Do you experience symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, thoughts, and behavior? Emotional flatness and increased withdrawal from society?
Is there so much chaos, fear and horror going on in your head, you feel like you can’t escape it?
Do you self-mutilate in order to escape or to focus on the pain? Cut, burn or hit yourself?
Do you hear things or see things that other people don’t?
Have you attempted suicide or do you have a history of suicide attempts? Does the idea of death appear to be a blissful release from the daily torture?
Do you suffer from delusions and paranoia?
Have people told you that you lack insight, that you are unaware of your symptoms?
Have you been accused of having faulty perceptions, inappropriate behaviors or being in your own little world?
Do you talk to yourself or respond to internal stimuli? Is your speech incoherent involving illogical words or sentences that are unrelated? Or you speak in abstract or tangential ways.
Do your delusional beliefs and perceptions become your reality?
Do you notice neglect in self-care (hygiene, clothing or appearance)?
There are many symptoms of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Many of these symptoms overlap with other disorders.
Schizophrenia is a serious brain disorder that distorts the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others. Schizoaffective disorder is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal thought processes and deregulated emotions. The diagnosis is made when the patient has features of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder—either bipolar disorder or depression—but does not strictly meet diagnostic criteria for either alone. The bipolar type is distinguished by symptoms of mania, hypomania, or mixed episode; the depressive type by symptoms of depression only. Common symptoms of the disorder include hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and disorganized speech and thinking.
Treatment is usually lifelong and often involves a combination of medications and psychotherapy. With strict adherence to medication, therapy, and social support, people can control their symptoms and lead meaningful, fulfilling lives. Understanding the illness, anticipating the triggers and risk factors for relapse, and figuring out what works for you will ensure a much better prognosis. One of the most difficult issues to deal with is medication noncompliance. Not only with this population but with mental illness in general. The most common reason for noncompliance by patients with Schizophrenia is that they lack insight into their own illness. This incidentally is a symptom of the disease. Other reasons include, denial - they don't believe they have a problem or an illness, medication side effects, delusional beliefs about medication (they think it's poison), cognitive deficits, confusions, disorganized thinking, and fears of becoming addicted or dependent on the medication. Because medication is so important in controlling psychotic symptoms and improving insight, caregivers and loved ones must do everything they can to get the patient to take their medication regularly.
In addition to medication, Psychotherapy can help normalize thought patterns, teach social skills and reduce social isolation.
Psychotherapy and counseling - Building a trusting relationship in therapy can help people with Schizophrenia better understand their condition and feel hopeful about their future. Effective sessions focus on real-life plans, problems and relationships. New skills and behaviors specific to settings, such as the home or workplace, also may be introduced. Learning to cope with stress and identify early warning signs of relapse can help people with Schizophrenia manage their illness. Regular sessions that focus on past or current problems, thoughts, feelings, or relationships will help the patient learn more about himself and be better able to differentiate between reality and delusions
Group therapy - Treatment can be more effective when people with Schizophrenia are able to discuss their real-life problems with others. Supportive group settings can also help decrease social isolation and provide a reality check during periods of psychosis.
Family therapy – This is equally as important as other forms of therapy because a strong support system is critical to the success of treating someone with this type of illness. Counselors may provide family members and friends with psychoeducation on the symptoms and treatment options for Schizophrenia, as well as assist family members and friends to build empathy for the experiences of those diagnosed with schizophrenia.
We can help
Counselors can play a critical role in the lives of those living with Schizophrenia. Used as an adjunct to a good medication plan, however, psychotherapy can help maintain the individual on their medication, learn needed social skills, and support the person’s weekly goals and activities in their community. This may include advice, reassurance, education, modeling, and limit setting. Encouragement in setting small goals and reaching them can often be helpful.
Most individuals with Schizophrenia require some form of daily living support. Many communities have programs to help people with Schizophrenia with jobs, housing, self-help groups and crisis situations. A case manager or someone on the treatment team can help find resources.
The outcome of treatment is determined by several factors, including the severity of diagnosis, level of functioning prior to onset of symptoms, degree of motivation for treatment, level of social or family support and one's ability to comply with medication and/or psychotherapeutic regimen. With proper treatment, people with Schizophrenia are living full, healthy, and productive lives.
I would like my loved one to go to counseling but I still have some concerns…
My son/daughter has Schizophrenia and they do not always comply with their medication regimen. When they are not thinking rationally, they don’t think they need counseling because they don’t recognize that they have a problem.
It can often be frustrating to watch someone we love deteriorate when we know that treatment can help reduce symptoms and ease their suffering Many people with Schizophrenia lack insight into their illness and don’t realize they are sick or that something is wrong. Therefore, they would not recognize the need for medication or counseling. Additionally, there are generally side effects associated with antipsychotic medications and mood stabilizers. This can cause some people to stop taking their medication altogether. Some people forget to take their medication because they lack concentration and focus or they might be confused about what to take. Some doctors may prescribe a long acting version of the medication so that the patient does not have to remember to take it every day. The most helpful thing you can do is to try to understand your loved ones’ concerns and challenges and let them feel validated, heard and valued. Once they are stable enough to make a rational decision about their personal goals, you can agree on a plan of action to support them. Think about what you can do to help make their life better. Offer to go to the gym with them, take them to lunch, church or help find them a volunteer or part-time job. Allowing them to maintain their independence will increase their self-confidence.
Most people benefit from counseling as a way to better understand their mental illness and from learning to manage their symptoms and the course of their illness. Seeking professional help in terms of medication management or psychotherapy, in addition to lifestyle changes provides the most effective way to manage thought disorders. In some cases, thought disorders can be life threatening.
Always seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:
• Being a danger to yourself or others, including threatening, irrational or suicidal behavior
• Feelings of wanting to die
• Hearing voices or seeing things that do not exist
• Inability to care for your basic needs
I’ve tried counseling before and it didn’t work for me.
There are many variables that can affect the success of counseling. One of the most important factors is the fit between the therapist and the client and how comfortable the client is with him/her. Other factors include the therapist’s experience and training in a particular area, realistic goals, length of therapy, motivation level and commitment of the client. When seeing a new therapist make sure you share with them what you liked and didn’t like about your previous counseling experience. Most therapists are trained and experienced in a variety of different counseling approaches and styles, and can adapt to your personal needs. The important thing is to communicate to your therapist if you feel like you are not progressing as you expected. And if the relationship is simply not working, the therapist will be happy to refer you to someone else.
I can help you reduce your symptoms and live the life you’ve always wanted. I encourage you to contact me here or by phone: 904-543-6055 to schedule an appointment or free 15-minute consultation. Your inquiries will always remain confidential, and I return calls within 24 hours, usually sooner!