Getting a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be terrifying, but being proactive in your treatment can make living with schizophrenia more manageable.
One percent of Americans have schizophrenia, and the vast majority will be diagnosed before the age of 30. When you’re dealing with a mental health problem, the word “schizophrenia” can be frightening. Nonetheless, breakthroughs in schizophrenia medicine and treatment have made life with schizophrenia easier and more bearable. With the right support, people with schizophrenia can live a full and productive life, including important occupations and relationships.
Getting a Schizophrenia Diagnosis
If you discuss your symptoms with a doctor or another healthcare professional, they will most likely send you to a psychiatrist who can provide you with a diagnosis. The psychiatrist will go through your medical history, ask you questions about present and previous symptoms, and examine how you operate. They may also inquire about the history of mental illness in your family.
To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, you must have had symptoms for more than a month. Symptoms include:
- deluded thinking
- speech or conduct that is unorganized
- a deficiency of hygiene
- a lack of enthusiasm for activities
- lack of facial expressions
In addition, your psychiatrist will rule out other probable diagnoses, such as schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder, and ensure that the symptoms are not caused by medicines or other medical disorders.
When you are diagnosed with schizophrenia, your psychiatrist will most likely prescribe medication to treat your symptoms. They will also send you to a therapist or counselor for psychotherapy, or they will place you on a treatment team that will oversee your care.
Schizophrenia Quiz (Self-Assessment)
Do I have schizophrenia? Take this schizophrenia quiz to discover whether you could benefit from a mental health professional’s diagnosis and treatment.
How to Prepare for Your First Counseling Session
You’ll most likely be asked questions about your symptoms and personal background during your first therapy session following your diagnosis. A therapist’s role includes assessing risk and ensuring that you are safe and healthy while undergoing therapy.
You can also ask questions concerning your treatment and the therapist during your first therapy session. Your therapist should explain the theories or approaches they use to deal with their patients and share their experience working with persons who have schizophrenia. If you don’t click with your therapist, don’t be afraid to ask about alternative therapists who might be a better fit for you.
During your initial therapy session, you and your therapist should also discuss a few goals for the first 3-6 months of treatment. Objectives can include improving your mental health, physical health, employment, relationships, and other aspects of your life. Discuss your desired progress or modifications, and determine how you want to measure these objectives along the way.
Understanding That You Need Schizophrenia Treatment
A schizophrenia diagnosis can be stressful for anyone. It can be tough to accept that you need a treatment team and medicines to feel well if you have previously managed your mental health on your own. The sooner you seek treatment for schizophrenia, the less probable it is that you may have more severe symptoms and a rapid decline in your mental and physical health.
If you have symptoms such as paranoia or other delusions, you may be wary of giving someone personal information or taking medication that is unknown to you. It is your treatment team’s responsibility to make you feel comfortable and heard, so never be afraid to communicate your concerns. Bringing a loved one to appointments can be beneficial at times. This allows you to ask questions and concentrate on the therapist. Let a family member or friend support you by taking notes that you can refer to later if necessary.
It is also critical to continue taking the medication even if you feel better. If you stop taking your medicine or do not take it as prescribed, your symptoms will return and likely worsen. Quitting medication puts you in danger of self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, which can exacerbate your symptoms.
How to Tell Others About Your Diagnosis
You may have thoughts or concerns about how people would react if you are diagnosed with schizophrenia. If your symptoms have gone untreated for a while, your friends, family, and coworkers are likely to be aware that you are dealing with a mental health issue.
While your health information and talks with your therapist are private, having a strong support system can be a vital part of successfully treating schizophrenia. Friends and relatives, for example, who are made aware of indicators that your mental health is deteriorating may be able to intervene in a way that reduces the likelihood of a serious relapse of symptoms. Your therapist can assist you in developing a strategy for conveying your diagnosis to loved ones, as well as in determining what information you will need to provide to your job.
Managing the Mental Illness Stigma
As the general public is growing more knowledgeable about mental illness, there is still a stigma associated with schizophrenia. Some people believe that all people with schizophrenia are violent or that they are unable to work. Maybe they may feel that a person with schizophrenia’s conduct can alter abruptly and unexpectedly. None of these myths are true, and learning about the diagnosis can help you address loved ones’ queries.
Attending a peer support group at your local community center or through your health care practitioner can also offer you a safe area to express your feelings about stigma and obtain encouragement from others going through similar experiences. Never be afraid to express your worries about dealing with stigma to your therapist.
Outside of the Therapist’s Office: How to Help Yourself
Individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to die prematurely, and one of the causes is that they have poor lifestyle habits. They are less likely to exercise and eat healthily, and they are more likely to smoke and use illegal drugs. Some drugs might also cause weight gain as a negative effect.
Discuss with your doctor how a balanced diet and exercise routine might enhance your general mood and reduce the likelihood of a relapse of symptoms. Your therapist can also assist you in developing a list of healthy coping methods that can improve your energy and attitude. They could include:
- Exercises for relaxation (i.e. mindfulness techniques, yoga)
- Hobbies and interests to pursue
- Spending time with family and friends
- Participating in a support group