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How to Care for a Loved One With Schizophrenia

How to Care for a Loved One With Schizophrenia, loved one with schizophrenia

Having a close friend or family member diagnosed with schizophrenia transforms your world in an instant. Taking the time to understand the nature of this illness, why your loved one may not be fully aware of the severity of their condition, and what you can do to care for yourself while supporting your loved one can help you develop a plan to move forward. 

To Help Your Loved One, You First Need to Understand What Schizophrenia Is

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder characterized by disturbances in thinking, perception, emotions, and behavior. People with schizophrenia often experience hallucinations (perceiving things that aren’t there) and delusions (false beliefs). Other common symptoms of schizophrenia include disorganized thinking, social withdrawal, lack of motivation, and impaired cognitive function.

According to the World Health Organization, schizophrenia affects about 1 in 300 people worldwide. The exact cause of the condition is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Most people are diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood, but it’s possible for the condition to develop at any age.

Treatment for schizophrenia usually involves a combination of antipsychotic medications and psychosocial interventions such as therapy and support groups. Hospitalization may be needed during acute episodes.

How to Support a Loved One Who Doesn’t Recognize Their Illness

Anosognosia occurs when damage to the part of the brain’s frontal lobe leaves a person partially or fully unaware that they have a mental health condition. Some estimates suggest that approximately 50% of people with schizophrenia experience anosognosia.

When someone you love rejects their schizophrenia diagnosis, you may find yourself thinking:

These questions are valid. However, there are some strategies you can try to gently guide your loved one towards accepting treatment.

  • Stay calm. It’s normal to be frustrated, but you need to keep your temper under control when dealing with your loved one—especially when you’re confronted with their delusional beliefs. Avoid engaging in arguments, criticisms, or outright dismissals of their experiences. Doing so might inadvertently reinforce their delusions.
  • Keep an eye out for moments of lucidity. These moments are opportunities to gently discuss the importance of seeking help. Express your genuine concern for their well-being and encourage them to consider professional assistance.
  • Encourage an open dialogue. Approach conversations about their thoughts and perceptions in a non-judgmental manner. Listening attentively and without prejudice can gradually sow seeds of self-awareness.
  • Stay positive. Emphasize how seeking treatment can restore your loved one’s autonomy and independence. Your goal is to empower them to take control of their mental health journey.
  • Leverage support networks. Ask for help from people your loved one trusts or admires, such as religious leaders or successful peers. Their encouragement and support can serve as additional motivation for seeking treatment.
  • Consider compelled treatment options as a last resort. In situations where there is a clear risk of harm, it may be necessary to explore compelled treatment. However, this should only be considered after all other avenues have been exhausted due to the ethical considerations involved. 

The Necessity of Self-Care When You Love Someone With Schizophrenia

Having a close friend or family member diagnosed with schizophrenia turns your world upside down, but ignoring your own needs only causes further dysfunction. As a caregiver, you cannot effectively support your loved one if you become depleted physically and mentally. 

Here are some tips to help you care for yourself during this difficult time:

  • Prioritize healthy habits. Recommit to nutrition, exercise, sleep, and sobriety. Ensure you have time to decompress, even if it’s just deep breathing for five minutes. 
  • Maintain your own support system. Stay connected with others who understand your situation through a care group, online forums, or friends who can listen. Having non-judgmental spaces to vent and receive empathy is crucial. 
  • Separate yourself from your loved one’s delusional beliefs. Calmly disengage or redirect when encounters with your loved one devolve into arguments over irrational beliefs. Protecting your mental wellness means holding firm boundaries.  
  • Seek out moments of joy. Make time for special hobbies, mindfulness practices, or anything that quiets the mind and elevates your spirit on hard days.
  • Grieve what you’ve lost. A schizophrenia diagnosis comes with many layers of loss—the person your loved one was, the dreams you had for their future, and experiences that are now derailed. It’s vital to allow space for your grief.
  • Consider scaling back. For your own well-being and that of your loved one, be willing to re-evaluate what’s realistically possible for you to handle. Pushing beyond your limitations burns you out.

As overwhelming as this all feels, remember that nurturing yourself allows you to sustainably love your friend or family member through the challenges of their diagnosis. You’ll emerge stronger from prioritizing your self-care—and so will they.

Contact us today to learn more about how Raleigh Oaks Behavioral Health in Garner, North Carolina, can support you and your loved one. No cost, confidential assessments are available 24/7.

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