to your loved one’s house if they don’t go to their appointments.

Continued

Advance directives. These are legal documents, written when a person is in a competent state of mind, that outline the treatment they want if they later lose their ability to make reasonable and informedВ health careВ decisions.

Court-ordered treatment.В In some situations after a person has been arrested, a judge may offer them treatment in a residential program as an alternative to prison.

Sources

Jason Bermak, MD, PhD, psychiatrist; medical director, SF-CARE, San Francisco.

Sonia Krishna, MD, medical director of behavioral health, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, Los Angeles.

David M. Reiss, MD, psychiatrist, San Diego.

National Alliance on Mental Illness: “Support & Programs.”

Treatment Advocacy Center: “Options for Assisted Treatment.”

Michael Hedrick
March 01, 2016 | Last Updated: February 29, 2016

It can be an enormous blow, a monumental load to hear that you’re crazy, that you have schizophrenia.

The doctors may try to soften the blow by using technical terms or comparing it to something innocuous, but it doesn’t change the fact that at that one singular point in time when you’re told that the things you believe are happening are only in your head can change the entire course of the rest of your life.

I can remember when I got my diagnosis, I didn’t want to believe it; it was so overwhelming to be told that I cried for at least an hour.

I remember shortly after being on the phone with my brother and breaking down as I told him that I was having a hard time.

On the inverse, your family has no idea what to do with that information either. My parents went out that evening and bought every book they could find about how to deal with mental illness. It was a shock to them, such an out-of-the-blue unreal experience to face something that had been presented to them only as a demonized, serial killer, stigmatized condition.

If it’s that hard for the parents, you can only imagine what it’s like for the person experiencing it.

I can remember being so unable to come to terms with this stigmatized label that I broke and lost every ounce of self confidence, character, and personality that I had built up for who I was. I was no longer Mike; I was this scary, unstable label instead.

It was, to put it lightly, a wound in my soul. It was the largest most encompassing wound I’d ever felt or experienced.

In essence the old me had all but died and this new label and broken shell was left sitting in its place.

Over the next few months, though, I embarked on the process of recovery, and it’s a process that’s still happening nearly nine years later.

One of the major keys to healing from something like this, though, is accepting your diagnosis as simply a diagnosis. It is no different than cancer or diabetes in that regard, but it is different in the way that it affects your very essence of who you are.

I can remember in the early stages I fought against it so ferociously, I wanted to leave, I wanted to escape, I wanted to scream and flail, but eventually I grew tired and realized that I didn’t want to fight anymore.

I dutifully took my meds because they seemed to help, and I know I didn’t want to be crazy.

Maybe it’s that notion that has kept me so focused on recovery, at the very deepest levels. I don’t want to be crazy so I fight to be normal, I fight to be as normal as I can and though I know normalcy is relative I have a way I want to feel and that is to not be dogged by constant paranoia and delusions, and with every passing day, week, month, and year it seems to get easier.

Accepting your diagnosis and working to overcome it is the single most important thing you can do for yourself after you get out of the hospital. If that means meds and therapy and anything else you need to do to get past the diagnosis, do it. Do it until you feel better and even then don’t stop.

Life with mental illness is a series of steps from sickness to wellness, and we are perpetually like Sisyphus, trying to push a stone up a steep hill.

Your diagnosis isn’t you, and it’s not the end of things; you can get better.

It will take years, and it will take some very hard work, but you can find your normalcy again, even if it’s not exactly what you had in mind.

By Andrew Downing

When I was 16, I was ranked number one in North America’s National Hockey League central scouting agency. Most scouts considered me a shoe-in to play professionally. But by the time I turned eighteen, both my grasp on reality and my aspirations to be a professional hockey player were gone. This is when my mental illness journey began. This is when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Since then, I’ve been hospitalized twice—both times in a dramatic fashion. Before my second hospitalization, my visual hallucinations were out of control and I nearly died. I was carving gibberish on the walls of my apartment with a knife and I thought I was made of sand. I threatened to prove this reality with the knife and began gliding a (thankfully) dull knife all over my body. My mother was forced to call the police.

I spent two weeks in a psychiatric ward after that episode and narrowly avoided being committed to a more permanent facility. Nearly every time I write or talk about this time of my life, I cry. I feel so blessed and lucky to be alive so many years later. My symptoms have never completely gone away, and I’m always at risk for a psychotic episode if I don’t take all my medications. But I’ve learned to better manage my condition.

After nearly twenty years living with schizophrenia, I’d like to share a few key pieces of advice that have helped me during my recovery:

Find the Right Treatment Plan

Managing schizophrenia starts with finding the right medications, and there are more options for treatment now than ever before. Everyone reacts differently to various medications, so getting the proper diagnostic assessment is very important. And developing a relationship with a professional can be very valuable, as it increases a person’s chance of finding a medication that works. Learning to speak truthfully and openly to a medication provider may prove to be the greatest asset to a person living with schizophrenia, especially in the beginning stages of treatment.

Find a Support System

Sometimes people experiencing mental illness choose to isolate, but we can all benefit from relationships—remember that no one is an island. Finding healthy activities that foster relationships may be intimidating for someone with schizophrenia, but having a support system is invaluable. One place to start is support groups within organizations like NAMI.

There is a special bond between people who have mental illness or have a loved one living with a mental illness. Having an informed, listening ear can provide immense healing for someone with schizophrenia. While living in fear of relationships is a reality for many, there are tools and programs to help people conquer these fears and maintain fulfilling relationships.

Find Your Own Road to Recovery

Medicines and relationships are incomplete without addressing what a person can do to improve their own quality of life:

  • Eat healthy. A well-balanced diet offers many mental health benefits. Side effects of antipsychotic medicines can cause constipation, dehydration and weight gain. A healthy diet and plenty of water can remedy those issues.
  • Exercise. Walking is a fantastic source of exercise and many people find peace in the great outdoors.
  • Find work that isn’t too stressful. If a person with schizophrenia is unable to work, they can still accomplish small tasks that can make them feel productive.
  • Spirituality. Religion can offer help in conquering addictions, finding community, support and help in navigating delusional thinking.
  • Art therapy. Painting and drawing is a common practice in mental health facilities throughout the world. Expressing yourself through creative art can help reestablish identity lost to delusional thinking.

Schizophrenia is not a hopeless situation—people living with schizophrenia can experience recovery and live fulfilling lives. I’m an example of that. I may not be a professional hockey player, but I’m grateful for my life. I’ve learned to manage my mental illness and you can too.

NAMI also recognizes the importance of research in managing and recovering from schizophrenia.
Last night, Dec. 7, we recognized Sophia Vinogradov, M.D. for her contributions to schizophrenia-related scientific research. Learn more about Dr. Vinogradov here.

Andrew Downing is a published co-author, alongside his wife who is a seasoned mental health practitioner. Their book, “Marriage and Schizophrenia: Eyes on the Prize,” vividly details their fifteen-year partnership together. You can check out the book to hear the full story. Andrew now lives in recovery and has been stable for nearly seven years.

Elisha has Master’s degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology, as well as a Bachelor’s in Marketing. She has extensive experience creating & teaching curricula in college level education, history, English, business and marketing.

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master’s degree in History.

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Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that ranges in severity and may include symptoms like emotional disconnect, auditory hallucinations, and paranoia. Points to keep in mind when learning about this illness are that it is not a multiple personality disorder, and usually people with schizophrenia are not violent. What schizophrenia does is add and detract factors to a person’s personality, called positive symptoms and negative symptoms.

A positive symptom means it adds something to the person, like now that person hears voices, where they did not before. A negative symptom refers to something it takes away from the person, such as emotional or motor function. These symptoms can be immensely distracting for those with schizophrenia and make it challenging to get through the day.

There are medications called neuroleptics, which are antipsychotics, that medical professionals often suggest to resolve schizophrenia symptoms. However, not all medications work for everyone, so someone with schizophrenia should consult a doctor and work with them on a medical plan to help them personally. Counseling and coping skills are also common treatments.

The coping skills discussed in this lesson are intended to alleviate positive symptoms, particularly hallucinations and paranoia.

General Coping Strategies

Some coping skills can be used to alleviate a variety of symptoms that schizophrenics may experience, such as voices, or delusions that someone is spying on them:

  • Utilize distraction. Like with most mental illnesses, distraction is a key coping skill. Some schizophrenic patients find music, TV, or audiobooks to be good distractors. Patients who hear voices often find these auditory distractors to be successful.
  • Document symptoms through a diary. Always documenting when a person suffers symptoms helps them track patterns and can provide insight into coping with the symptoms.
  • Assess and test reality. This technique involves the assistance of a trusted person, who is honest with the schizophrenic at all times and can inform them if their symptoms are real or imagined. Additionally, they can be around to help distract a schizophrenic if they need help.
  • Join a support group. Schizophrenics can benefit from the support of others who are dealing with the same challenges and obstacles. Being able to speak with others about certain delusions or hallucinations can also help with reality testing.
  • Avoid stimulants like alcohol, recreational drugs, and caffeine. Although avoiding these may not make all symptoms disappear, it can help lessen the symptoms.
  • Find a relaxing escape. This might be a hot bath, painting, taking a walk, or sitting on the beach. Incorporating these aspects into daily life can not only interrupt hallucinatory events but prevent some from happening as well.

Coping Skills for Hallucinations

Auditory hallucinations, or hearing voices, is a common type of hallucination experienced with schizophrenia. Usually, the voices heard with schizophrenia are not kind. They tend to be degrading and negative, which is why they can be so disconcerting and painful. This makes it important to find techniques to at least doubt the voices even if one cannot stop them. Some additional coping skills that can be used for moments when a schizophrenic hears voices are:

  • Create lists of positive personal aspects. These should be aspects that counter the negative words of the voices. Keep them around either on paper or even a recording on a cell phone. This will help a person doubt the voices in their head.
  • Focus on something auditory. This could include listening to a loud movie, listening to music, or playing an instrument. This will interrupt the voices because the person is also hearing other things.
  • Use one’s own voice to drown out the others. This could include talking to oneself, talking to others, or singing and shouting to one’s favorite music. When someone hears their own voice, it can help distract them from the others.
  • Wear just one earplug in one ear. Try with one ear, then the other; usually there is one ear that is more effective.
  • Keep a hallucinations diary. Writing down what the voices say and when, helps a person to keep track of what is happening, and it provides a reality check of what is real compared to the false things the voices say.
  • Test reality. The schizophrenic can let a trusted person know when they hear voices and what they say, so they can help dispute them. For example, if the voice tells the schizophrenic that they are stupid, they would then tell their friend, and their friend would remind them that they received A’s in college.

Use headphones and music as a distraction.

How to accept a schizophrenia diagnosis

Coping Skills for Paranoia

Paranoia is not something that every schizophrenic has to deal with; this is usually particular to a specific version of this illness. However, paranoia can also be created due to hallucinations.

  • Know one’s condition. Although this is difficult to accept, a person with schizophrenia needs to remember that they have a mental illness and that they suffer from paranoia. Remembering this can help a patient assess a paranoia situation.
  • Understand others. If a schizophrenic starts to feel that someone means them harm, they can take time to analyze what else that person might be doing and why.
  • Avoid attacking others for perceived threats. Giving the perceived threat the benefit of the doubt, may create less confrontation and potential violence.
  • Ignore threats. A paranoid schizophrenic also could choose to ignore any believed threats, since many of them are likely to be false.
  • Keep a paranoia diary. Documenting each time a person has a paranoia event can help them assess a pattern. Perhaps there are stressors or impetuses that create the paranoia; knowing what these are can help a person avoid them.
  • Test reality. This involves being able to ask a trusted friend if they think someone or something is pursuing the schizophrenic, or if there is reason to be concerned about something. The friend can tell the schizophrenic person if they are being paranoid, or if there may actually be an issue.

Lesson Summary

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that can cause a range of positive symptoms and negative symptoms, which means symptoms that are added or subtracted from the person’s personality. Coping skills for symptoms like delusions, voices, and paranoia can help in dealing with day to day tasks and make them seem a little less daunting. One of the most important coping skills for people with schizophrenia is distraction, which involves listening to, seeing, or doing something that interrupts the illness and resets the system. There are a variety of coping skills one can utilize, but someone with schizophrenia should always consult a medical professional for personal advice.

Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Elisha has Master’s degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology, as well as a Bachelor’s in Marketing. She has extensive experience creating & teaching curricula in college level education, history, English, business and marketing.

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master’s degree in History.

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Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that ranges in severity and may include symptoms like emotional disconnect, auditory hallucinations, and paranoia. Points to keep in mind when learning about this illness are that it is not a multiple personality disorder, and usually people with schizophrenia are not violent. What schizophrenia does is add and detract factors to a person’s personality, called positive symptoms and negative symptoms.

A positive symptom means it adds something to the person, like now that person hears voices, where they did not before. A negative symptom refers to something it takes away from the person, such as emotional or motor function. These symptoms can be immensely distracting for those with schizophrenia and make it challenging to get through the day.

There are medications called neuroleptics, which are antipsychotics, that medical professionals often suggest to resolve schizophrenia symptoms. However, not all medications work for everyone, so someone with schizophrenia should consult a doctor and work with them on a medical plan to help them personally. Counseling and coping skills are also common treatments.

The coping skills discussed in this lesson are intended to alleviate positive symptoms, particularly hallucinations and paranoia.

General Coping Strategies

Some coping skills can be used to alleviate a variety of symptoms that schizophrenics may experience, such as voices, or delusions that someone is spying on them:

  • Utilize distraction. Like with most mental illnesses, distraction is a key coping skill. Some schizophrenic patients find music, TV, or audiobooks to be good distractors. Patients who hear voices often find these auditory distractors to be successful.
  • Document symptoms through a diary. Always documenting when a person suffers symptoms helps them track patterns and can provide insight into coping with the symptoms.
  • Assess and test reality. This technique involves the assistance of a trusted person, who is honest with the schizophrenic at all times and can inform them if their symptoms are real or imagined. Additionally, they can be around to help distract a schizophrenic if they need help.
  • Join a support group. Schizophrenics can benefit from the support of others who are dealing with the same challenges and obstacles. Being able to speak with others about certain delusions or hallucinations can also help with reality testing.
  • Avoid stimulants like alcohol, recreational drugs, and caffeine. Although avoiding these may not make all symptoms disappear, it can help lessen the symptoms.
  • Find a relaxing escape. This might be a hot bath, painting, taking a walk, or sitting on the beach. Incorporating these aspects into daily life can not only interrupt hallucinatory events but prevent some from happening as well.

Coping Skills for Hallucinations

Auditory hallucinations, or hearing voices, is a common type of hallucination experienced with schizophrenia. Usually, the voices heard with schizophrenia are not kind. They tend to be degrading and negative, which is why they can be so disconcerting and painful. This makes it important to find techniques to at least doubt the voices even if one cannot stop them. Some additional coping skills that can be used for moments when a schizophrenic hears voices are:

  • Create lists of positive personal aspects. These should be aspects that counter the negative words of the voices. Keep them around either on paper or even a recording on a cell phone. This will help a person doubt the voices in their head.
  • Focus on something auditory. This could include listening to a loud movie, listening to music, or playing an instrument. This will interrupt the voices because the person is also hearing other things.
  • Use one’s own voice to drown out the others. This could include talking to oneself, talking to others, or singing and shouting to one’s favorite music. When someone hears their own voice, it can help distract them from the others.
  • Wear just one earplug in one ear. Try with one ear, then the other; usually there is one ear that is more effective.
  • Keep a hallucinations diary. Writing down what the voices say and when, helps a person to keep track of what is happening, and it provides a reality check of what is real compared to the false things the voices say.
  • Test reality. The schizophrenic can let a trusted person know when they hear voices and what they say, so they can help dispute them. For example, if the voice tells the schizophrenic that they are stupid, they would then tell their friend, and their friend would remind them that they received A’s in college.

Use headphones and music as a distraction.

How to accept a schizophrenia diagnosis

Coping Skills for Paranoia

Paranoia is not something that every schizophrenic has to deal with; this is usually particular to a specific version of this illness. However, paranoia can also be created due to hallucinations.

  • Know one’s condition. Although this is difficult to accept, a person with schizophrenia needs to remember that they have a mental illness and that they suffer from paranoia. Remembering this can help a patient assess a paranoia situation.
  • Understand others. If a schizophrenic starts to feel that someone means them harm, they can take time to analyze what else that person might be doing and why.
  • Avoid attacking others for perceived threats. Giving the perceived threat the benefit of the doubt, may create less confrontation and potential violence.
  • Ignore threats. A paranoid schizophrenic also could choose to ignore any believed threats, since many of them are likely to be false.
  • Keep a paranoia diary. Documenting each time a person has a paranoia event can help them assess a pattern. Perhaps there are stressors or impetuses that create the paranoia; knowing what these are can help a person avoid them.
  • Test reality. This involves being able to ask a trusted friend if they think someone or something is pursuing the schizophrenic, or if there is reason to be concerned about something. The friend can tell the schizophrenic person if they are being paranoid, or if there may actually be an issue.

Lesson Summary

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that can cause a range of positive symptoms and negative symptoms, which means symptoms that are added or subtracted from the person’s personality. Coping skills for symptoms like delusions, voices, and paranoia can help in dealing with day to day tasks and make them seem a little less daunting. One of the most important coping skills for people with schizophrenia is distraction, which involves listening to, seeing, or doing something that interrupts the illness and resets the system. There are a variety of coping skills one can utilize, but someone with schizophrenia should always consult a medical professional for personal advice.

Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.