Life with schizophrenia can be challenging, but as we learn more about this disorder, we are finding that it can be managed with planning and good support systems.
Schizophrenia is most often diagnosed when people are in their early twenties. This is because people living with schizophrenia usually experience a great deal of internal conflict relating to their perceptions and sensory experiences, which can make it difficult to diagnose a child or younger person.
For those who do have a recent diagnosis, or care for someone who has it, one might wonder what it's like, and if can someone with schizophrenia can lead a normal life. The good news is, those living with schizophrenia can experience a normal, healthy quality of life with careful planning, observation of symptoms and the support of caring friends and family.
What Does Schizophrenia Feel Like?
Many of us are curious, and those not familiar with the condition may wonder what it feels like. Often, people with schizophrenia struggle for periods of time in which they are unsure what is real and what isn’t. Schizophrenia impacts the condition on one’s sensory experiences and thought processes. Delusional thoughts, paranoia, auditory and visual hallucinations can be part of the difficult symptoms for someone with schizophrenia, depending on the type of illness, severity and the individual.
These symptoms create a disturbing disconnection from one’s own understanding of what is real and what is not. As you can imagine, this is distressing and can cause many problems for the person struggling with this condition, especially when early signs of schizophrenia emerge prior to diagnosis.
Often young people with emerging symptoms avoid telling others of their perceptual experiences due to fear. Imagine how confusing it would be to have your most basic assumptions of reality shaken. It is understandable that prior to diagnosis, it might feel frightening to experience these symptoms and also to tell others about them.
How Does Schizophrenia Impact Everyday Life?
For those living with the illness, life with schizophrenia is about managing symptoms when they flare up, maintaining medication needs and adjustments and staying aware of one’s perceptions. One of the biggest areas a person with Schizophrenia might struggle with is their social life. Those managing it can be hesitant to engage socially and may restrict their connections to a few close, trusted friends and family. While this certainly isn’t universally true, often people with schizophrenia prefer to keep stimulation to a minimum to avoid triggering symptoms.
Others with schizophrenia learn to mitigate symptoms and participate in social events with relative ease. One’s ability to engage with family and friends typically depends on the severity of the disorder, the type of symptoms and one’s ability to use available resources to manage them.
Those with Schizophrenia find the most success once they've learned to identify the trends within their illness. Sometimes there are periods of relative calm when the symptoms are minimal and one can proceed with work and social plans uninterrupted. During difficult periods when symptoms are flaring up, communicating needs to an understanding employer who will work with them on taking time off and returning to work when they are able to.
Because of this, people with schizophrenia may be best suited to part-time work with an employer who is aware of the condition and willing to work around the needs for time off. Supported employment opportunities are also a great option to help link people who have schizophrenia with an employer who understands and will help work around the condition.
Talking About Your Diagnosis
People with schizophrenia may feel reluctant to talk about it with people they don’t know well. Sharing one’s mental health condition may feel risky, particularly if the response of the other person is in question. Those who are managing this disorder may wonder how to tell someone they have schizophrenia. While there is no predetermined way to do this, it can be helpful to gauge their understanding of the condition. Often when people have knowledge about a condition, they are better able to respond to it appropriately and with compassion.
Teach people how to help you when you are experiencing a flare-up with your symptoms. Most people want to help and may simply need to be educated about how to do that. Whom you share your personal information with is entirely your decision. You can share or withhold your medical and mental health information with whomever you would like.
It can also be helpful to enlist the assistance of someone you trust to help you share information about your diagnosis with others. Schizophrenia support groups can be a great way to do this. Meeting up with others who manage a similar condition can help in identifying coping strategies and methods of communicating about it with others.
Tips for Managing Schizophrenia
Managing schizophrenia may feel impossible for those who are newly diagnosed. Fortunately, many people have learned how to live with schizophrenia and are able to have a positive quality of life in spite of the condition. The key to managing schizophrenia lies in the identification and tracking of symptoms and staying honest with yourself and others about your wellbeing.
Often people who have learned to successfully manage schizophrenia stay in regular contact with their medical and mental health team, consistently take prescribed medications, stay in contact with friends and family routinely and check in with people they trust regarding their symptoms as they come and go.
Keeping a relatively consistent schedule can be helpful in managing this condition. Try to get an adequate amount of sleep and balance activities involving the mind and body to ensure that you are maintaining a consistent input and output of energy. Schizophrenia is a manageable condition if one learns their patterns and is able to stay on top of symptoms as they emerge.
If you or someone you love has schizophrenia with inadequately controlled symptoms, find out if you qualify for a clinical trial. Participants get access to an expert team who specialize in Psychiatry, get access to a new medication that may help, as well as compensation for time and travel.
Find out more by visiting Greenmountainresearch.org, or call (802) 855-8368
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