The United States is experiencing a mental health awakening. Many Americans deal with an anxiety disorder or depression, but schizophrenia is also prevalent nationwide.
Having a friend or loved one dealing with schizophrenia might cause you to feel distressed. You may not believe that you can help that person. However, you do not need to be a doctor to offer assistance to a friend with schizophrenia.
Understanding What Schizophrenia Is
Understanding schizophrenia can help someone better recognize the disorder and assist a person with controlling their symptoms. Schizophrenia is a debilitating psychological disorder that affects many aspects of life. The condition changes a person’s thoughts, perceptions and social interactions.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia comprises symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and abnormal thinking patterns. People in their late teens or early 30s are most commonly diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The National Institute of Mental Health also states that schizophrenia is one of the 15 leading causes of disability worldwide. Living with this condition increases a person’s likelihood of premature death.
Identifying the Signs of Schizophrenia
The signs and symptoms of schizophrenia can be difficult to recognize. For example, a teen who lives with the disorder may experience angry outbursts and academic problems that parents might consider to be common adolescent behavior.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, common signs of schizophrenia include:
- Sleep problems
- Seeing and hearing things that do not exist
- Trouble completing tasks at home, school or work
- Violent behaviors
A person living with schizophrenia may consistently seem paranoid. They may accuse other people or the government of spying on them, seem easily distracted or believe that they possess superhuman abilities.
Caring for a Schizophrenic Person
People with schizophrenia are not inherently dangerous. However, their condition can cause them to experience delusions or hallucinations that contribute to volatile behaviors. Before approaching someone who has schizophrenia, ensure that they are not stressed.
You can help someone experiencing schizophrenia in several ways:
- Stay calm and don’t argue with your friend
- If this person is extremely paranoid, ask them about the cause of their paranoia
- Steer this person away from the cause of their fear
- Help them discern reality from false perceptions
- When communicating with them, use short, simple sentences that they can understand
- Move your friend away from a noisy environment, such as a restaurant or public park, and into a quieter setting
You can also help your friend avoid situations that can exacerbate their schizophrenia. For example, if someone grappling with the condition has a fear of crowds, avoid taking them to sporting events or concerts.
Finding Treatment for Schizophrenia
Another way to help a friend experiencing schizophrenia is to promote the benefits of mental health treatment.
Schizophrenia is a severe psychological condition that should be treated by trained medical professionals. A psychiatrist or psychologist can help your friend learn ways to cope with schizophrenia and live more fulfilling lives.
The Recovery Village offers support to people with co-occurring disorders, like schizophrenia and substance abuse. At The Recovery Village, health care professionals guide patients in learning ways to better manage their conditions.
Treatment options for schizophrenia are available throughout the United States. Contact The Recovery Village to learn how treatment can help you or a friend cope with addiction and a mental health problem.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Schizophrenia.” (n.d.). Accessed January 10, 2019.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Schizophrenia.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 2018. Accessed January 10, 2019.
The University of Michigan Health System. “Schizophrenia: Helping Someone Who Is Paranoid.” September 11, 2018. Accessed January 10, 2019.