living with schizophrenia

Coping With Paranoid Schizophrenia

Paranoid schizophrenia can be a devastating condition. But medical treatment and coping strategies can greatly help in managing symptoms and living with schizophrenia. Self-help tips can also help in strengthening relationships and living an independent, rewarding life.

Coping & Living With Schizophrenia

Paranoid schizophrenia is a chronic psychiatric disorder that can affect your thoughts, emotions and behaviour. As the condition can significantly affect your daily functioning, it is crucial that you seek medical treatment and consult a doctor immediately. Medications and therapy can help to relieve symptoms and help the patient live a healthier life. However, someone can boost their chances of recovery by employing certain self-help strategies that can limit the frequency and limit of episodes.

Contrary to popular beliefs, living with schizophrenia and recovery is highly possible when you follow your treatment plan and learn ways to cope with the symptoms. It has been observed that one out of five people with schizophrenia tends to get better within a period of five years since the onset of the symptoms. This is why taking medications, attending therapy sessions and implementing coping strategies are vital for anyone with this disorder. According to one 2015 study 1, utilizing positive coping strategies is important for improving their quality of life. The researchers state “Quality of life and coping strategies seem to be strongly connected. Using the negative coping strategies was significantly associated with lower quality of life, and using the positive coping strategies with a higher quality of life.”

12 Self-Help Strategies For Paranoid Schizophrenia

As delusions and hallucinations associated with paranoid schizophrenia can be uncontrollable, confusing and disabling, most patients can find it hard to express themselves or seek support. As they feel alone, scared and unable to trust anyone, it can affect the quality of their life, employment, relationships etc. Moreover, as they lack understanding or awareness of their disorder, sufferers can withdraw socially and feel threatened. This is why seeking medical care is crucial for recovery.

However, there are certain self-help and coping strategies that can be used by the sufferer in addition to medical treatment to fasten the recovery progress. Developing and implementing adaptive coping strategies is regarded as a crucial aspect of effective treatment of mental conditions, reveals a 2016 study 2. Coping is primarily a mental process of managing internal and external stress that can adversely affect a person. It involves psychological strategies, lifestyle changes and efforts made by the sufferer for managing the symptoms and living with schizophrenia. The study adds “The way people cope with stress may affect short-term functioning and long-term adaptation to physical or mental disorders.”

If you are suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, then here are some helpful self-care tips for living with schizophrenia:

1. Seek medical attention

As it is a lifelong condition, ongoing treatment is important for managing this mental illness. Consult a doctor if you feel you are experiencing the symptoms. Ask a trusted loved one to book an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional experience in treating this disorder.

2. Follow treatment plan

Make sure to take the medicines as prescribed and follow your doctor’s instructions. Go for regular checkups and therapy sessions. Do not skip on follow-up care even if you think you may not need it.

3. Work with your doctor

Openly communicate about any substances, drugs, alcohol, unprescribed, over-the-counter or prescription medicines and supplements you are taking. Also inform them about any drugs, alcohol or substance you may consume. This is important as certain medications and substances can interact with medicines and make the symptoms worse or cause severe side effects. Inform your doctor about any side effects that you may experience.

4. Seek support

Do not prevent yourself from openly talking about your thoughts and emotions with your trusted loved ones, family members and friends. Ask them to support and help you in identifying behavior changes and recognizing early warning signs.

5. Manage stress

Living with schizophrenia on a daily basis can lead to a lot of anxiety and stress. High levels of stress can increase the production of cortisol, a steroid hormone, that can lead to psychotic episodes. Studies 3 of biomarkers of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity “indicate that psychotic disorders are associated with elevated cortisol.” Hence, it is crucial that you learn to avoid stressful people or situations and manage your stress. Learn to manage your thoughts and emotions and don’t take up too much work. Understand your own limitations and pause when you feel overwhelmed.

6. Relax yourself

Learn some helpful relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, mindfulness meditation, spending time in nature etc. A 2012 study 4 revealed that “Yoga as a therapy in psychosis, specifically schizophrenia, has been demonstrated to be feasible and effective as an add-on therapy.” Yoga can greatly help in reducing depression & psychotic symptoms, increase oxytocin levels, improve cognition and enhance quality of life in people with paranoid schizophrenia.

A 2019 scientific review 5 found that mindfulness meditation can improve psychosocial functioning, reduce negative symptoms and improve positive emotions. The researchers states “Mindfulness meditation produces brain oscillation changes and increases brain network integration, which could contribute to the decreased abnormal brain activities and reduced hallucination/delusion.”

7. Do things you love

Living with schizophrenia is not supposed to be a life-sentence. Make sure to enjoy your life the best you can. Invest time and energy in doing things that you enjoy and engage in pleasurable activities like reading a book, watching movies, listening to music etc.

8. Stay physically active

Make sure to exercise regularly. Both aerobic or cardio workouts and weight training can be beneficial both for your mind and body. You can also go for a brisk walk as well. According to a 2019 study 6, “Exercise therapy has been shown to improve positive and negative symptoms, quality of life, cognition, and hippocampal plasticity, and to increase hippocampal volume in the brains of patients with schizophrenia.” Exercise releases the feel-good hormone serotonin in the brain that can make you feel better.

9. Eat a balanced diet

Follow a nutritious and healthy diet that includes fresh foods, proteins, vitamins and lots of vegetables. Avoid consuming sugary and packaged food items and junk food as these can affect our mood and emotions.

10. Practice good sleep hygiene

Get enough rest and sleep for at least 7-8 hours daily. Moreover, make sure to stay away from technology or work before sleep. Sleep deprivation can increase hallucinations, delusions and paranoia in patients. According to a 2018 scientific analysis 7, “Studies are consistent with the idea that sleep loss results in an increase in psychotic experiences. For example, paranoia is increased following sleep deprivation.”

11. Socialize

Do not withdraw or isolate yourself socially. Make sure to meet with your friends and family and strengthen your relationships. Attend social gatherings and interact with people you like. Isolation can make the symptoms worse and living with schizophrenia more challenging.

12. Avoid stimulants

Stay away from consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other substances. Unhealthy behaviors, like smoking, drinking too much coffee, consuming alcohol daily and drug abuse can severely affect our mental health.

Overcoming Paranoid Schizophrenia

The above-mentioned self-care and self-help strategies can fasten your recovery and help you build a fulfilling, meaningful life. But it should be noted that these coping strategies are not a substitute for medical care. These techniques can only prove to be effective when used along with medications and therapy under the guidance of a licensed mental health professional.

Most sufferers can improve over time. Living with schizophrenia may seem terrifying but you can become symptom-free and have a normal life with the right effort and effective treatment.

References:
  1. Holubova, M., Prasko, J., Hruby, R., Kamaradova, D., Ociskova, M., Latalova, K., & Grambal, A. (2015). Coping strategies and quality of life in schizophrenia: cross-sectional study. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 11, 3041–3048. https://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S96559 []
  2. Holubova, M., Prasko, J., Hruby, R., Latalova, K., Kamaradova, D., Marackova, M., Slepecky, M., & Gubova, T. (2016). Coping strategies and self-stigma in patients with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Patient preference and adherence, 10, 1151–1158. https://doi.org/10.2147/PPA.S106437 []
  3. Walker, E. F., Trotman, H. D., Pearce, B. D., Addington, J., Cadenhead, K. S., Cornblatt, B. A., Heinssen, R., Mathalon, D. H., Perkins, D. O., Seidman, L. J., Tsuang, M. T., Cannon, T. D., McGlashan, T. H., & Woods, S. W. (2013). Cortisol levels and risk for psychosis: initial findings from the North American prodrome longitudinal study. Biological psychiatry, 74(6), 410–417. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.02.016 []
  4. Bangalore, N. G., & Varambally, S. (2012). Yoga therapy for Schizophrenia. International journal of yoga, 5(2), 85–91. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-6131.98212 []
  5. Sheng, J. L., Yan, Y., Yang, X. H., Yuan, T. F., & Cui, D. H. (2019). The effects of Mindfulness Meditation on hallucination and delusion in severe schizophrenia patients with more than 20 years’ medical history. CNS neuroscience & therapeutics, 25(1), 147–150. https://doi.org/10.1111/cns.13067 []
  6. Girdler SJ, Confino JE, Woesner ME. Exercise as a Treatment for Schizophrenia: A Review. Psychopharmacol Bull. 2019 Feb 15;49(1):56-69. PMID: 30858639; PMCID: PMC6386427. []
  7. Reeve, S., Emsley, R., Sheaves, B., & Freeman, D. (2018). Disrupting Sleep: The Effects of Sleep Loss on Psychotic Experiences Tested in an Experimental Study With Mediation Analysis. Schizophrenia bulletin, 44(3), 662–671. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbx103 []
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