5 Treatment Options for Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder. Symptoms are chronic and can be debilitating if left untreated. Symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations, cognitive processing problems, disorganized speech, abnormal motor skills, paranoia, and exaggerated perceptions. Fortunately, there are many treatment options for schizophrenia that can improve one’s quality of life.

A report compiling statistics from national agencies for mental health claims there are 20 million people worldwide with schizophrenia, making it one of the top fifteen causes of disability. In America, schizophrenia affects 1.5 million people annually.

This same report also shows schizophrenia is associated with self-harm and harm to others. For example, people with schizophrenia are four to six times more likely to commit a violent crime. An estimated five percent die by suicide.

Unfortunately, very few of those with schizophrenia seek treatment or stay in treatment long-term, even though many treatment options for schizophrenia are available.

Treatment Options for Schizophrenia

There is no cure for schizophrenia, but it can be managed using medications combined with psychotherapies. Treatment aims to help someone reach a level of functioning that allows them to be a part of their community through working or participating in social events.

Schizophrenia changes a person’s ability to contribute to society but does not eliminate it. They may not be able to return to their original functional level. But with proper treatment, a person can adapt and reintegrate in a way that helps them lead a productive lifestyle.

Below are five treatment options for schizophrenia.

1. Pharmacotherapies

Pharmacotherapy is a scientific word for using prescription medicines to treat a mental health disorder like schizophrenia. Medication treatments vary based on a person’s symptoms, severity, and previous treatment results.

Six categories of schizophrenia help doctors determine which medications to prescribe. They are:

  • First-episode
  • Acute exacerbation
  • Relapse prevention and maintenance
  • Treatment-resistant
  • Clozapine-resistant
  • Specific symptom domains

Research suggests for first-episode schizophrenia, antipsychotic medication is recommended as the first line of treatment. The recommendation is to increase, adjust, or change the antipsychotic medication for acute exacerbation.

Relapse prevention and maintenance treatment include daily dosing of antipsychotic medications. For treatment-resistant schizophrenia, when someone has tried at least two antipsychotics without success, a doctor may prescribe clozapine. Unfortunately, some people resist clozapine, which will require creative treatment planning between you and your medical team.

2. Psychotherapies

Psychotherapy is another name for counseling, in which a licensed mental health professional uses various evidence-based treatments to help someone change negative thoughts that can lead to negative behaviors.

Psychotherapy aims to help someone learn how to cope with symptoms, solve problems appropriately, better control their actions and reactions, and gain a deep understanding of schizophrenia. Too often, people receive a mental health disorder diagnosis but are not taught why they have it, what to expect, and how to manage it. This is where psychotherapy fills in the gaps.

Psychotherapies to treat schizophrenia include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy with psychosis prevention methods
  • Cognitive enhancement therapy
  • Acceptance and commitment to therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Animal-supportive therapy
  • Holistic therapies

3. Psychosocial Therapies

Involving family, friends, and the community when treating someone with schizophrenia is crucial to managing the disorder. Examples of psychosocial therapy are peer support or self-help groups. It is here a group of peers with schizophrenia can gather and share their stories, tips, feedback, and struggles. It helps them to know they are not alone. Family therapy and family support groups provide the same services but to family members living with someone with schizophrenia.

Psychoeducation is also provided in therapy for everyone affected by the disorder. It offers valuable information about schizophrenia, the importance of medication and other treatments, and recognizing signs of relapse.

Assertive community treatment is a psychosocial therapy through which everyone on a treatment team works together, whether the person is in a hospital setting or at home. It is a 24/7 service. Vocational psychosocial therapies include career counseling, job searching, and strengths identification.

Many people with schizophrenia choose to have a case manager who can help them maintain positive community support. Case managers often act as a liaison, connecting someone with schizophrenia to programs in the community that support a healthy lifestyle, including federal and state assistance, employment, medical, housing, childcare, and legal issues.

4. Natural Therapies

Supplying the brain and body with vitamins and minerals it needs is recommended for treating schizophrenia. Studies show high doses of specific B vitamins, like B6, 8, and 12, can reduce psychiatric symptoms. Other reports claim vitamins that help ease schizophrenia symptoms include the following:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Melatonin

Unhealthy lifestyle factors play a significant role in triggering symptoms. Prevent this by eating healthy, exercising, avoiding drug and alcohol misuse, managing stress, and creating a positive support system.

5. Alternative Therapies

Mental health professionals know that treating the whole person improves treatment outcomes. Disorders like schizophrenia can cause a break in the connection between the mind, body, and spirit. Finding ways to reconnect them should be part of everyone’s treatment plan. Alternative therapies help reach this goal.

Examples of alternative or holistic treatments include meditation, yoga, Chinese herbal medicine, transcranial magnetic stimulation, music and art therapy, acupuncture, massage, and more.

Electroconvulsive Therapy, or ECT, involves sending mild electrical shocks to the brain while a person is under anesthesia. Doing so induces seizures that, over several treatments, seem to boost neurotransmitters in the brain. Current research focuses on the effectiveness of vagus nerve stimulation and how it can ease symptoms.

Finding Treatment Options for Schizophrenia

Getting help with a schizophrenia diagnosis involves putting together a team of treatment professionals who will work together to address all your needs. Preferably, your psychiatrist and individual therapist work in the same facility as they do at the Mental Health Center. It makes sharing progress information and adjusting treatment plans much easier.

Your treatment plan should be a multi-layered approach for the lifelong maintenance of schizophrenia. Combining pharmacotherapies with psychotherapies, adding holistic, natural therapies, family therapy, and peer support will give you the most well-rounded plan for positive treatment outcomes. You can successfully manage schizophrenia. We can help!

For more information on treatment options for schizophrenia, get in touch with us today.