Friday, November 11, 2011

Long Term Maintenance for Schizophrenia

By Judith Moss

There are many misconceptions about schizophrenia. Most people believe that it is a disease that ravages the mind and that little can be done to help those who suffer its effects. However, much progress has been made in the last two decades in the way of new anti-psychotic drugs and the development of new therapies. Although there is no cure for the disease, most people with schizophrenia live long, productive lives. The prognosis and long term treatment of schizophrenia seems to improve with each new scientific breakthrough.

Schizophrenia affects about one percent of the population. Without treatment, it can be a debilitating disease. Someone who suffers from the disease seems to slowly slip into their own world. The most well known and recognizable symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions, catatonia, and hallucinations. These are only a few of the symptoms, unfortunately there are numerous others. Early diagnosis of the disease is vitally important for the future prognosis of the patient. As soon as symptoms begin to appear, or if there is a history of the disease in the family, it is important to seek medical attention.

Schizophrenia affects both men and women equally and can be found in equal measure in all ethnic groups. Onset of symptoms usually occurs during the later teen years til about 30 years old. It is very rare to develop the disease after the age of 45. Also, more cases of childhood onset schizophrenia are being observed and recognized. Diagnosis in teens can be especially difficult because many of the early symptoms of schizophrenia mirror many of the behaviors of the average teenager. Symptoms like sleep problems, irritability, a drop in grades, and isolation are early indicators of schizophrenia, but also behaviors exhibited by many teenagers.

Long term maintenance of the disease often hinges on finding the right type and dosage of anti-psychotic medication. Anti-psychotics are usually divided into two groups, the conventional and atypical types. Conventional anti-psychotics were developed in the 1950s and seem to have a lot of side effects for some people. Atypical anti-psychotics were developed in the 1990s and seem to have fewer side effects. Although finding the correct dosage does take some time and trial and error, once the correct amount and type are discovered, many patients find that their schizophrenia is much easier to live with.

For those individuals who have been helped by anti-psychotic medications, psychosocial treatments can help the patient continue to get their symptoms under control. These treatments can help the patient to learn coping mechanisms that can allow them to deal with their disease and to form and keep interpersonal relationships. For those who engage in this type of treatment, they will be more likely to stay on their medication and are less likely to suffer a relapse or hospitalization. A therapist is instrumental in teaching the patient about the disease and ways to deal with the challenges of everyday life with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a disease that affects more than just the person suffering the symptoms, but everyone around them. It is difficult for the family and friends of the patient as well. The more informed the family and friends can be, the better they can support the person with schizophrenia. Family education is crucial to assisting the patient stay on their medications and participate in the services they need to keep their symptoms under control.

Finding the right treatment plan for schizophrenia can be a lot of trial and error, but when that balance is found, individuals with the disease can live more full and complete lives. Learning you have schizophrenia can feel devastating, but it doesn't have to be that way. New medications and other treatments are being developed to lessen the symptoms of the disease and allow those with it to live productive and enjoyable lives.

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