Helping a Loved One with Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a challenging disease for patients and their friends and family. The disorder affects patients’ thoughts, speech and perception of reality, among other behavioral patterns. Parents of schizophrenics tend to blame themselves for “bringing about” the disease, but this is never the case. Rather, the disorder most likely stems from genetic anomalies and other factors that affected the developing fetus.
If your friend or family member lives with schizophrenia, here are several ways you can help each other pacify the worst of the disorder.
Don’t blame anyone.
Schizophrenia doesn’t arise from laziness, greed, or bad parenting, nor are its symptoms a personal choice. Once you absolve yourself of misguided guilt, you can better cope with the nature of schizophrenia and help your loved one feel comfortable.
Understand the symptoms.
Common symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions, paranoia, strange speech patterns, and intense displays of emotion. Patients often image events or draw illogical conclusions from their thoughts and perceptions. It’s not uncommon for patients to become distant or hostile to family and friends, who in turn may feel angry or hurt. Once a thought is conceived, the patient may stubbornly adhere to it, making communication difficult.
You can help the patient calm down by listening and speaking calmly. Don’t confront the patient or verbally dismiss the delusions. Instead, tell the patient that you recognize his or her emotions and that you will be there to help them. Try to focus the patient’s thoughts on the immediate reality.
Create a proactive environment.
Remember that no matter how severe the symptoms, the patient has no control over them. Never yell at or chastise the patient. They cannot “get their act together” on a whim or by will. It may be tempting to ignore the patient or say hurtful remarks, but both can only add fuel to their ideas. Likewise, spoiling or coddling the patient can also have harmful effects. Empower the patient to take care of as many personal tasks as possible. If the patient acts out, calmly and clearly ask them questions about how they are feeling. The best you can do is to be attentive, friendly, and work through the disorder day by day.
Join a support group.
You and your loved one aren’t the only ones on this challenging journey. Mental health support groups are filled with families dealing with similar situations. Surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through. Share your thoughts and experiences and vent your frustrations. It can be a great way to relieve stress and help you behave more calmly with your loved one.
Work together to discuss treatment options.
Seek professional treatment as soon as possible to better the patient’s chances at recovery. Don’t bring a therapist into your home behind the patient’s back or force him or her to undergo treatment. Give the patient as many options as possible and listen to their requests. When your loved one shows signs of improvement, visit a doctor together and discuss medication to mitigate relapses. Track progress and side effects, and let your loved one report to the doctor.
Life is full of challenges that can be overcome. Many schizophrenia patients recover and live happy, fulfilled lives. Take each day in stride, take deep breaths, and stay by your loved one’s side.
In many ways, we are only beginning to understand mental illness disorders. And, each advance in our understanding gives us better tools to treat, diagnose and even predict mental illness. Recent studies of DNA now give stronger indications than ever that the cause of schizophrenia and a number of other mental health disorders may be, in part, genetic.
Schizophrenia has a high hereditary factor; this has led many researchers to believe that the disorder could have a genetic link. Researchers from the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard recently identified over 100 genes that could play a role on schizophrenia. Scientists are still untangling what the role of these genes are. Some, as expected, were related to the brain chemical dopamine. Others, however, involve the immune system. Still others were associated with behaviors like heavy smoking. It is currently theorized that the genes in question may play more than one role; for instance, affecting the immune system in one way and the brain in another.
Other evidence of schizophrenia’s genetic factors comes from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, formed in 2007. Since that time, the group has analyzed DNA from 33,000 patients who suffer from maladies that include schizophrenia, autism, depression, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Their work identified a number of genes that are shared by people diagnosed with these disorders. The scientists have developed a theory that these disorders may be linked or may even be different expressions of a single disorder.
Two of the genes identified work to control the movement of calcium in and out of brain cells, which is related to how brain cells communicate with one another. Scientists theorize that the changes in movement could, depending on other environmental factors, eventually lead to mental illness.
While theories about the causes of mental illness like schizophrenia are continuing to be developed, here at Pasadena Villa, we employ the most up to date treatments in a safe and caring environment. Our unique social integration model immerses patients into real life activities to help them develop the tools for life outside a treatment facility. Patients live in a warm and therapeutic atmosphere to regain control of their lives and develop social and communication skills. Contact us today if you or a family member would benefit from our unique residential mental health care.
The Villa Orlando and Pasadena Villa’s Smoky Mountain Lodge are adult intensive psychiatric residential treatment centers for clients with serious mental illnesses. We also provide other individualized therapy programs, step-down residential programs, and less intensive mental health services, such as Community Residential Homes, Supportive Housing, Day Treatment Programs and Life Skills training. Pasadena Villa’s Outpatient Center in Raleigh, North Carolina offers partial hospitalization (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (PHP). If you or someone you know may need mental health services, please complete our contact form or call us at 877-845-5235 for more information.