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5 Schizophrenia Coping Skills I Couldn’t Live Without

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Schizoaffective disorder — a disorder that is a combination of schizophrenia and, in my case, major depressive disorder (MDD) — is a big part of my life. I often find that my symptoms dictate what I am able to do and what I am not able to do in my daily life. Fortunately, I do have certain coping mechanisms that make the days easier and allow me to find some reprieve from my illness. My hope is that if you struggle with schizophrenia yourself, the following coping mechanisms might give you some absolution from your illness as well.

1. Cuddling With My Emotional Support Animal, Fat Louie the Cat

I have an emotional support animal (ESA) — a cat named Fat Louie. Having an ESA helps me understand whether the hallucinations I experience are real or not. This is because if Fat Louie acts like he can see what I am seeing then I know it is real, but if he doesn’t, then he helps me to understand that I am experiencing hallucinations. He also helps to comfort me when I am experiencing major depression episodes, and he gives me complete, unlimited love. Without Louie, I am not sure how I might be able to understand whether or not what I am experiencing is a hallucination, or something real. I fully understand that Fat Louie has been a lifesaver in helping me live a manageable life.

2. Putty

This coping mechanism might come off as simplistic but to me, it is a lifesaver. I have a collection of different fidget putties and dough that help me when I am hallucinating by giving me a forum for grounding. When I am hallucinating, I find that it feels like I am floating or that I am not completely in my body, but when I have some putty or dough to fidget with, I am feel more securely in my body, and I am able to have a better chance at staying grounded. Putty and dough also help me when I am experiencing intense anxiety, and I am forever grateful for these coping mechanisms.

3. Warming Pad

Like the putty and dough, having a heating pad helps to comfort me when I become irritated due to hallucinations. This form of irritation can become debilitating because it interrupts my ability to stay grounded and have comfort staying in the present moment. Warming pads and warming stuffed animals with lavender bring me a sense of comfort and stabilization that I wouldn’t trade for anything else.

4. A Cold Bowl of Water

This coping mechanism directly challenges the mechanism above, but it is just as important. When I am experiencing strong hallucinations and severe anxiety, almost nothing can relieve me from the distress; however, a cold bowl of water where I can dunk my face helps to almost zap me out of what I am experiencing. It is during these times of severe distress that I need stronger treatments, and the bowl of cold water has helped me on many occasions.

5. Television and Music

I often experience auditory hallucinations that cause me a lot of irritation and distress, but I have found that watching comforting shows or listening to music I enjoy often helps to bring me some relief when I am having an episode. Watching shows or listening to music can also aid in drowning out the voices, or giving me something else to focus on, which aids me in my grounding.

Schizophrenia is a severe and debilitating mental illness, but I have found that the above coping mechanisms have aided me through many episodes. My hope is that learning more about my coping mechanisms will help you to understand schizophrenia more or provide you with some tools to add to your toolbox should you also live with schizophrenia. Living with this illness can often be difficult, but there are ways to manage the symptoms and live a unique life.

Photo by Oleg Ivanov on Unsplash

Originally published: April 4, 2022
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