Schizophrenia is a serious, chronic mental disorder that is often debilitating. About 1.5% of American adults have this disorder. While the cause of schizophrenia is unknown and still being studied, schizophrenia treatment is available and crucial to lessen symptoms, decrease the frequency of acute episodes, and improve functioning, peace, and life fulfillment.
What should you look for in a schizophrenia treatment center?
Treating schizophrenia is really a three-pronged process, involving medical stabilization, socialization integration and spiritual aspects.
Medical stabilization requires a psychiatrist who is well-trained and experienced with schizophrenia—and not all psychiatrists are. A psychiatrist who is skilled and has a track record of treating schizophrenia at all acuity levels is key.
Socialization is vitally important because people suffering with schizophrenia isolate. Treatment programs that are structured to help patients grow in self-awareness and integrate into community are most effective.
Spiritually speaking, having doctors and clinicians who recognize the uniqueness of this diagnosis—that things like a patient’s DNA, trauma, or substance abuse can all be contributors to psychosis—and who recognize the importance of treating all aspects of their patient’s condition, mind, body and spirit, tend to be most successful.
If you or someone you love is suffering with schizophrenia, we can help you find the right treatment program.
Help for Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia and its symptoms are mainly produced by problems in certain cells deep in our brain. These cells use special messengers, called neurotransmitters, to communicate with each other to receive, process, and accurately evaluate information from our senses. Schizophrenia primarily impairs two specific messengers, dopamine and glutamate, which are the more excitatory or activating messengers in our brain. Because of this disruption, these brain cells are unable to clearly and accurately communicate, causing problems in understanding what is going on, and what is real and what isn’t.
Scientists now believe schizophrenia is caused by a combination of gene defects blended with issues of brain development during pregnancy, environmental stressors, and the patient’s abilities to handle physical and psychological stressors they are exposed to. Unfortunately, no blood test or brain picture (MRI, CT, SPECT Scan) can diagnose schizophrenia, but diagnosis is made by observing for a constellation of symptoms, functioning, and ruling out other possible causes or illnesses.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
A person with schizophrenia has difficulty processing reality and thinking clearly. The hallmarks are psychotic symptoms which come in 3 different types—hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking. Since many drugs, alcohol, medications, and both medical and psychiatric illness can cause psychotic symptoms, these causes must be ruled out before a diagnosis of Schizophrenia can be considered.
Here’s a breakdown of the 3 types of psychotic symptoms:
- Hallucinations are the most common psychotic symptom. Hallucinations are when the person believes their senses are picking up something, but sadly, nothing is actually there. Visual hallucinations are when something is seen even though it really doesn’t exist. Auditory hallucinations are when a person hears something, but nothing is producing that sound. Tactile hallucinations are when someone feels something (like bugs crawling under their skin) that isn’t real. Olfactory hallucinations are smelling something that isn’t present, and gustatory hallucinations are tasting something that they are not actually eating.
- Delusions are the second category of psychotic symptoms and are defined as a fixed false belief. The most common are paranoid delusions of someone trying to attack or harm you or someone stalking or following you. Another delusion is believing people can read your thoughts or are putting thoughts in your head. Some believe they have a terrible illness like AIDS or cancer, or that something is eating their internal organs. Sometimes delusions aren’t negative and are nonsensical, like you have special powers or can understand or receive special messages from normal everyday situations.
- Disorganized thinking or speech is the third category of psychoses as brain cells aren’t working efficiently and thoughts are continuously interrupted or blocked, making conversation and relationships very difficult.
Other symptoms (often called negative symptoms) that commonly accompany the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia are decreased motivation, indecisiveness, diminished facial expressions, flat mood, and relational disinterest/distance/clumsiness. Again, these symptoms are the fallout of various brain centers not processing life accurately, thus causing many difficulties with basic responses to life.
If you or someone you love is experiencing these symptoms, you should seek professional help. We can help you sort through treatment options to find the right help, right now.
The Challenges of Living with Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a difficult disorder to live with, both for the person afflicted as well as the loved ones who live with them. People suffering with this disease have trouble differentiating between what is reality and what isn’t, struggle to trust their own thoughts, are often unable to keep a job because of the symptoms, and feel isolated from friends, family, and society in general.
Many people are ignorant about the disease, believing people with schizophrenia are lazy, disrespectful, faking it, crazy, or demon possessed. This type of stigma causes people with schizophrenia (and their families) to experience anxiety, emotional distress, isolation, loneliness, and depression.
You are not alone.
Sometimes schizophrenia leads people to self-medicate to escape these intrusive and disrupting symptoms with drugs or alcohol. These substances, including cigarettes and caffeine, only worsen schizophrenia’s symptoms. Drug and alcohol abuse can intensify psychosis and it can become permanent when paired with longer-term substance abuse.
Many with schizophrenia (especially when it starts in the teen or early adult years) end up needing public assistance, have minimal social supports or friends, and lead a very difficult life. Unfortunately, some 40% of those with schizophrenia attempt and 15% will die from suicide.
Thankfully, treatment is available for schizophrenia but because of the complexity and seriousness of the disease, the treatment is also complex.
Because of their delusions and hallucinations, willingness to trust family, friends, treatment teams, and case managers is often shaky and thus, compliance with the latest schizophrenia treatment plan is often hit-and-miss. Antipsychotic medications have been developed and dramatically improved over the years and are effective in eliminating or managing the psychotic symptoms of the disease in most cases.
The recent emergence of treatment centers like Sanctuary Clinics, is great news for those suffering from psychosis or schizophrenia.
Sanctuary Clinics brings together the three elements discussed earlier—psychiatrists trained and experienced in treating psychosis, the medical and medicinal expertise necessary for medical stabilization, all administered in the context of a Christian community, perfect for fostering self-awareness and supporting their patients’ reintegration into relationships and society.
There are both inpatient and outpatient schizophrenia treatment plans available. Let us help you find the right treatment program to meet your needs.
In addition to medication, psychosocial treatments and psychotherapies like relationship and social skills, assertiveness, reality testing (to know when the psychoses are not real), stress management, and conflict resolution skills are key to lessening the psychotic symptoms and building a good support system to healthy living. These treatments and therapies help you learn to better communicate with others and develop healthy relationships. Obviously, avoiding nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and drugs, exercising, and proper sleep while maintaining healthy relationships and employment are key building blocks.
Because of disruptions in reality and thinking, building a strong foundation based on a relationship with God through Jesus is essential to discover hope and joy in the face of faltering circumstances and thinking. A life with schizophrenia is filled with hurt, loss, mistakes, rejection, despair, and isolation, so experiencing God’s grace, mercy, love and forgiveness combined with a sense of belonging, value, and purpose are gifts only divinely imparted.
Family education is an important part of helping someone with schizophrenia. Because family members are often the ones giving care, their understanding, coping, and communication skills are important components to the patient’s lifelong battle. Family members have greatly benefitted by going to support groups with others in similar situations. National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) is a great resource to find these groups.
How Can You Help?
People with schizophrenia often do not want treatment at first. They strongly believe their perceptions are real, and are afraid to give up control and enter a schizophrenia treatment program. Some with paranoia might believe you are kidnapping or intending to harm them. But treatment is the best way to help someone with this disorder. Schizophrenia doesn’t just go away.
Family members might choose to take their loved one to the hospital for treatment if the psychosis becomes bad enough and the person is a danger to themselves or others or is unable to take care of themselves. In most cases, a professional long term schizophrenia treatment facility that is experienced in helping individuals with schizophrenia is the best option.
For those struggling with both schizophrenia and a substance use disorder (Dual Diagnosis), concurrent treatment of the conditions is necessary. Through medication and therapy, individuals with schizophrenia and substance use disorders can go on to lead a happy, fulfilling life.
Schizophrenia is a disease of the mind, but it doesn’t mean people with this disorder are incapable of having clear thoughts, goals, or hopes. Treatment programs like the Lighthouse Christian Programs can help with rehabilitating a person back to their God-given potential. We provide Christian rehab for Dual Diagnosis and Christian Mental Health only therapy that helps individuals transform their lives through the hope of their Savior, Jesus Christ.
Living with a serious mental illness is difficult, but we help individuals redirect their life through Christian counseling, therapy, and rehabilitation. Contact us today to learn more about your schizophrenia diagnosis and treatment options and other mental health issues.