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My 3-Step Process for Navigating Schizophrenia Treatment

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

It can easily feel like you’re completely powerless in your schizophrenia treatment. The doctor prescribes you some pills or injections and then … what? You just sit around and wait for things to get better? Well, you can do that, I suppose. That’s certainly what I did in the first few years after being diagnosed. But, it’s not something I would recommend. I’ll be honest, those first few years really sucked. Until I approached my schizophrenia treatment as a scientist would.

To me, the three key things a scientist does are: Observe, hypothesize and experiment, research.

1. Observe the facts.

Very often, my schizophrenia can lead me to think and believe some very unbelievable things. When I observe the facts, however, those thoughts end up being at odds with reality. As an example, I have been struggling with a delusion over the past couple of years that an old friend from high school living in another city has been stalking me. What brought this delusion to a terrifying climax was when he popped up in my contact recommendations on LinkedIn. I looked at his profile and found out he was living where I lived.

I immediately began to panic. Was my delusion true? Was this guy actually stalking me these last few years? I decided to take my own advice I made in this YouTube video where I mention the value of being vulnerable and honest about symptoms with other people. In short, I decided to reach out to this high school friend and tell him about my delusion. Sure enough, we had a pleasant back-and-forth text message conversation where he revealed he’s only been living where I live for the past six months and he has his fiancé as an alibi for that claim. I knew this was true because when I first called him, his fiancé answered the phone and also told me when they moved here.

Knowing the facts help differentiate delusion from reality.

In that instance, I can observe the facts about my delusion this guy is stalking me. The truth of the situation is my delusional thoughts do not add up with the undeniable facts which I am presented. And, just to pile more facts on, I am an extremely boring and unremarkable person by most measure. It would be a waste of time for someone to watch me sit on the computer all day. All in all, I can use my scientific power of observation to know better if my delusions are actually delusions or not.

2. With your doctor, experiment with your schizophrenia treatment.

There are multitudes of scientific papers and claims all over the internet that tout remedies and potential treatments for schizophrenia. At the end of the day, I’ve found the right medication will often do the majority of that work. However, most medication does not always take you to 100%. To take you the rest of the way there, you’ll need to find additional tools in your tool belt for your schizophrenia treatment. Of course, any treatment you try should be in addition to taking your medication.

What you end up experimenting with is up to you. I have experimented with a lot of different things. The ones I have found best for me include a low-carbohydrate diet to reduce my positive symptoms, and weight lifting to reduce my negative symptoms. Others have found megadosing the vitamins niacin and vitamin C to be helpful. However, there is also science that cautions the use of this practice. This leads me to the next part of approaching your self-care like a scientist.

3. Research, read and consult with your doctor before experimenting.

If someone told you drinking bleach would cure your psychotic symptoms, would you believe them? I would hope you would completely dismiss it. Yet, some claims can sound more believable, like sticking to a gluten-free diet to reduce symptoms. As always, with any believable claim, I like to find research that backs this stuff up.

My go-to for finding evidence is PubMed, a government website that lets you easily search for scientific papers. You don’t have to read the whole paper. Generally, there’s enough information in the abstract and  conclusion sections to give you an idea if something is true or not. The key to reading any of these studies, in my opinion, is ensuring their conclusions come from a double-blind experiment. If the conclusions aren’t based on double-blind experiments, I tend to assume the conclusion is an anecdote and not necessarily worthy of taking too seriously.

That being said, if you want to try it for yourself, consult with your doctor. For most people, there’s no harm in changing your diet or taking a vitamin. So long as your doctor believes it will be safe for you to try, there’s no harm in making yourself a guinea pig. The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work. Alternatively, the best that can happen is your life can be completely transformed for the better, as weightlifting did for me.

A version of this article was originally published on Ian Rand Mckenzie.

Getty image by Ju Photographer

Originally published: March 19, 2021
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