Schizophrenia treatment – what is available?

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As yet there isn’t a single known cause of Schizophrenia and as the condition isn’t yet fully understood treatment tends to focus on reducing or eliminating the distressing symptoms of Schizophrenia, particularly hallucinations and delusions and helping the individual cope on a day to day basis.

Not everyone with Schizophrenia will have the same symptoms with the same degree of severity and some may not require any medication at all. Some may only have one psychotic episode and go on to make a full recovery and others may have many and require long term treatment and support.

However, if an individual is experiencing psychosis then they will almost certainly be offered some sort of medication in the first instance, possibly in combination with some sort of psychological intervention. Others may find that psychotherapy alone is enough to keep the symptoms under control.

Antipsychotic Drugs

Antipsychotic medicines will not cure Schizophrenia but can be very effective for some people at reducing the number of psychotic episodes experienced.  As each person is different then the amount of medication required will also vary so the ideal is to identify an optimum dosage that will reduce the symptoms without producing undesirable side effects. As with any drug or medication, there will inevitably be some side effects.

The most common side effects reported for antipsychotic drugs are drowsiness, muscle twitches, dry mouth, blurring of vision and weight gain, however, no two people will respond in the same way to the same drug so it really is a case of monitoring and adjusting the dosage or changing the medication until the right combination is found for any particular individual. The newer type of antipsychotics available today (atypical antipsychotics) are safer than the older typical antipsychotics.

Although antipsychotic drugs can be essential for some people with Schizophrenia, those with psychosis for example, they will not help with other symptoms such as lack of motivation, social withdrawal and difficulty coping with life and practical issues on a day to day basis. For these symptoms then some sort of psychotherapy may prove extremely beneficial.

Psychological Interventions

Counselling or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy will not only help some people cope with the positive symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations and delusions but also with the so called negative symptoms which include apathy, social withdrawal and an inability to take pleasure in activities they used to enjoy.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy involves identifying thinking patterns that are not helpful and learning how to change thinking patterns, reactions and behaviours to ones that are more beneficial for the individual.

Hospitalisation

If a psychotic episode is particularly severe, a stay in hospital may be required but this is only as a last resort and only if it is in the interests of the person’s own safety or to protect others and will only last as long as what is absolutely necessary.

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