Most people with schizophrenia make a recovery, although many will experience the occasional return of symptoms (relapses).
Support and treatment can help you to manage your condition and the impact it has on your life.
Caring for your own health can also make treating your condition easier and help reduce anxiety, depression and fatigue. It can help you have a better quality of life and be more active and independent.
Self care includes:
maintaining good physical and mental health
preventing illness or accidents
effectively dealing with minor ailments and long-term conditions
As part of the care programme approach, you’ll be in contact with your healthcare team regularly.
Having a good relationship with the team means you can easily discuss your symptoms or concerns. The more they know, the more they can help you.
Spotting the signs of an acute schizophrenic episode
Learning to recognise the signs that you’re becoming unwell can help you manage your illness. Signs can include losing your appetite, feeling anxious or stressed, or having disturbed sleep.
You may also notice some milder symptoms developing, such as:
feeling suspicious or fearful
worrying about people’s motives
hearing quiet voices now and again
finding it difficult to concentrate
You may also want to ask someone you trust to tell you if they notice your behaviour changing.
Recognising the initial signs of an acute schizophrenic episode can be useful, as it may be prevented through the use of antipsychotic medicines and extra support.
If you have another acute episode of schizophrenia, your written care plan should be followed, particularly any advance statement or crisis plan.
Your care plan will include the likely signs of a developing relapse and the steps to take, including emergency contact numbers.
Read about treating schizophrenia for information about advance statements.
Taking your medicine
It’s important to take your medicine as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. Continuous medicine can help prevent relapses.
If you have questions or concerns about medicine you’re taking or any side effects, talk to your GP or care co-ordinator.
It may also be useful to read the information leaflet that comes with the medicine about possible interactions with other drugs or supplements.
It’s worth checking with your healthcare team if you plan to take any over-the-counter remedies, such as painkillers, or any nutritional supplements, as these can sometimes interfere with your medicine.
As well as monitoring your mental health, your healthcare team and GP should monitor your physical health.
A healthy lifestyle, including having a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables and taking regular exercise, is good for you and can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes. You should also try to avoid too much stress and have a regular sleep pattern.
You should have a check-up with a GP at least once a year to monitor your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes. This will include recording your weight, checking your blood pressure, and having any appropriate blood tests.
Rates of smoking in people with schizophrenia are 3 times higher than in the general population. If you’re a smoker, you’re at a higher risk of developing cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Stopping smoking has clear physical health benefits, but it’s also been shown to improve the mental health of people with schizophrenia.
Find out how stopping smoking can improve your mental health.
Research has shown you’re up to 4 times more likely to quit smoking if you use NHS support as well as stop smoking medicines, such as patches, gum or inhalators.
Ask your GP about this or go to the NHS Smokefree website to find out more.
If you take antipsychotic medicines and want to stop smoking, it’s very important to talk to your GP or psychiatrist before you stop.
The dosage of your prescription drugs may need to be monitored and the amount you have to take could be reduced.
Avoiding drugs and alcohol
While alcohol and drugs may provide short-term relief from your symptoms, they’re likely to make your symptoms worse in the long run.
Alcohol can cause depression and psychosis, while illegal drugs may make your schizophrenia worse. Drugs and alcohol can also react badly with antipsychotic medicines.
If you’re currently using drugs or alcohol and finding it hard to stop, ask your care co-ordinator or GP for help.
Rethink Mental Illness: wellbeing and physical health
Who is available to help me?
In the course of your treatment for schizophrenia, you’ll be involved with many different services. Some are accessed through referral from a GP, others through the local authority.
These services may include:
community mental health teams (CMHTs) – these provide the main part of local specialist mental health services, and offer assessment, treatment and social care to people living with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses
trained peer support – this involves the support of someone who has had schizophrenia themselves and is now stable, and may be available through your CMHT
early intervention teams – these provide early identification and treatment for people with the first symptoms of psychosis; your GP may be able to refer you directly to an early intervention team
crisis services – specialist mental health teams that help with crises that occur outside normal office hours and allow people to be treated at home for an acute episode of illness instead of in hospital
acute day hospitals – an alternative to inpatient care in a hospital, where you can visit every day or as often as necessary
assertive outreach teams – deliver intensive treatment and rehabilitation in the community for people with severe mental health problems and provide rapid help in a crisis situation; staff often visit people at home, act as advocates, liaise with other services (such as your GP or social services), and can also help with practical problems (such as helping find housing and work) and daily tasks (such as shopping and cooking)
advocates – trained and experienced workers who help people communicate their needs or wishes, get impartial information, and represent their views to other people; they can be based in your hospital or mental health support groups, or you can find an independent advocate to act on your behalf