10 Influencers in Schizophrenia Recovery

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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. Here's a breakdown of their findings.


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Family relationships

Seventy percent of the study participants reported good or very good family relationships, which is important in recovery and improved function. People with schizophrenia who have families that are overly critical may relapse more often according to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.


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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.  Around one-half of people with schizophrenia have abused illegal substances at some point in their lives according to the article “Treating Substance Abuse among Patients with Schizophrenia.”


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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. Recently a number of programs are exploring early intervention, which would provide treatment after the first psychotic episode.


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Initial response to medication

Eighty-seven 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.


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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. Outside of this study, a review of studies found that 41 percent of people with schizophrenia were non-compliant when prescribed antipsychotics.


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Supportive therapy

Ninety-one percent of the study participants reported ongoing psychotherapy contributed to their recovery. Positive relationships with treatment team members like psychiatrists and therapists are indicative of success of treatment according to a study completed in 2016.


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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, however cognitive deficits are a core symptom of schizophrenia according to a study published in 2018. Adding cognitive remediation to treatment improved functioning, limited disability and improved quality of life.


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Social skills

No study participants had more than very mild negative symptoms. These types of symptoms, which include apathy, speech difficulties, and limited emotional expression, greatly contribute to the poor functional outcome according to a paper published in 2018. Effective treatments for these symptoms would improve quality of life for the person with schizophrenia and their family.


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Personal history

Seventy percent of study participants graduated from college before becoming ill. A younger onset of symptoms is generally considered a precursor to more hospitalizations and a poorer outcome than for those who first experienced symptoms after young adulthood according to a review of studies published in 2017.


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Access to care

Ninety-one percent of study participants reported getting antipsychotic medication and psychotherapy. This isn’t usually the case. Nearly half of the 60 million people with mental health conditions in the U.S. do not receive treatment according to NAMI. Many people do not have access to mental health providers in their area and if they do, they may need to pay out of pocket for care.