Schizophrenia is a serious mental condition, which affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts. A person affected by this condition may have a hard time distinguishing what is real and what is imaginary. A person could also be unresponsive or withdrawn and may have difficulty in expressing normal emotions in social situations. What causes this condition is still not very clear. A few probable causes could be genetics (heredity), biological abnormalities in the brain’s chemistry or structure, or possible viral infections as well as immune disorders.
The symptoms of schizophrenia include the following:
- Delusions - an individual may have false ideas like someone is trying to kill him or her.
- Hallucinations - includes seeing, feeling, hearing, or smelling something that doesn’t really exist. The most common experience that patients have is hearing imaginary voices.
- Disordered thinking and speech
- Disorganized behavior
- Social withdrawal
- Extreme apathy (lack of interest or enthusiasm)
- Lack of drive or any initiative to do many things
- Emotional disability - include being flat or unresponsive in social or emotional situations.
Psychotherapists view schizophrenia in a rehabilitative mode, and thus, seek to maximize the patient's functions within the disability. The reason is that the condition itself cannot be altered. Organic interventions or treatments, such as medications, are seen as necessary to treat patients who are suffering from this condition. It is only the first step in allowing an individual to function at the best possible level while being affected by schizophrenia.
Another way to treat individuals who are suffering from this condition is through therapy. The aim of therapies is not to remove the illness, but to remove and alleviate many of the difficulties that are caused by this condition. Rehabilitation for the patients is accomplished by focusing on the experiential effects of the disease.
Historically, the medical intervention in the lives of individuals who are affected with schizophrenia tends to be acute and episodic. Much effort was put into hospital treatments for these patients but little to no concern was given to the patient’s health between episodes or in preventing the occurrence of future episodes. Psychotherapists view acute episodes as exacerbations of an ongoing condition, and thus, seek to focus on providing support, therapeutic alliance, and prevention of future exacerbations in their treatment methods.
Schizophrenia usually begins insidiously in adolescence or early adult life. At some later time in one’s life, it reaches psychotic proportions, causes a crisis, and is diagnosed and then identified. This condition’s natural tendency is to wax and wane, where episodes come and go, with periods of relative remissions followed by further exacerbations in some individuals. While early psychiatric notions foresaw a downhill course for patients suffering from schizophrenia, where the patients would experience an inability to function, current thinking holds that 50 to 80 percent of the individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, will, with the help of proper treatment, be able to live relatively functional and comfortable lives.
Intervening in the patient’s life to minimize the disruptions caused by the disabilities will enable the patient to regain normality in his or her life. Anxiety, often helped by medications, must be constantly brought into awareness both to identify its effects on the patient and its causes.
Many patients suffering from this condition undergo repetitive coaching on interpersonal relationships. Repetitive coaching on interpersonal relationships is best implemented by role rehearsals and by actually modeling appropriate behavior in a variety of social situations. Past patterns of behavior, now unavailable to the individual because of a failure of historicity and memory, must be identified and used to arrive at reasonable decisions or identify appropriate methods of dealing with those situations if they occur in the future. For example, a mechanic who has been unable to deal with anxiety and interpersonal demands associated with being made a foreman, on previous occasions, may again be considering accepting that promotion. He or she will need an assessment and evaluation of the prior problems they experienced, such as anxiety and should be hence aided in making the right decision, keeping in mind past behavior or triggers of schizophrenia. These are the assessments that people with schizophrenia will not be able to make on their own.
Because of the recurrence of the disease and failures of behavior in past experiences, the therapeutic techniques must be repeated constantly. As indicated above, interventions can help deal with the present condition of the patient. Insight models of therapy are not only useless but are contraindicated. The therapist should come to view himself as a teacher and as a “life manager” who treats by direct intervention, by example, and by influencing the environment around the patient.
Since most people enter or begin treatment in crisis, the initial methods of therapy should be aimed at crisis intervention and management as well as restitution of function. As the crisis disappears, the disabilities of a patient are identified in a matter-of-fact fashion and treatment plans are out into action to strengthen and expand a healthy daily life functioning. The initial few years of treatment generally require the most effort as patients may suffer periodic episodes and relapses and the therapeutic process must then begin anew.
As the therapeutic alliance strengthens, the patient becomes more able to cope with his or her disabilities. As time passes, contact with the therapists can be reduced but should never be terminated. Exacerbations, by that time, can often be predicted. Moreover, its triggers are known and more frequent contact with the therapists or perhaps more medication can be used to prevent them. Thus, a patient may be seen frequently for several months or years, infrequently for a few months or years, and then frequently only as and when needed.
The Bottom Line
The administration and undergoing therapeutic techniques can be a lifelong process for patients of schizophrenia. Once the therapies begin, they never really end. If properly applied, therapeutic techniques will provide relief from pain and suffering as well as markedly improve comfort and normal functioning for the patient.
Living a normal life with schizophrenia can seem extremely tedious, but getting in touch with a doctor might make the task easier.