Schizophrenia - Treatment
How is schizophrenia treated?
Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for schizophrenia. This may be because the causes of the illness are not fully understood. You may find that you need to continue treatment to keep well.
Up to 3 in 10 people with schizophrenia may have a lasting recovery, and 1 in 5 people may show significant improvement. Around half of people diagnosed with schizophrenia will continue to have it as a long-term illness. Everyone’s experience of schizophrenia is different. It may get better then worse, involve further episodes of being unwell, or may be more constant.
You need to find the right treatment for you. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that you should be offered a combination of medication and talking therapies.
Your doctor may offer you medication known as an ‘antipsychotic’. These reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia, but do not cure the illness. Your healthcare professionals should work with you to help choose a medication. If you want, your carer can also help you make the decision. Doctors should explain the benefits and side effects of each drug.
In the past, antipsychotics had negative side effects. Some people find that the side effects of newer antipsychotic drugs are easier to manage.
If you have been on an antipsychotic for a few weeks and the side effects are too difficult to cope with, you should ask your doctor about trying a different one. NICE state that people who have not responded to at least 2 other antipsychotic drugs should be offered clozapine.
Your medication should be reviewed at least once a year.
Your doctor should offer you psychosocial treatments. These treatments help you to look at how your thoughts and behaviour are influenced by the people and society you live in. This can include the following:
- Talking treatments. NICE says the NHS should offer cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to all adults with psychosis or schizophrenia. CBT can help you to manage your feelings and symptoms better. CBT does not get rid of your symptoms.
- Psycho-education. This involves learning about your illness, your treatment and how to spot early signs of becoming unwell again. It can prevent you having a full-blown episode. Psycho-education may also be helpful for anyone who is supporting you, such as family, a partner or a trusted colleague.
- Arts therapies. This can help to reduce the negative symptoms of the illness. It can help you to express yourself more creatively.
- Family therapy – NICE recommend family members of people with psychosis and schizophrenia should be offered family therapy. This can help to improve how you feel about family relationships. This can help reduce any problems in the family caused by your symptoms.
Early intervention teams
Early intervention teams are specialist NHS services which provide treatment and support for people when they first experience psychosis and schizophrenia. They are usually made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers and support workers.
Your doctor should refer you to an early intervention team when they diagnose you with a first episode of psychosis. NICE suggests that you should start treatment within 2 weeks of referral. Early intervention services operate differently across the country. If there is not a service in your area, then you should have access to a crisis or home treatment team.
You can click on the following to find more information about them:
Need practical advice & info? We can help.
Contact our Advice team about mental health & related issues
0300 5000 927 Monday - Friday 9.30am - 4pm, not including bank holidays