If someone with schizophrenia relies on you for support, knowing how to communicate with them effectively can be beneficial. It’s essential to be careful what you say and remember that your experience may not be in line with the reality they’re aware of, especially when they’re experiencing symptoms.

Understanding schizophrenia and knowing what to say can help strengthen your relationship with a loved one struggling with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia: A Mental Health Condition Overview

When most people think about schizophrenia symptoms, they tend to envision hallucinations and delusions. However, there’s more to it. Challenges with communication are also commonplace with psychotic disorders, and it’s useful for family members to understand how best to approach this.

The more you know about this mental illness and how it affects people, the better you’re able to create a supportive environment and aid your loved one’s recovery.

Common symptoms of schizophrenia may include:

  • Cognitive symptoms such as difficulty with eye contact, inability to pay close attention and difficulties making sense of information
  • Negative symptoms like social withdrawal, inability to express emotions, lack of self-care and lethargy
  • Psychotic symptoms such as hearing voices, inability to think or speak clearly and strange movements

Lack of motivation is another common symptom, but the WHO has a complete list of schizophrenia symptoms, treatment options and relevant statistics and resources. Your loved one might find it hard to complete seemingly ordinary tasks or lose interest in activities they usually enjoy.

Need help with a loved one who has Schizophrenia?

Alta Loma is Travis County’s leading Schizophrenia Treatment program

Quick Tips for Getting Started

It’s vital that you learn about the treatment that’s available to ensure you and your loved one have the best chance of successfully managing schizophrenia. Good treatment involves support and guidance for you as well as your loved one, so be sure to get the help you need. If you don’t yet have a diagnosis for your loved one, get it as soon as possible to support their well-being and prevent future harm.

In the meantime, here are some tips for getting started:

  • Acknowledge how your loved one feels.
  • Actively listen to what they’re expressing regarding what they sense, hear or see, whether it makes sense to you or not.
  • Offer positive encouragement and ask how you can help your loved one in this moment.
  • Tell them you’re always there for them and will listen whenever they feel ready to talk.
  • Take your loved one’s condition into consideration and be extra patient so they have time to gather their thoughts.

Specific Communication Issues Related to Schizophrenia

Someone who has a serious mental health condition might not respond the way you expect in a conversation. To make it more confusing, sometimes they might, while other times they might not be able to. This doesn’t mean they’re “faking” when they can’t; it has to do with how your loved one’s illness impacts their mental and cognitive state at any given time.

Keep in mind that while they may not communicate in a way you perceive as normal, you should try to speak to them normally despite any behavioral oddities. Try to educate other family members as well as learning which communication issues are related to the warning signs of a schizophrenic episode:

  • Difficulty expressing how the person feels
  • Being unable to process information that’s presented to them correctly
  • Illogical beliefs
  • Seeming distracted or uninterested when you talk to them
  • Memory issues
  • Seeing, hearing or perceiving things that other people can’t

Language Processing Problems Associated With Schizophrenia

As a mental health condition, schizophrenia can significantly impair high-order language processing. This isn’t something you can fix because it’s related to psychosis. Instead, you should support them and be as kind and understanding as possible while they go through an episode and not expect them to “snap out of it” or “get a grip.”

For example:

  • Not being able to “read between the lines”
  • Not getting humor
  • Misunderstanding metaphors
  • An inability to read into tone, rhythm and emotion in language
  • Being unable to withhold inappropriate comments

While treatment from a doctor can help them manage symptoms, they might still have trouble communicating from time to time.

Communication Challenges of Schizophrenia

A person with schizophrenia is disconnected from reality, so it can be hard for them to talk about their thoughts and opinions. They may also have difficulty understanding or processing information due to the above issues with language processing and communication.

As mentioned previously, someone with schizophrenia might demonstrate other symptoms such as illogical thought processes or beliefs, which can be confusing. They could even have trouble remembering parts of the conversation, as psychosis interferes with memory.

What Can I Say as a Family Member with Schizophrenia?

Read on to learn more about communication tools and techniques or call today!

What Can I Say as a Family Member?

Compassion, empathy and understanding are essential when communicating with someone who has schizophrenia. It’s important to practice active listening by paying attention to their body language to better understand their wants, needs and feelings. Be patient when they express their beliefs, acknowledging and validating them even if you disagree.

Encourage them and give them time to process what you’re telling them so they have a better chance of remembering what you were talking about. This could mean breaking down the discussion into short, clear sentences. If your loved one is experiencing psychosis, seek immediate help for them.

What Shouldn’t I Say to a Friend or Family Member 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 go away. Distorted thoughts and delusions feel very real to those who are experiencing them.

Avoid being judgmental about their experiences or perceptions. If they don’t feel like talking, respect that. Make an effort to understand things from their point of view.

During a psychotic episode, don’t overwhelm your friend or loved one with directions or requests. If someone close to you is living with schizophrenia, empathy and compassion can be significant elements to improve the lines of communication.

To summarize:

  • Avoid being dismissive.
  • Don’t judge them.
  • Avoid putting pressure on them to talk.
  • Never argue with them about their beliefs — it won’t help.
  • Steer clear of fault and blame.

Advice for Helping a Person With a Mental Health Issue Like Schizophrenia

It’s common for people with schizophrenia to feel helpless, but supporting, loving and empowering family and friends can be super-helpful. Below are some tips for communicating and dealing with your loved one who has schizophrenia:

  • Educate yourself.
  • Set realistic expectations.
  • Ensure they’re getting treatment and taking medication.
  • Liaise with their doctor if you have any queries or concerns.
  • Minimize stress in the home environment.
  • Validate your loved one’s feelings.
  • Remember the person and the mental illness are separate.

How Alta Loma Can Help You or a Loved One’s Mental Illness

People with schizophrenia tend to be detached from reality based on delusions or hallucinations of what they see or hear. It’s important not to judge or try to “fix” them but to encourage and validate them instead.

Educating yourself on what your loved one is going through will give you a better idea of how to speak to them. Remaining compassionate and showing empathy is essential.

At Alta Loma, we understand the importance of proper communication with someone who has schizophrenia, and we’re here to help you. Located in Georgetown, Texas, we can offer you individualized therapy, coping skills, education, medication management and more in a safe and tranquil environment. Call us at 866-457-3843 for more information.