Schizophrenia is categorized as a brain disease, not a psychological disorder, Drug treatment is the primary therapy. Studies indicate, however, that an integrated approach that includes psychosocial therapy is better at preventing relapses than routine care (medication, monitoring, and access to rehabilitation programs).
Integrated Approach. An integrated approach, which may help to ease psychotic symptoms, may include:
- Motivational interviewing to encourage the patient's commitment to change
- Use of antipsychotic medications with monitoring
- Community-based rehabilitation and social skills training
- Family psychotherapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy to reduce delusions and hallucinations
Treatment of schizophrenia has traditionally focused on decreasing patients’ negative symptoms. Doctors are now broadening treatment to emphasize patients’ ability to function independently -- shop, eat, cook, clean, do laundry, and work.
Early Treatment. The earlier schizophrenia is detected and treated, the better the outcome. Patients who receive antipsychotic drugs and other treatments during their first episode are admitted to the hospital less often during the following 5 years and may require less time to control symptoms than those who do not seek help as quickly. In spite of strong evidence for the positive effects of early treatment, patients usually do not receive treatment until after 10 months of serious symptoms.
Drug Classes Used for Schizophrenia
Most drugs that treat schizophrenia work by blocking receptors of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is thought to play a major role in psychotic symptoms. Although the drugs used to treat schizophrenia have important benefits, they may also cause side effects. The most disturbing and common side effects are those known as extrapyramidal symptoms, which involve the nerves and muscles controlling movement and coordination.
The following drug classes are generally used for schizophrenia:
Review Date: 01/27/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.