Home Brain & Behavior How people with schizophrenia stay productive while managing symptoms

How people with schizophrenia stay productive while managing symptoms

People who have schizophrenia may be worried that the disorder will prevent them from living independently, pursuing higher education or holding down a demanding job. In reality, many people do manage their illness and live full and highly productive lives.

A new study by researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and colleagues at the University of Southern California describes some of the strategies people with schizophrenia have used to overcome the disorder and function successfully in their careers. The research was published November 15 in the journal Psychiatric Services.

The researchers conducted up to three interviews each with 10 men and 10 women with schizophrenia from the Los Angeles area. All of them continued to have some psychotic symptoms even as they were employed in professional, technical or managerial occupations.

“To the best of our knowledge, no previous studies have addressed how individuals with schizophrenia who also met some definition of recovery manage the symptoms of their disease,” said Amy Cohen, an associate research psychologist in the department of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Geffen School and the study’s first author.

The researchers found that the people they interviewed had adopted numerous coping strategies to prevent and deal with symptoms, including avoiding stressful situations, staying away from alcohol and drugs and taking their prescribed medications. The interviewees also said they try to interact with people who are supportive and non-judgmental and that they use various cognitive strategies to help them reason through problematic thoughts and whether or not those thoughts are based in reality.

The subjects also mentioned religion and spirituality, and exercise and diet, as ways they prevent or deal with psychiatric instability, Cohen said. Some individuals reported that calm, soothing places help them cope, while others said they preferred to seek out more activity.

And some said jobs and educational activities could be distracting, but others said that school or career help by providing a sense of belonging.

“One big surprise — and disappointment — was the disparity between the education of these individuals and the salaries they were earning,” Cohen said. “Most of the patients studied had college or advanced degrees but still made less than $50,000 annually despite working in a large, urban city.”

Even with the various coping strategies they employ, about half of those surveyed reported having difficulty managing their daily lives, not having felt close to another person within the prior week and experiencing recent hallucinations or delusions — which are characteristic of the disorder.

Social stigma continues to be a serious problem for those affected by schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

“There is a widespread misunderstanding that individuals with schizophrenia are violent and dangerous, often homeless, and beyond help,’’ Cohen said.

Prior studies have shown that half to two-thirds of people with schizophrenia will significantly improve or fully recover, enabling them to live fulfilling and productive lives. Cohen said she hopes the findings provide encouragement for people battling the stigma of mental illness and that the study helps inform treatment for schizophrenia.

“The bulk of treatments for schizophrenia were developed from observations of individuals who are quite ill or hospitalized, rather than patients who have achieved a level of recovery,” Cohen said. “And the prevailing medical model continues to presuppose the expertise of the clinician over the individual with the disorder. This study allows for new insights by leveraging first-hand experiences of those with schizophrenia.”

The research was supported by a grant from the Greenwall Foundation to Elyn Saks of the University of Southern California, and by a Larson Research Award to co-author John Brekke, also of USC. Cohen receives research support from Ameritox, a drug testing and pain medication monitoring firm.

1 COMMENT

  1. Annabel’s schizophrenia’s story

    Canada

    My daughter (Annabel) suffered schizophrenia for 5 years. I had no idea what was happening and didn’t know where to turn for help. It was hard then because I really didn’t understand the symptoms earlier until she was diagnosed. There was a time she decided to get away from everyone, I was not excluded. I had to sit and cry almost every day because I felt helpless as a single mother (she is all I have got). The anguish I went through taking care of her alone is beyond explanation because there was no support of whatsoever from the dad or family members. I fought for proper medical care and humane treatment; I did everything within my reach to get her cured but all to no avail. Countless different medications was prescribed (Zyprexa, fluphenazine, Risperdal, quetiapine, etc.) that she was taking but all we could get was myriad of side effects such as rigidity, drowsiness, dizziness, tremors and restlessness which tends to worsen the already damaged situation. Frustration was the order of the day. I wrote couple of messages to Ontario Mental Health Foundation for help because watching my daughter go through such was devastating. It was at this foundation someone shared a testimony about VEEMEON herbal medicine, how effective it is and how she went through the most difficult times of her life trying to help her mom fight Schizophrenia. Being that I was already at the verge of giving up because I just couldn’t imagine waking up every morning to fight the same demons that left me so tired the night before. I had to contact the doctor, from our conversation; I was relieved and convinced that the result is going to be positive because I was made to contact people with worse cases. Today, the awful situation of my daughter has gone by. Her happy life is back. She is now a schizophrenia survivor and I am glad because my daily routine activities can now kick off without obstructions. Don’t let Schizophrenia hinder you from living a desired life and also, never allow anyone decide for you especially when they don’t know what you have to go through to get to where you are. I was almost discouraged by the doctor but then, I remembered that: I have to shield my daughter’s destiny with courage, faith and perseverance because she is not in her right state of mind and that the bravery and freedom from fear is found in the ‘doing’. Her life is now a testimony. After my daughter got cured, she said, Mom “I just thought, ‘Well, I’m a weirdo, I’ll never be normal, then I said, my daughter, life itself is a misery and we get stronger in the places we have been broken. Thanks to you Dr. Austin for your excellent counseling, no more psychotic symptoms for the past 3 years and 4 months now. To know more about Dr. Austin and the effectiveness of his Herbs, You can view his blog: schizophreniacures.blogspot.com. I believe you will testify just like me.

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