Is there anything you can do to increase the chance that you'll recover from schizophrenia and go on to live a better life?
A UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute research study that tracked 23 schizophrenia patients detailed 10 factors that influenced recovery: family relationships, substance abuse, duration of untreated psychosis, initial response to medication, adherence to treatment, supportive therapeutic relationships, cognitive abilities, social skills, personal history and access to care.
In identifying factors to recovery, the research team reviewed literature that shows recovery from schizophrenia can occur under two conditions: when the disorder is treated early with assertive case management and use of antipsychotic medication; and when more chronic or relapsing forms are treated for lengthy periods of time with comprehensive, continuous care.
I'll review each factor here.
Family relationships. 70 percent f the study participants reported good or very good family relationships. A powerful predictor of relapse is family stress. The rate of relapse is reduced with family education and emotional support.
Substance abuse. Three-quarters of the study participants reported substance abuse prior to treatment and just 17.4 percent reported abuse after the onset of schizophrenia. National Institute of Mental Health research estimates the prevalence of lifetime substance abuse among schizophrenia patients at 47 percent.
Duration of untreated psychosis. Only 13 percent of study participants reported a delay in treatment of more than a year after the onset of symptoms. Longer duration of symptoms prior to treatment correlates directly with greater time to remission and a lesser degree of remission.
Initial response to medication. 87 percent of study participants reported effective control of symptoms with their first antipsychotic medication. The improvement of symptoms within days of receiving an antipsychotic drug significantly predicts long-term treatment results.
Adherence to treatment. All study participants adhered to their treatment and medication taking. Failure to take medication as prescribed interferes with both short-term and long-term recovery.
Supportive therapy. 91 percent of the study participants reported ongoing psychotherapy contributed to their recovery. Positive relationships with treatment team members like psychiatrists and therapists are imperative to improvement.
Cognitive abilities. All study participants showed normal or near normal functioning on problem solving verbal working memory and perceptual skills tests. Working memory, sustained attention and efficient visual perception are strong predictors of recovery.
Social skills. No study participants had more than very mild negative symptoms. Higher expressed negative symptoms correlate with the degree of schizophrenia disability.
Personal history. 70 percent of study participants graduated from college before becoming ill. Good pre-morbid functioning in the following areas help a person recover: education and IQ, age of onset, rapidity of onset, work history and social skills.
Access to care. 91 percent of study participants reported getting antipsychotic medication and psychotherapy. Continuous, comprehensive peer-oriented and coordinated treatment is critical to recovery.
Not all of these factors are beyond our control. Substance abuse, adherence to treatment and supportive therapy are factors we can control. Your criteria for a good therapist might be different from someone else's requirements.
And refraining from using street drugs and alcohol and taking your medication as prescribed tip the scales in your favor for a better outcome in schizophrenia recovery.
Published On: May 25, 2014