Responding to Changes in Symptoms
As with other mental health conditions, the symptoms an individual with schizophrenia experiences can change over time. You can be a supportive family member by becoming familiar with common symptoms and understanding how an affected person’s perspective may change when symptoms do.
Being patient and allowing them plenty of time to respond or complete tasks is essential. For instance, during psychosis, a person may struggle to express emotions, carry on conversations or stay interested in activities. To de-escalate situations, you can also learn to recognize safety concerns, such as specific triggers that cause or worsen symptoms.
Tips for Supporting a Loved One’s Schizophrenia Treatment
Early intervention makes a difference for schizophrenia patients. Finding a good doctor and a treatment plan that meets your loved one’s unique needs is essential to their recovery. Once they start schizophrenia treatment, it’s important to balance being supportive and giving them space to grow. You can do this by helping them adjust to their therapy or medication while allowing them to take care of themselves to build independence and self-confidence.
You also want to look for signs of relapse, which can signify an individual has stopped taking their medication. Common relapse signs include:
- Social withdrawal
- Increased paranoia
- Strange disappearances
- Decrease in personal hygiene
What Not to Say to Someone With Schizophrenia
It’s essential never to dismiss your loved one’s symptoms. Telling someone their symptoms are “in their head” won’t make them disappear. Distorted thoughts and delusions feel very real to those experiencing them, and it’s best to avoid judgment about their experiences or perceptions and try to understand things from their point of view. If they don’t feel like talking, respect that.
During a psychotic episode, don’t overwhelm your loved one with directions or requests. If someone close to you is living with schizophrenia, empathy and compassion are significant elements to enhance communication. Educating yourself on schizophrenia and what your loved one battles daily can help you understand what to say and avoid.
Do Use Simple Directions and Language
A loved one with schizophrenia may struggle to understand elaborate directions, so direct and straightforward communication strategies are key to relaying a message. Use direct phrases like “Sit down and let’s talk” to avoid confusion. If you’re trying to explain something to them or calm them down, talking clearly and using short sentences can make it easier for them to follow the conversation.
It’s also essential to give them a chance to speak without interrupting. Just because they experience difficulty communicating doesn’t mean they’re incapable of making their own decisions or knowing what’s best for their well-being.
Don’t Discuss Their Fears During an Episode
It’s important to remind yourself that certain things you say or do can be harmful to a person with schizophrenia, even unintentionally. Referencing what your loved one fears during an episode will only intensify the distress and panic they’re already experiencing. It’s also best to refrain from yelling, using an aggressive tone or saying harsh things, even if you become angry or frustrated with them.
Your loved one may rely on you for emotional support, and being gentle will provide them with a safe and supportive environment to help them better manage their condition. You’re more likely to calm them down and encourage them to listen to you by speaking gently. Be honest about your thoughts and feelings regarding the situation, but don’t be harsh or aggressive. Your loved one may rely on you for emotional support, and being gentle will provide them with a safe and supportive environment to help them better manage their condition.