How to live with someone with schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia may need help from their family, friends, and community. Here’s how to give your loved one the support he or she needs.

How to live with someone with schizophrenia

How to live with someone with schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia may need a considerable amount of support from family members and other loved ones to finish school, find work, maintain relationships, and achieve other goals they’ve set for themselves. Although it may be challenging at times, says Krista Baker, the program supervisor of outpatient schizophrenia services at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, it’s possible for people with schizophrenia to achieve independence and improve their quality of life if they adopt some healthy lifestyle habits. Here are eight ways you can help your loved one.

1. Encourage them to schedule regular doctor appointments.

People with schizophrenia may not believe that they have an illness or need medical help. Despite these beliefs, keeping doctor appointments is critical. The sooner the person is treated, she says, the better the outcome. Arguing with people with schizophrenia or attempting to convince them that the voices they hear don’t exist isn’t an effective way to get them to seek treatment. Instead, Baker recommends reminding people with schizophrenia how treatment can help them reach whatever goals they may have for their lives. “There needs to be a sense of motivation on the person’s part,” she says.

2. Remind them to keep taking their medications.

People with schizophrenia may not notice that their medication is improving their mental health or thought processes, but they can notice the side effects. These can include tiredness, dizziness, muscle cramps, and weight gain, and may cause people to stop taking their medications. Working with a doctor to find the medication that keeps schizophrenia symptoms under control with the fewest side effects can help your loved one stick to his or her treatment plan. Medication calendars and weekly pillboxes can be used to help a person with schizophrenia remember to take medications regularly.

3. Take steps to help them avoid alcohol and illicit drugs.

When some people with schizophrenia experience symptoms, such as hearing voices, they may seek relief by using alcohol and drugs, which work quickly to help them feel different. Caregivers can help prevent substance abuse by clearing the house of drugs and alcohol and by talking to their loved one about how abstaining from drugs and alcohol can help them maintain their overall health and achieve their goals.

4. Help them to be less stressed.

However, keeping quiet to avoid upsetting the person can add to the stress of other family members. Use quiet but firm voices and create a calm and safe home environment.

5. Help them maintain a healthy weight.

Medications to treat schizophrenia can cause weight gain, which can increase the risk of obesity-related health conditions. Eating a nutritious diet is the best way to maintain a healthy weight, but not everyone can plan their meals in advance.

Baker says that caregivers can help by accompanying the person with schizophrenia to the grocery store and talking to him or her about healthy foods. A nutritionist can also help teach your loved one about making nutritious choices and educate them about meal planning. Regular exercise is also an important part of managing weight, so encourage your loved one to stay physically active.

6. Try to limit power struggles.

Schizophrenia usually sets in during late adolescence, a time when young people are craving independence and freedom. But whatever the age of your loved one, people with schizophrenia don’t want to be micromanaged and hounded about everything from taking medications to cleaning their rooms, Baker says.

Rather than using words like, “You need to go out and get a job,” she advises caregivers to focus on the person’s own goals and what needs to be done to achieve them. “We want to think about individuals moving down the same path they would have chosen if they had never been diagnosed,” she says. Family therapists can often help families avoid power struggles and work on dialogue that benefits a person with schizophrenia.

7. Help them maintain their social skills.

People with schizophrenia tend to reverse the sleep cycle, staying awake late into the night and then waking up in the afternoon, Baker says. Sleeping in late can disrupt routines and encourage isolation. Other symptoms of schizophrenia, such as social withdrawal and poor interpersonal skills, can also contribute to this isolation.

Caregivers can help their loved one maintain social skills by adhering to routines, including planned social activities and outings. Take an active role by getting the person into a community program, taking him or her to the park every week, or initiating contact with friends, Baker suggests.

8. Know that you may have to intervene, if necessary.

People with schizophrenia who refuse treatment or help of any sort may need to be hospitalized. In some cases, families may need to call the police for help if their loved ones become a danger to themselves or others. Once treatment starts and symptoms subside, families can redirect their loved ones back toward their life goals.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, each step toward these goals should be small, and they should be taken one at a time. “Treatment works, but it doesn’t work overnight,” says Baker. “It’s a process.”

How to live with someone with schizophrenia

Am I a schizophrenic? Am I developing schizophrenia? Being concerned about your mental health is a good thing. It can lead to your seeking information and taking action to live well. This concern, though, can become very frightening when you’re experiencing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that feel like they’re not “normal.” This fear can relate to the symptoms of schizophrenia.

What is Schizophrenia, Anyway?

Schizophrenia is a well-known term. Unfortunately, that’s about all that’s well-known. There is a great deal of misunderstanding and stigma around schizophrenia, and some of the confusion might be making you ask, “Am I schizophrenic?”

Society throws around the word “schizophrenic” when it makes no sense. Casual statements such as these might make you question whether you have schizophrenia when you’re unsure about what you’re experiencing:

  • “She’s so psychotic.”
  • “He’s out of his mind.”
  • “You’re delusional.”
  • “Look at him. He’s so schizophrenic.”

These statements can make you question your own sanity. An important thing to question is what these statements mean in relationship to schizophrenia. It’s helpful to know a little bit about schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is an illness of the brain that involves what is known as positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and cognitive symptoms (Difference Between Positive and Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia). Together, these include experiences such as:

  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and/or smelling things that aren’t really there)
  • Delusions (false beliefs that the person strongly believes are true)
  • Disorganized speech, behavior
  • Blunted emotions, lack of motivation, withdrawal
  • Memory problems, difficulty with rational thoughts, problem-solving

So if someone accuses you of being psychotic (or “psycho”) for example, check with yourself to see if you are experiencing hallucinations and/or delusions. If you are, you can investigate further. If you’re not, dismiss the person as ignorant.

I Think I’ve Hallucinated. How Do I Know If I Am Becoming Schizophrenic?

This question is what makes this issue complex. If you are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia listed above, it’s okay to wonder about them. Early signs of schizophrenia include:

  • Withdrawal or even complete isolation
  • Mood changes, especially depression-like
  • Mild hallucinations (catching movement in your field of vision or hearing something vague)
  • Mild delusions (“odd” beliefs that others don’t buy into)

Typically with schizophrenia, the person isn’t aware that she is hallucinating or that her beliefs are delusional. Schizophrenia is so serious and all-encompassing because the person thinks he is fine.

Some people might tell you that if you are asking whether or not you have schizophrenia and wondering if you’ve had hallucinations and delusions, then you’re not becoming schizophrenic. That may be true, but it’s not that simple. People with schizophrenia can have what’s called insight. That means they know that what they think and sense might not be real. But they also think that these things might be real, and telling the difference can be difficult.

Common Questions People Ask Themselves When Considering Schizophrenia

As you work on answering your question, “Am I schizophrenic?” consider asking yourself these common questions:

  • Do other people see the things that I’m seeing, hear what I hear, etc.? You can casually ask others to see what they say. That said, schizophrenia makes people withdraw from others, so if that’s happening, pay attention.
  • Do I have an explanation for my hallucinations, and what is it? If your answer seems a bit odd to you, or if you share it with someone and they think it doesn’t make sense, this could be a sign of a delusion. For example, if you believe that you’ve been placed here on a special mission and you’re sensing special things because you’re being tested or trained, you are having a delusion.
  • Is this just part of being a teenager (if you are, in fact, a teenager)? While the teen years bring challenges and are an intense stage of growth and development, it is not part of adolescence to have the symptoms of schizophrenia (What Are the Schizophrenia Symptoms in Children and Teens?).

If you notice any of the symptoms and signs of schizophrenia, there are things you can do:

  • Take an online schizophrenia test. Some call it an “Am I Schizophrenic Test.” These tests ask you about your symptoms and experiences and, while they don’t diagnose you, they can recommend that you see a doctor, depending on your responses.
  • If you are aware of your senses and beliefs (if you have insight) but aren’t sure if they’re “normal” or “odd,” pay attention to other people. What are their comments and reactions to your beliefs? You can even directly ask people with whom you are comfortable.
  • See a doctor or a therapist. Seeking professional input and help is the best way to treat schizophrenia.

Know yourself, and when that’s hard, let others help. Professional treatment is essential because if you do have schizophrenia, the sooner you begin treatment, the better you’ll respond to it.

With the right help, it’s possible to maintain a healthy long-term relationship after your partner is diagnosed with schizophrenia.

How to live with someone with schizophrenia

Every relationship has its ups and downs, but when one person is diagnosed with schizophrenia, it’s possible for even stable partnerships to become strained or for couples to break up altogether.

“Schizophrenia makes it hard for people to form close bonds,” says Dost Öngür, MD, clinical director of the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Research Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. Often, people with schizophrenia who are married met their partner before being diagnosed with the condition. Single people who have schizophrenia, however, “tend to stay single,” he says.

For people whose partner was healthy when the relationship began, the onset of schizophrenia can come as a shock. The disease can change a person’s behavior and personality, and symptoms can make even the most caring and loving individuals appear distant and cold.

Caring for a Partner Who Has Schizophrenia

Frank Baron, who has schizoaffective disorder, a type of mental illness that triggers symptoms similar to schizophrenia, says that when someone is newly diagnosed with a disorder like schizophrenia, their loved ones should try to show compassion. “The best thing to say is, ‘I love you and I care about you. This doesn’t change how I feel about you,’” he says.

Caring for a loved one who has schizophrenia can be a huge job that’s both tiring and frustrating at times. The following advice can help keep the relationship going strong. To find more resources, you can also contact your local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or ask your doctor or therapist for information about local support groups.

  • The caregiver should set up their own support system. If your partner has schizophrenia, they may not be able to meet your emotional needs as well as they once did. Plus, according to a study published in October 2017 in the journal Psychiatric Services, caregivers to people who have schizophrenia tend to experience relatively high levels of distress. That’s why it’s important to have access to mental health support, such as a counselor or therapist. Friends and family can also provide a listening ear or a much-needed distraction.
  • The person who has schizophrenia must accepttreatment. Left untreated, the condition can cause people to behave erratically, leaving their partners to become subject to verbal abuse, emotional neglect, and delusional accusations. No healthy relationship can sustain these behaviors.
  • Both partners must communicate. Open and clear communication can help people who have schizophrenia find the support they need as well as understand what’s expected of them in the relationship. In addition to individual therapy, couples therapy can help both partners cope with the effects of schizophrenia on the relationship.

Schizophrenia and Relationships: Challenges and Solutions

Every couple juggles everyday tasks like household chores and balancing finances, but people who have schizophrenia may need extra help managing their responsibilities. This may include:

  • Household duties Dr. Öngür explains that schizophrenia impacts the way people read social cues, meaning your partner may not be able to recognize what you want them to do around the house. Counseling can help caregivers learn how to set clear expectations in a supportive and positive way. Defining each partner’s responsibilities around the house is another strategy.
  • Finances People who have schizophrenia are not always able to work, even after their symptoms are stabilized. If this is the case, applying for Social Security disability benefits can help. Medications for schizophrenia can be expensive, and frequent co-pays can add up. Let your doctors know about your financial situation as well, because some clinics charge on a sliding scale.
  • Intimacy Schizophrenia may cause people to become less interested in sex, as can some antipsychotic medications. Try talking to a couples therapist, who can help you express your needs and wants. You can also ask your partner’s doctor about switching to medications that are less likely to affect libido or adding drugs that can boost sexual response.
  • Family interactions People who have schizophrenia can behave irrationally, have trouble thinking clearly, and struggle with everyday emotions, which can be confusing, frightening, or hurtful to family members and lead to conflicts within the family. It’s important to clearly define acceptable and unacceptable behaviors at home and in other settings, especially if you have children.

Topic Overview

You may be able to tell when someone is paranoid. The person may accuse others of trying to harm him or her or may look around fearfully. The person may talk about protecting himself or herself from attack.

Here are ways to help the person who is paranoid:

  • Don’t argue. Ask questions about the person’s fears, and talk to the person about the paranoia if the person wants to listen to you. If someone is threatening you, you should call for help.
  • Use simple directions, if needed. Tell the person that no harm will come to him or her and that you can help. For example, “Sit down, and let’s talk about it.”
  • Give the person enough personal space so that he or she does not feel trapped or surrounded. Stay with the person but at a distance that is comfortable for him or her and you. Stay more than an arm’s reach away.
  • Call for help if you think anyone is in danger.
  • Move the person away from the cause of the fear or from noise and activity, if possible. Ask the person to tell you what is causing the fear. Make a direct statement that you are not afraid.
  • Focus the person on what is real.
  • Tell the person everything you are going to do before you do it. For example, “I’m going take out my cell phone.”

To help with situations that may cause paranoia:

  • Help the person avoid things he or she fears. For example, if the person is afraid of dogs, avoid them.
  • Keep lights turned on if the person tells you that this makes him or her less scared.
  • Talk about the person’s fears when he or she is not paranoid, and make a plan for handling the fears when they occur.
  • Help the person make a list of his or her fears. At the end, consider asking the person to write, “These things are not going to hurt me. These fears are symptoms of my illness. They will go away if I seek help.” Don’t insist that the person does this. Doing so may make the person include you as part of the paranoid belief.

How to live with someone with schizophrenia
When a person is diagnosed with Schizophrenia, often times they are not able to live at home with family or live alone safely or functionally.

When individuals with schizophrenia, are having a psychotic episode, they can become disoriented and are often unable to care for themselves or carry out any sort of responsible activity such as working or paying rent. Many people end up unemployed, or very minimally employed and rely on full or partial government sponsored disability payments for income.

Group Homes for Schizophrenics

Those with mental illness can become involved in substance abuse as they meet others who abuse drugs or alcohol. The result is that some individuals become quite disabled and require assistance with housing or become homeless quickly. The vast numbers of homeless who are mentally ill people in any major city, many of whom are schizophrenic, are a testament to this problem. Different communities address this need for safe humane housing for the chronically mentally ill in different ways with varying levels of success. Social workers and case managers employed through city government and in the community mental health centers help patients to find and maintain housing options. Access to safe housing is a basic need of any schizophrenic patient and without it their illness will be worse.

Schizophrenia Assisted Living

Because housing is scarce and expensive, people with schizophrenia find that shared living situations (or having roommates) is often the only way to make ends meet. It’s difficult for anyone to negotiate living in close quarters with a stranger, let alone someone with schizophrenia. As a result, the privacy of residents living together is often compromised, and tensions arise from living in close quarters with unrelated adults who share few common bonds besides their illness.

Assisted living facilities are an option for people needing assistance with medical issues. A facility like Heritage Lane Behavioral Assisted Living is specific to the needs for those with mental illness. There are very few Behavioral Assisted Living Facilities like Heritage Lane that have trained staff members who are there 24/7 to provide care and assistance with things like medication, daily living skills, meals, and are most importantly trained to care for those with the behavioral issues that arise from mental health diagnoses such as Schizophrenia. Recognizing that a change is usually indicative an issue that needs to be addressed.

Support for Schizophrenics

The availability of the right amount of support and supervision can make all the difference in an individual’s success or failure in a community. People with schizophrenia need varying degrees of support and supervision at various times. Resources (such as transportation and medical care) need to be accessible, and mental-health support services need to be able to respond flexibly based on a person’s needs. Heritage Lane offers in house mental-health support with our Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and is able to recognize when an individual may need a change.

Interested in getting help for your loved one? Learn more about Schizophrenia Treatment and Assisted Living here. Or, call us today to talk about how Heritage Lane can help, (480) 999-0511.

Caring for someone with schizoaffective disorder can be challenging because of the potential for severe and serious symptoms of psychosis, mania, and depression. Caring for a loved one with schizoaffective disorder requires collaboration with doctors, managing a treatment plan, being prepared for relapses and crisis situations, and helping the patient find a suitable place to live while learning to be more independent.

Page Contents

  • Living with Someone with Schizoaffective Disorder
  • How to Help Someone with Schizoaffective Disorder – Start with a Diagnosis and Education
  • Managing a Schizoaffective Treatment Plan
  • Managing Schizoaffective Disorder Medications
  • Watch out for Relapses
  • Be Ready for the Worst – Preparing for a Crisis
  • Make Long-Term Plans
  • Treatment at BrightQuest

Caring for someone who is struggling with any mental illness is challenging.

Schizoaffective disorder is one of the more difficult mental health conditions because of such extreme symptoms of psychosis, mania, and depression. It is chronic and will never be cured, and treatment must be ongoing, even when the patient feels well again.

Living with someone with schizoaffective disorder requires dedication, patience, and self-care.

As a caregiver, you need to understand this disease, support your loved one, manage and encourage treatment, look for signs of relapse, respond to crises, and still take care of yourself. It can sometimes be like a full-time job, so finding support for you is also important.

Living with Someone with Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder causes symptoms of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder or depression. The schizophrenic symptoms may include hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, unusual behaviors, a flat affect, and inappropriate emotional responses. The mood disorder symptoms may include those of mania, depression, or both: periods of high energy, euphoria, lack of sleep, and risky behaviors for mania and sadness, despair, lack of interest in activities, and low energy for depression.

Living with either schizoaffective bipolar type or depressive type is challenging and can be very disruptive. This is especially true if the condition has gone undiagnosed or untreated, if the patient is not sticking with the treatment plan, or if elements of treatment are not working. Struggling with the symptoms of schizophrenia can make it difficult to impossible to manage normal relationships, to be successful in school, to work, and can even lead to substance abuse or getting in trouble with the law.

Knowing how to deal with living with someone with schizoaffective disorder is not obvious, but it requires support and this is why family is so important. If you are living with someone with schizoaffective disorder, there are many ways in which you can help and care for him or her. From getting the initial diagnosis to managing relapses, a loved one with schizoaffective disorder needs your care.

How to Help Someone with Schizoaffective Disorder – Start with a Diagnosis and Education

The first step in caring for someone with schizoaffective disorder is to learn more about it and to ensure that an accurate diagnosis is made. There is no schizoaffective disorder test, but a psychiatrist or other mental health professional can perform a psychiatric evaluation to determine if the diagnostic criteria for the condition are met. From a diagnosis, a schizoaffective disorder treatment plan can be developed that includes medication, therapy, and self-management strategies.

In addition to getting the diagnosis, you need to learn more about this condition, as does your loved one. Read up on bipolar schizoaffective disorder, schizoaffective disorder depression type, how each type is treated, what to do when treatments don’t seem to work, how to manage relapses, and the kind of support your loved one will need going forward. As you set off on this challenging journey, there are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Be realistic about outcomes. This is a difficult mental illness, so be prepared for setbacks. Set small, reasonable goals and expect to take progress slowly, bit by bit.
  • Empower your family member. It may be tempting to start doing everything for your loved one with a mental illness, but it is important that you help him or her recover the ability to be as independent as possible.
  • Rely on support. You can’t always go it alone and neither can your loved one. Find support for both of you.
  • Manage and reduce stress. Someone with schizoaffective disorder is sensitive to stress, which can cause symptoms to flare up. Create an environment that is structured but as stress-free as is reasonable to help your loved one heal.

[ Editor’s Note: This piece is part of an ongoing series of personal essays on what it’s like to live with a mental health diagnosis. Each piece describes a singular and unique experience. These essays are not meant to be representative of every diagnosis, but to give us a peek into one person’s mind so we may be more empathetic to all . ]

Living with schizophrenia is tricky: my daily environment contains landmines, some of which I know the location of (triggers) and some I don’t. For me, the goal is to avoid those landmines and live the most successful life I can.

I am fortunate because I have a spouse who is compassionate, patient, and supportive, but it would be a lie if I said we didn’t make daily sacrifices to ensure that I have the best chance possible of not being overwhelmed or lost to the various symptoms of my illness.

Some sacrifices are intermittent while others frequently occur; for example, my husband loves to travel, and although I love spending the night in hotels and visiting other places, I am at my best at home. Out of necessity, my husband and I have learned to avoid early morning flights and begin road trips after eight or nine in the morning. When I can’t follow my morning routine, I run into problems. By problems, I mean anxiousness—a general feeling of discomfort where I can’t sit still, focus, or concentrate, and it often leads to panic. Without the assistance of an increased dose of medication during these times, I’m unable to calm down. We travel less than we might prefer because of these difficulties.

There are occasions when I am at home, reading, writing, or on social media and the same sense of discomfort or anxiety will overwhelm me. Although I try not to disturb my husband at work, it is often necessary to call on him under “emergency circumstances” to come home, ensure that I take medication, and ride out the worst of the situation with me. These occasional instances are part of the reason we strive to create an environment of low-stress and wellness at home.

The sacrifices we make on a daily basis to achieve an environment where we eliminate as much stress and uncertainty as possible requires us to live by a relatively rigid routine. Most mornings I wake up around six, make coffee, make a blueberry, banana, spinach, and yogurt smoothie so I can take my medications with three hundred calories. We eat dinner at approximately the same time every night (around six) so that I am taking my medication twelve hours apart, again with at least three hundred calories of food. We often turn down dinner and happy hour with friends because many people schedule dinner later than my need to eat, or if we do go, we are the odd ones out having already had our meal.

Another daily sacrifice is one that involves writing. I read essays, books, and articles throughout the day, and frequently disagree with what I have read, but feelings of paranoia often prevent me from taking a public stand on many issues that other writers could easily address. One time, I wrote about my sense of outrage at a gaming company for creating a video game that “simulated” schizophrenia (I don’t consider it fun or entertaining to have a mental illness). I had to take the post down after only two hours because I was so paranoid that the company would come after me. My voice is severely diminished and often silenced because of this type of fear.

Read more: A Day With: Social Anxiety

Anxiety and paranoia are two of the most prominent symptoms that I navigate and try to control. But I also struggle with a daily lack of motivation and a desire to isolate socially. During the worst periods of my illness, there are auditory hallucinations (hearing voices), tactile hallucination (touch), and visual hallucinations along with complicated and disorienting delusions. These symptoms are the most severe symptoms of schizophrenia and can be the most bothersome to people who are medication resistant (which I am fortunate not to be at this time).

I approach living with schizophrenia the same way I would treat any chronic illness: I take my medications, listen to my doctors, and make life choices to create the least likely possibility of having a flare up. I don’t see my illness as any different from someone who has to watch what they eat, exercise, take insulin or blood pressure medication, and reduce stress where possible. Many of us have circumstances that require attention and care and force us to make sacrifices. Mine happens to be schizophrenia. I know what it is like to live with a severe mental illness, having maneuvered the landmines for decades. And because I know what it looks like, if I had to choose one disease over another, I would probably stick with schizophrenia because it is familiar and even with the worst of the symptoms, I have carved out a life I can celebrate, share with others, and enjoy.

The “A Day With Mental Health” series is brought to you by Headspace and Bring Change to Mind (BC2M) . BC2M is a nonprofit organization built to start the conversation about mental health, and to raise awareness, understanding, and empathy. They develop influential public service announcements (PSAs) and pilot evidence-based, peer-to-peer programs at the undergraduate and high school levels, engaging students to eradicate stigma. Because science is essential to achieving this mission, BC2M’s work is grounded in the latest research, evaluated for effectiveness, and shared with confidence. Headspace is proud to partner with them as we shine a light on the day-to-day experiences of living with a mental health diagnosis.

This series will publish weekly on Headspace’s the Orange Dot. Read the rest of the series here.

Was this helpful?

How to live with someone with schizophrenia

About half of people living with schizophrenia don’t understand or fully appreciate that they have a mental illness. They may insist that they aren’t ill and don’t need help. In their minds, their delusions are real. The term for this condition is anosognosia, or “lack of insight into being ill.”

Caring for a person with anosognosia can be frustrating. Your loved one may refuse therapy and medication because, in her mind, there’s no sickness. She may get angry when she’s confronted about this.

What Is Anosognosia?

Schizophrenia affects the frontal lobes, the part of the brain that helps people understand and evaluate experiences. People with anosognosia aren’t just in denial. They truly believe their delusions or hallucinations are real. Even when you show them hard evidence that challenges their beliefs, they don’t see they are ill.

Compared with people who are aware of their illness, people with schizophrenia who suffer from anosognosia experience worse symptoms, research shows. They may also have a lower quality of life. This is probably because they are less likely to take medication and get treatment.

Treating People Who Don’t Think They’re Sick

Currently, there are no medications or other treatments that experts know of to relieve anosognosia. However, some hopeful findings suggest it may be treatable in the future.

People who lack insight can decide to accept treatment, even if they don’t acknowledge their disease. To start, it’s best to approach them in a nonthreatening, compassionate way. People with schizophrenia often do not respond well to criticism. Instead of trying to convince them they’re sick, ask them about their goals. For instance, perhaps the person wants to get his own apartment. Use this as a springboard to discussing the next steps. Even if the person doesn’t acknowledge being ill, he’ll be able to make positive progress. It can help to clearly link the person’s goal with taking their medication to prevent a relapse.

Common Challenges and How to Cope

You may not know what to say when a person believes something that obviously isn’t true. You don’t want to go along with him—but telling him that he’s wrong won’t do any good, either. Your best move is to say that you see the situation differently. Use a kind and respectful tone. And say it’s OK when people see things in different ways, as long as they and others are safe.

If the person under your care stops taking medication or refuses treatment, seek professional help. Talk with the person’s doctor about what you should do. Or take your loved one to the emergency room if you are seriously concerned for his health.

There are times when a person’s lack of insight may cause an unsafe situation. Call the police or hospital for help if you witness dangerous behavior.

Seek Support

Caring for a person with anosognosia can be very challenging. Remember, you’re not alone. Many other caregivers also struggle to help someone who lacks insight. A caregiver support group can help you cope with your feelings. Fellow caregivers can also offer advice and recommend local services. Visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness at www.nami.org for a variety of caregiver support resources.

Key Takeaways

  • About half of people who have schizophrenia don’t understand that they have a mental illness. This is called anosognosia, or “lack of insight into being ill.”
  • People with anosognosia truly believe their delusions are real. They may be less likely to take medication and get treatment.
  • Your best response is to respectfully say that you see the situation differently. Say that it’s OK when people see things in different ways, as long as they and others are safe.
  • Instead of trying to convince the person that he’s sick, ask him about his goals. Use this as a springboard to discussing the next steps in treatment.