Treatment of Schizophrenia

Although symptoms of schizophrenia can be treated, there is still no consensus among doctors and scientists as to whether it can be considered as a cure for the disease itself, or if schizophrenia can be cured at all.

Management of symptoms as well as improvement of cognitive and social functions is thought to be more achievable than a cure. The effectiveness of schizophrenia treatment is often assessed using standardized methods such as Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS).

Hospitalization may be needed for patients with severe cases of schizophrenia, although long-term stays are now less common as deinstitutionalization-wherein the patient stays in a community- or family-based environment instead of hospitals-has become more advisable. Patients from non-Western societies may only be treated with more informal, community-led methods.

Medication

Antipsychotic medication is usually administered on patients with schizophrenia. These can reduce the positive symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. Most antipsychotics take about seven to 14 days before effects can be manifested.

The latest atypical antipsychotic drugs, although more expensive, are usually preferred for initial treatment over the older typical antipsychotics. The atypical antipsychotics are often better tolerated and associated with lower rates of tardive dyskinesia (the onset of repetitive, involuntary, and purposeless movements), although they are more likely to induce weight gain and obesity-related diseases.

However, response of symptoms to medication vary individually, as there are cases when symptoms resist treatment from at least two different antipsychotics. In this case of "treatment-resistant schizophrenia," clozapine may be prescribed, which has superior effectiveness but several potentially fatal side effects.

Psychosocial treatments

Psychotherapy is also widely recommended and used for treating schizophrenia. Examples of therapies usually administered on patients are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT), and Family Therapy. CBT is used to reduce the positive symptoms and improve related issues such as self-esteem, social functioning, and insight.

Meanwhile, CRT aims to remediate impaired cognitive functions. Family Therapy addresses the whole family system of the patient, emphasizing that familial relationships are an important factor in psychological health. Other forms of intervention include the use of music and creative media.

Other treatments

When other treatments for schizophrenia have failed, electroconvulsive therapy (or electroshock treatment) may be prescribed. In this method, seizures are electrically induced in an anesthetized patient for a therapeutic effect.

The electroconvulsive therapy is said to be more effective where symptoms of catatonia are present. Meanwhile, psychosurgery (wherein some nerves on the brain are cut) has now become a rare procedure and is not a recommended treatment for schizophrenia.

A self-help approach has become integral to the recovery process in Europe and the United States with the help of support organizations such as Hearing Voices Network and the Paranoia Network. The program aims to provide support and assistance outside the traditional medical procedures.

Part of the treatment includes avoiding framing personal experiences in terms of criteria for mental illness, aiming to destigmatize the experience and encourage individual responsibility and a positive self-image.