During an episode of schizophrenia, you may need to stay in the hospital for safety reasons, and to receive basic needs such as food, rest, and hygiene.
Antipsychotic medications are the most effective treatment for schizophrenia. They change the balance of chemicals in the brain and can help control the symptoms of the illness.
These medications are helpful, but they can have side effects. However, many of these side effects can be addressed, and should not prevent people from seeking treatment for this serious condition.
Common side effects from antipsychotics may include:
- Sleepiness (sedation) or dizziness
- Weight gain and increased chance of diabetes and high cholesterol
Less common side effects include:
- Feelings of restlessness or "jitters"
- Problems of movement and gait
- Muscle contractions or spasms
Long-term risks of antipsychotic medications include a movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia. In this condition, people develop movements that they cannot control, especially around the mouth. Anyone who believes they are having this problem should check with their doctor right away.
For people who try and do not improve with several antipsychotics, the medication clozapine can be helpful. Clozapine is the most effective medication for reducing schizophrenia symptoms, but it also tends to cause more side effects than other antipsychotics.
Because schizophrenia is a chronic illness, most people with this condition need to stay on antipsychotic medication for life.
SUPPORT PROGRAMS AND THERAPIES
Supportive and problem-focused forms of therapy may be helpful for many people. Behavioral techniques, such as social skills training, can be used during therapy or at home to improve function socially and at work.
Family treatments that combine support and education about schizophrenia (psychoeducation) appear to help families cope and reduce the odds of symptoms returning. Programs that emphasize outreach and community support services can help people who lack family and social support.
Important skills for a person with schizophrenia include:
- Learning to take medications correctly and how to manage side effects
- Learning to watch for early signs of a relapse and knowing how to react when they occur
- Coping with symptoms that are present even while taking medications. A therapist can help persons with schizophrenia test the reality of thoughts and perceptions.
- Learning life skills, such as job training, money management, use of public transportation, relationship building, and practical communication
Family members and caregivers are often encouraged to help people with schizophrenia stick to their treatment.
Review Date: 02/07/2010
Reviewed By: David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.