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New Hope for People with Schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia have a long road to recovery. The problem doesn't just end with delusions and hallucinations. Once medication is prescribed, patients encounter a whole new set of problems. How can they find a job while on anti-psychotic drugs? How will they know if they've been cured or if the serious mental illness is simply lying dormant? Where can they get cheap housing or handle the social phobias associated with riding public transit? These questions need to be answered to help them lead successful lives. Decades of schizophrenia research suggest that behavior therapy may be the key.
A major problem with the treatment of schizophrenia is that it focuses solely on medication to attack the positive symptoms - which include aural and visual hallucinations, disordered thinking and outright delusions. While medication is essential, many schizophrenia patients have trouble staying on their medication. They may dislike the side effects of the anti-psychotic drugs or they may feel like they've been "cured" if the symptoms haven't reappeared in awhile. Yet schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that most people have for their entire lives that may lie dormant and resurface suddenly and without warning. Therefore, behavior therapy and schizophrenia support are crucial to one's recovery.
The best treatment of schizophrenia addresses the disorder's negative symptoms too. "Negative symptoms" pertains to things that people are lacking. For instance, many schizophrenics have what is called "agoraphobia," meaning a fear of people and social situations. They lack the ability to talk easily with others or the understanding of how to act. They may also lack emotional responsiveness, making it difficult to show love or receive love from others, hindering romantic relationships. They also lack motivation and suffer depression.
Medication became widespread in the 1950s and 1960s when "de-institutionalization" was the focus and many patients were pushed out of treatment centers back into the real world. Doctors believed medication would be enough to allow people to live a healthy life outside the psychiatric center's doors. Patricia Deegan is an ex-patient diagnosed with schizophrenia who now trains other psychologists at the National Empowerment Center in Lawrence, Massachusetts. "There is no one out there teaching patients how to cope with stressing voices or how to avoid or get out of the delusional vortexes of thought that you slide into," she comments. "I think psychologists are a decade behind." She argues that many people with schizophrenia lack the social skills required to get a competitive job and therefore lapse into depression and anxiety.
It is estimated that out of all the people with schizophrenia, 1/10 males commit suicide. Often suicidal episodes happen either during a psychotic attack or within the first six to nine months of realizing they have schizophrenia and starting medication, and while having difficulty coping. This is where behavior therapy and schizophrenia support systems become so crucial. However, it's difficult financially for many patients since insurance companies refuse to recognize the importance of counseling and long-term rehabilitation programs.
Related topics about people with schizophrenia
Living with Schizophrenia
While some people may require hospitalization, many schizophrenic patients find living with the illness quite bearable with medication. Take, for example, 27-year-old Charlie Chastain, a schizophrenic who was recently profiled by CNN. He was first diagnosed around age 15 when he began hiding in his room all the time, feeling constant paranoia and anxiety.
Overcoming Paranoid Schizophrenia
"Where a blind person may have a cane or a seeing-eye dog, the deaf may be helped by a hearing aid, and the crippled may be helped with a wheelchair or a crutch, we too can be helped by artificial means. Because our disability is one of a biochemical imbalance, it is reasonable that our "crutch" is chemical. For us, our crutch is the neuroleptic medications that we take," Frese explains.
Intro to Clinical Psychology
Other areas of clinical psychology that are focused on include: multicultural studies, feminism, integration and positive psychology. In multiculturalism, cultural signs, symbols and ideas are examined. How does the individual perceive authority, relate within a group or display emotion? In feminist therapy, the counseling focuses on encouraging women in the face of cultural adversity as a way of establishing self worth and a larger meaning in life.