Schizophrenia is a severe brain disorder that affects more than 2 million men and women every year in the United States. Schizophrenia can have devastating effects, leaving the sufferer withdrawn, paranoid, and delusional. Though there is currently no cure for schizophrenia, a variety of treatment options are available. These treatments are highly effective at reducing symptoms of the disorder and preventing relapse. If you have schizophrenia, it is important to get diagnosed and seek treatment from a psychiatrist as soon as possible.
Diagnosing schizophrenia can sometimes be difficult as certain symptoms can be confused with other medical conditions. Symptoms of schizophrenia are quite similar to those caused by brain injury or surgery, drug abuse, chronic Vitamin B12 deficiency, or tuberculosis. There is no physical test that can prove that you have schizophrenia.
Instead, a diagnosis is made based upon your symptoms, family history, and emotional history. In some cases, it may be difficult to diagnose a first episode of schizophrenia. When a person has only a first episode, in the early stages it may be called schizophreniform disorder. In this case, a doctor may have to track a case over a period of time to establish a pattern of the signs of schizophrenia.
Treatments for Schizophrenia
Though there is no cure for schizophrenia, a wide variety of treatment options are available to sufferers with the disorder. Schizophrenia treatment is now quite effective in most cases, and can suppress symptoms and prevent relapse in the majority of schizophrenics. However, treatments are ongoing and usually lifelong.
Antipsychotics: The most common medical treatment for schizophrenia is the use of antipsychotic medication. 70% of people using medications for schizophrenia improve, and medicine can also cut the relapse rate for the disorder by half, reducing it to 40%. Classic schizophrenia medication includes Thorazine, Fluanxol, and Haloperidol. These medications are very effective in treating the positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Newer "atypical" medications include Risperdal, Clozaril, and Aripiprazole. These medications are recommended for first-line treatment and are also good at reducing positive symptoms. Most medications are less effective at treating negative symptoms.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants are recommended for those suffering from schizoaffective disorder. Antidepressants can successfully reduce the symptoms of depression in these patients.
Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy of some type is highly recommended for people suffering from schizophrenia. By adding behavioral treatments for schizophrenia to a medical treatment regimen, the rate of relapse is further reduced, to only 25%. A variety of types of psychotherapy are available to schizophrenics. Cognitive therapy, psychoeducation, and family therapy can all help schizophrenics deal with their symptoms and learn to operate in society. Social skills training is of great importance, in order to teach the patient specific ways to manage themselves in social situations.
Alternative treatments for schizophrenia are available, although they are never recommended without first seeking medical treatment. They are most effective when paired with antipsychotics and administered under doctor supervision. In particular, dietary supplements have proven to have dramatic effects on the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Glycine Supplements: Glycine, an amino acid, is shown to help alleviate negative symptoms in schizophrenics by up to 24%.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fish oils, Omega-3 fatty acids high in EPA can help to reduce positive and negative symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Antioxidants: The antioxidants Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and Alpha Lipoic Acid show a 5 to 10% improvement in symptoms of the disorder.