Schizophrenia: An Information Guide
As with any illness, it is important that you understand the specific ways that your illness affects you. There are many treatment
choices to make and it is important to be as well informed as possible regarding treatment options. You can collaborate with
health care providers and others to choose the programs that will be best for your recovery.
There are also many consumer/survivor organizations throughout the country. These organizations can be very helpful in providing
support, information and friendship.
Course and outcome
Schizophrenia takes a tremendous toll, both on the people with the illness and on their families. However, today there is
reason to be optimistic. Major technical advances have contributed greatly to how we understand the biology of schizophrenia
and its treatment.
It is true that many people suffer from intense and long-lasting symptoms of schizophrenia, but the disease does not always
progress to a deteriorated state. Although no present treatment approach can prevent or cure schizophrenia, some have had
remarkable effects on the course of the illness. With the arrival of new medication options, many people have experienced
greater symptom control, so that rehabilitation is possible.
Work and study
Some people recover fully, return to their jobs or finish school; others find they cannot cope with their jobs or studies
after an active phase of schizophrenia. If you want to work but wonder if you can cope, find out about programs in vocational
rehabilitation. Such programs are a chance to rebuild work skills and self-confidence, and to identify occupations that suit
your changed circumstances. Full-time, paid work is not the only option. Many people with schizophrenia are able to improve
the quality of their lives even if they are not employed.
The possibility of someone in the general population having schizophrenia is about one in 100. If one parent has schizophrenia
the chance is about one in 10; if both parents have schizophrenia the chances are four in 10. Raising children can be stressful
for anyone. This is often particularly true for people with schizophrenia. These factors need to be seriously considered before
planning a pregnancy. If you are thinking about having children, you should discuss the matter thoroughly with your partner
and your doctor.
Family involvement in treatment
Families can help people with schizophrenia recover and stay well. It is usually a good idea for partners and family members
to meet doctors and/or other health care providers to learn about and discuss the illness. They may be asked to discuss what
the person with schizophrenia was like before the prodromal phase of illness, to ensure accurate diagnosis and appropriate
Families are often troubled by changes in the behaviour of people with schizophrenia during the active phase of illness. Most
families want to help, especially if their concerns are understood and discussed with the person with schizophrenia and his
or her treatment team. If people with schizophrenia need help to care for themselves and organize their lives, their partners
or relatives may need to step in to guide and protect them. The struggle to find the right balance between being dependent
and being independent may be upsetting both to people with schizophrenia and to their families. This balance is apt to change
at the different phases of illness. People with schizophrenia need to be patient with themselves and with their families,
and work at ways to get along. Sometimes a family therapist can help.
People with schizophrenia and their families should discuss ways to keep symptoms under control and to live a full life. It
is also important to take the following steps:
- Learn about schizophrenia and its treatment; ask the doctors or therapists about any aspects you do not understand.
- Arrange medical follow-up and stay on prescribed medication long enough to prevent a relapse.
- Get help to cope with everyday situations by talking with a therapist or by going to a rehabilitation program.
- Contact your doctor or therapist immediately if symptoms return or get worse.
- Learn to cope with stress by gradually increasing the amount you can handle until you are living close to your potential.
Determine how much stress is too much and when it is necessary to draw back. Finding the correct balance is difficult, but
it can be learned.
- Have at least one person to rely on and confide in. It may help if you stay in touch with family members and/or join self-help
groups, religious organizations or consumer groups.
- Develop a well-balanced lifestyle that includes regular exercise, rest, healthy meals, as well as time for friends, family
and fun. If you are married and you have schizophrenia, you should assume as much responsibility for your family as you can.
If you are able, you should work or become involved in activities such as social rehabilitation programs.
Schizophrenia: An Information Guide
- What is schizophrenia?
- Common concerns about schizophrenia and its treatment
- The future
- Discovering someone close to you has schizophrenia
- Returning home: family concerns