Day-to-Day Challenges for People with Schizophrenia

October 31, 2019
In addition to living with their symptoms, people with schizophrenia also have to deal with misunderstanding and social stigmatization.

The list of day-to-day challenges for people with schizophrenia is long and encompasses biological, psychological, and social issues.

Anyone suffering from an illness has to deal with challenges. When you’re dealing with mental illness, however, you also have to live with other factors such as social stigma and misunderstanding.

In a documentary titled Follow the Challenge of Schizophrenia for the Spanish TV show Redes, Eduard Punset interviewed neuropsychiatrist Maria Ron. In the interview, she proposed another way for people suffering from schizophrenia to understand and live with their illness.

The documentary is especially critical of subjects such as diagnosis and labels, generalist pharmaceutical treatments, social stigma, and the lack of therapeutic alternatives that could help patients reintegrate into society. The experts argued that it isn’t an individual problem but a community problem instead. They also assert that the issue is too complex to be reduced to a manual diagnosis.

“Schizophrenia cannot be understood without understanding despair.”

-Ronald Laing-

A woman covering her face with her hands.

Types of symptoms

According to Professor Maria Ron, schizophrenia is characterized by symptoms that manifest themselves differently depending on the patient during a certain period. There are two types of symptoms:

  • Positive symptoms. Such as hallucinations, thought disorders, delusions, etc.
  • Negative. These symptoms relate to social behavior and mood. Because they affect such important areas, they have a significant impact on the schizophrenia patient. Some of these symptoms are:  blunted affect, poverty of speech and thought, apathy, anhedonia, reduced social drive, loss of motivation, lack of social interest, and inattention to social or cognitive outputs.

In general, prescription drugs are effective in treating positive symptoms but aren’t very useful for negative symptoms. People with schizophrenia see the greatest benefits when their treatment is multidimensional, combining medications with therapies such as cognitive stimulation, music therapy, relaxation techniques, etc.

We should also emphasize the importance of adapting the treatment to the patient’s needs. After all, there’s no universal presentation of schizophrenia; every patient’s experience is different. Thus, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.

Risk factors

Genetic predisposition is the most important risk factor. There are other influencing factors, such as:

  • Drug use (cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, etc.)
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • Stressful life events.
  • Social factors.
  • Competitiveness.
  • Overexertion.
  • Being separated from the mother in early childhood.
  • The father’s age at the time of conception.
  • Living in urban areas.
  • Low IQ. According to some studies, people with low IQs are more likely to develop schizophrenia.

The importance of listening

Many people and projects are working to educate the public about schizophrenia and help patients integrate into society. They also provide treatment for the negative symptoms of the disorder (those more resistant to medication).

In Spain, one of those projects is called Radio Nikosia. Its mission is to encourage open and honest dialogue about schizophrenia. This radio project offers a safe space for patients and anyone affected by the disorder to feel a part of something, to break free from the “mentally ill” label, and to feel useful and understood. It also gives patients a chance to show that their illness doesn’t define who they are.

Some people who live with schizophrenia criticize the standardization of diagnosis and medication. Mental health professionals tend to use the same criteria and treat all patients in the same way without taking their sex, age, weight, and other factors into account.

People with schizophrenia tend to think of themselves as dangerous, in spite of the fact that data shows that these patients rarely commit crimes. Often, people blame schizophrenia when they can’t find other motives for a crime.

That being said, some criminal behavior results from schizophrenia. More specifically, schizophrenia patients who commit crimes usually also have paranoid delusions. They feel threatened by a threat they feel is real. However, this is a relatively rare occurrence.

A group therapy session for people with schizophrenia.

Day-to-day challenges for people with schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia argue that the key to finding a cure is attacking the root cause of the problem. Unfortunately, most interventions focus on relieving immediate symptoms. The goal is simply to calm the individual down and keep them from bothering others.

People with schizophrenia are calling on the medical community to listen to and work with them to shape tailored interventions for each individual.

The first step to understanding the day-to-day challenges of people with schizophrenia is to be aware of the complexity of the disorder, taking into account positive and negative symptoms. It’s also crucial to listen to those who suffer from the disorder.

In conclusion, interdisciplinary and multidimensional treatments could be much more effective for this disorder. Hopefully, this kind of approach would provide alternatives to a medication-only treatment and address all the patient’s needs.