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People with schizophrenia not only experience reality distortion, but cognitive problems and a decline in academic performance are also typical, as is social distancing due to the disease itself and the social stigma.
The key to good treatment revolves around the information the medical team transmits to the patient and their family, as regards to:
Ensuring drug regime compliance so that the symptoms subside and to prevent relapses;
Informing them about the difficulties they may face when they return to their previous lifestyle, in an attempt to modify their expectations and the pressure on the patient; and
Explaining ideas about the influence of substance abuse on schizophrenia.
Observe the patient. Initially, and to facilitate an early intervention, if you notice a family member presents strange behaviours, speaks incoherently or gradually tends to become more isolated, then it is important to visit a doctor or specialist in a mental health unit or hospital to assess whether it could be the onset of a psychiatric illness.
Learn about the disease. If a family member is diagnosed with schizophrenia, ask the healthcare professionals for information about the disease and disregard “old taboos” and distorted or sensationalist information.
Avoid conflictive situations. Try, insofar as possible, to prevent conflictive situations within the family in order to reduce the stressful factors with a counterproductive influence on the evolution of the disease. Neither an excessively overprotective nor a passive attitude are recommendable when living with a person with schizophrenia.
Motivate the patient. Encourage them to take their medication and attend their psychiatric and psychological appointments.
Make an effort to understand the situation. Try to become familiar with the patient’s behaviour, but without reproaching or ridiculing them, since nobody is to blame for this disease.
Neither agree nor disagree with their thinking. At the onset of the psychotic symptoms, it is not a question of trying to agree or disagree with what the patient says; family members should explain that they understand how the patient feels and therefore they want to help them. Afterwards, it is important to get in touch with their doctor, or if the patient’s psychiatric disorder is highly decompensated, inform the emergency services so that the patient can be examined promptly in a hospital.
Acceptance of the disease. Families that manage to accept the condition of their family member are able to develop realistic expectations for both the patient and themselves, they also appreciate that the disease can be tackled and overcome.
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Substantiated information by:
Miguel Bernardo ArroyoPsychiatristPsychiatry and Psychology Department
Miquel Bioque AlcázarPsychiatristPsychiatry and Psychology Department
Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 30 November 2022
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