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Helping A Family Member With Schizophrenia

Jul 22, 2008
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which a person suffers impairments in the perception of reality. People diagnosed with schizophrenia are also likely to suffer from clinical depression and anxiety disorders. The average life expectancy of people with the disorder is 10 to 12 years than the average people, because of increased physical health problems and a high suicide rate. Approximately 1 percent of the population develops schizophrenia during their lifetime, and more than 2 million American suffer from the illness each year. Symptoms of the disorder usually appear in young adulthood.

People who suffer from schizophrenia often experience auditory hallucinations (i.e. hearing voices) and paranoid or bizarre delusions. They often will believe that other people are trying to harm them. They may also suffer from disorganized thinking (i.e. speaking in abstract, dressing inappropriately) and show little to no emotions. These symptoms often cause them to socially withdraw as they can be afraid of others and others of them.

When dealing with a family member who suffers from schizophrenia, you have to have patience and persistence. Below are a few tips that can help you cope with a person who suffers from schizophrenia problems.

1. Educate yourself
Learning about schizophrenia, its symptoms, causes, and treatments, will help you prepare should something come up suddenly. If you know more about the disorder, it will help you make the right decisions concerning treatments and when sudden problems arise.

2. Seek help right away
When you realize that a family member is suffering from schizophrenia, you should get professional help right away, as it can make a difference for him. Early interventions can make a big difference in the course of schizophrenia.

3. Keep a positive outlook
Do not fall into depression or be pessimistic, as you need to be strong for your loved one. However, you should try not to pressure yourself or your family member as stress can worsen the disorder.

4. Encourage independence
Although you will need to take care of your family member, you should always encourage him to be independent. Encourage him to care for himself and develop skills that can help him stand on his own.

5. Prepare for crisis
Dealing with mental disorders can be quite challenging as you may suddenly face crises. You should always plan for emergencies so that you can remain calm when it happens. Write down a list of emergency numbers, including your family member's doctor, hospitals, and friends or relatives that can help you during your time of need.

6. Take care of yourself
Last but not least, you should always take care of yourself. You are responsible not only for your family member, but also yourself. Think about it, if something were to happen to you, who would take care for him? Recovery can be quite challenging, but you should never frustrate yourself. You should always get some rest and stay healthy. Talk to others if you do not feel strong enough or stressed out. This will help you stay positive.

Schizophrenia can be quite destructive, not only to the person who suffers from it but also to his family members and friends. Families often find themselves frustrated and helpless. It can be quite difficult when the one you are trying to help push you away. However, you need to realize that the love and support of a person's family can help him recover more quickly from his disorder. Be understanding and encouraging, and always try to keep a positive outlook. Also, it does help to turn to others for help sometimes. Dealing with a family member's schizophrenia problem can be difficult, but you do not have to do it alone.
About the Author
Ronen David is the chairman of "Malam" (an Israeli organization supporting and representing those dealing with mental disabilities). He is the author of the "How to Cope With Psychosis & Schizophrenia Self Help Handbook".
Visit his web site and learn Coping With Schizophrenia
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