Being diagnosed with schizophrenia (or having a loved one diagnosed) can be a scary thing. That said, you don’t have to be at the mercy of the condition. While we don’t exactly know all schizophrenia causes, and while there is no cure, there are several effective ways to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, and more is being learned about how to manage this condition every day.
The most important part after diagnosing schizophrenia is seeking treatment as soon as possible. A good mental health treatment team can help alleviate symptoms, teach you coping strategies to navigate life’s challenges, and help you work on living a healthier lifestyle.
The main types of schizophrenia treatment include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Art therapy
- Group or family therapy
- Atypical antipsychotics
- Typical antipsychotics
- Holistic (natural) treatment for schizophrenia
Two or more of these treatments are generally used together, and it’s essential for anyone living with schizophrenia to keep up with their treatment program. Often, people start feeling better and believe they can quit treatment and medication, only for symptoms to reoccur, sometimes much more severe than before.
Read on to learn more about how to treat schizophrenia.
Psychotherapy (Talk Therapy) for Schizophrenia
Psychotherapy is the cornerstone of schizophrenia treatment. Also known as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy involves you, sometimes your family, and talking with a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist about your condition, symptoms, and life challenges you face related to schizophrenia.
How does psychotherapy treat schizophrenia?
Psychotherapy works by giving you the tools you need to learn how to deal with schizophrenia symptoms effectively. These can often include learning to manage the voices you hear and/or the hallucinations you might see. A skilled therapist will help you find ways to determine what’s real and what’s a symptom of your condition.
Types of psychotherapy for schizophrenia
There are several types of psychotherapy that are shown to be effective in treating the different types of schizophrenia.
“Psychotherapy can help patients diagnosed with schizophrenia cope effectively with their symptoms. Therapy helps decrease negative symptoms of schizophrenia, such as apathy or lack of pleasure. Psychotherapy and medication is the best treatment combination for schizophrenia. The most effective types of therapy for schizophrenia are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), creative art therapy, and group therapy.” – Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LMHCTalkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC
Some of the more common and effective forms of therapy for schizophrenia include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you figure out what thought patterns might be contributing to unhealthy behaviors and feelings. Once you identify these, you can find ways to change destructive or harmful patterns into more healthy ones. CBT sessions to treat schizophrenia typically last about an hour, and treatment may take place over the course of several months.
- Art therapy focuses on using creativity to help you express the experiences you have as a result of your condition. Art therapies can be done as individual therapy or in small-group settings. For many people living with schizophrenia, the use of nonverbal artistic expression can help combat negative symptoms of schizophrenia and allow them to connect with others.
- Group or family therapy can be extremely effective for treating schizophrenia. Family members and those closest to someone affected by it often have the best of intentions, but may have difficulty fully understanding this complex condition. Therapy can be a great way to help them learn how to help, especially when dealing with schizophrenia in children and teens.
Medications for Schizophrenia
Antipsychotic drugs are the primary class of medications used in schizophrenia treatment. These medications help ease delusions, hallucinations, anxiety, and other similar symptoms of schizophrenia.
How does medication treat schizophrenia?
Antipsychotic medication works by altering abnormal receptors in the brain and blocking the kind of neurotransmitters that send abnormal thoughts and images to the brain. By blocking how the chemical dopamine affects the brain, antipsychotic medication can be effective at lessening delusions and hallucinations and preventing them from reoccurring…as long as it’s consistently taken.
“Antipsychotics is the class of medications that are used in the treatment of schizophrenia. These medications help block the effects of chemical dopamine in the brain. Antipsychotics work to decrease anxiety and/or aggression almost immediately after taking them. With longer term use, they help decrease symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions.”Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC
Types of medication for schizophrenia
Antipsychotic medications used for the treatment of schizophrenia are divided into what are called first-generation (typical) and second-generation (atypical) schizophrenia medications.
Atypical antipsychotics are second-generation antipsychotics, meaning they’re newer and may have less severe side effects. It’s important to note, though, that some may increase the risk of weight gain and hyperglycemia.
Atypical antipsychotics to treat schizophrenia include:
- Abilify (Aripiprazole)
- Fanapt (Iloperidone)
- Geodon (Ziprasidone)
- Invega (Paliperidone)
- Latuda (Lurasidone)
- Risperdal (Risperidone)
- Rexulti (Brexpiprazole)
- Saphris (Asenapine)
- Seroquel (Quetiapine)
- Vraylar (Cariprazine)
- Zyprexa (Olanzapine)
Typical antipsychotics are first-generation medications. Typical antipsychotic treatment is older, may have more severe side effects, and are generally only used when atypical medications haven’t been effective.
Typical antipsychotics to treat schizophrenia include:
- Haldol (Haloperidol)
- Loxitane (Loxapine)
- Navane (Thiothixene)
- Prolixin (Fluphenazine)
- Thorazine (Chlorpromazine)
- Trilafon (Perphenazine)
- Stelazine (Trifluoperazine)
Holistic Treatment for Schizophrenia
There are several holistic and natural remedies for schizophrenia that might help reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia. However, these are typically recommended alongside traditional medications. These can include:
- Vitamin B supplements: According to a study from the University of Manchester (UK), adding high doses of B vitamins in addition to other forms of treatment might significantly reduce schizophrenia symptoms.
- Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids: Foods like salmon, sardines, and mackerel might potentially help to reduce psychosis, particularly in adolescents, according to a 2020 study by researchers at I-Shou University in Taiwan.
- Deep brain stimulation (DBS): This schizophrenia treatment targets a part of the brain that controls learning, behaviors, and emotions. DBS has been shown to alleviate treatment-resistant symptoms of schizophrenia in some people, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers.
- CBD: Cannabidiol (CBD), in states where it’s legal, might be another good holistic treatment option for people with schizophrenia. Cannabis with a high cannabidiol content was associated with significantly fewer psychotic symptoms in a 2011 study done by doctors at University Medical Centre Utrecht.
NOTE: Caution must be taken, and more research still needs to be done, as high THC content has been associated with more severe psychotic symptoms in some people.
- Mediterranean diet: A Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes (and discourages dairy products, red meat, and processed foods), can be a good option for anyone who wants to use a diet to enhance their health. This type of healthy eating can help reduce inflammation, which is thought by some to be a trigger for schizophrenia. A 2020 study done at Seoul Women’s University in Korea suggests that a diet with anti-inflammatory agents might reduce and improve the severity of symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Benefits of a holistic approach
Some other common holistic approaches to managing symptoms of schizophrenia include intake of vitamin C and E as well as folic acid supplements. These have been found to help effectively manage schizophrenia symptoms for some people. Taken alongside antipsychotics, they might provide relief.
Combining holistic treatments with traditional ones offers a number of benefits. For one, a combined treatment method can help people and their families feel more in control of treatment plans.
Such treatment options also help people focus on things that are just good for optimal health in general, like reducing stress, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.
Some people who live with schizophrenia don’t have healthy living habits, and additionally, some antipsychotic medications can lead to weight gain. As many as 60% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia are considered clinically obese. Countering those trends with healthy lifestyle choices can only help.
The Importance of Sticking to Treatment
If you’re wanting to know more about how to treat schizophrenia, one of the most important things to understand is how essential sticking with your treatment and following the treatment guidelines of your mental health care team is.
It can be tempting to set aside medications, especially when you start to feel better, but that can lead to symptoms returning, often with greater intensity. Coping successfully with schizophrenia depends on carefully following a well-planned course of treatment. Treatment benefits tend to build over time.
Find Treatment for Schizophrenia with Talkspace
Talkspace offers help for people trying to live and cope with schizophrenia. Our online therapy platform makes getting the help you need easy, affordable, and convenient. No drives to appointments that tack on hours to your sessions, no scheduling headaches trying to fit your therapy commute into your already-busy work week, and no uncomfortable office settings.
With Talkspace, you can get therapy, seek medication, and learn to manage your schizophrenia or any other mental health condition, right from the comfort of your own home. Find out why so many people are seeing success with Talkspace.