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7 First Steps If You Think You Have Schizophrenia

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Stop. Take a deep breath. I know your mind is swimming with thoughts and fears and maybe even symptoms. But take another deep breath. You are going to be OK.

1. First thing’s first: Make an appointment with a psychiatrist.

One of the most important things you can do is make an appointment with a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner. Schizophrenia is complicated and nuanced, so it’s important to find someone who specializes in psychiatry rather than your primary care doctor.

It’s also important not to jump to conclusions. There are actually many illnesses that can have symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are all among those that can have psychotic features. This isn’t to say mental illnesses with psychotic features are any less serious than schizophrenia, but they can play out in different ways.

2. Write down what you’re feeling and experiencing.

It can be so easy to forget details or even entire events when it feels like everything is spinning out of control. There have been numerous times where I’ll experience symptoms, intend to tell my doctor, and completely forget about them at my appointment. But the more detail your mental health professional has, the better they will be able to understand what you’re going through. When possible, keep notes about what you’re experiencing — and not just what you think are symptoms. Adding more detail can also potentially help you and your doctor identify any symptoms you may not have caught and any potential triggers to your symptoms.

3. In your search for treatment, don’t underestimate the power of therapy. 

If your chosen psychiatric professional doesn’t do talk therapy, look into finding a therapist. Medications for schizophrenia can be very hit or miss, so you can’t always rely on them to resolve all of your symptoms on their own. Talking about what you’re experiencing and exploring what’s behind that can help you identify and address triggers and also plan for what to do when those triggers arise. In my own experience with talk therapy for psychosis, it’s helped me work through feelings of shame, better understand my illness, and also figure out ways to manage symptoms in ways my medication doesn’t, like how to get organized when my cognitive symptoms come on strong.

4. Don’t believe the stereotypes about schizophrenia. 

There is life after this diagnosis and you will not automatically become the kind of person the media describes. No matter how scary the media makes schizophrenia out to be, this diagnosis does not change who you are as a person. Having schizophrenia does not mean you will be violent or dangerous. It does not mean you have anything to be ashamed of. And it does not mean you are anything less than human. You are important, you matter, and you are still you — just with some additional obstacles.

5. Find people in whom you feel safe confiding. 

Disclosure can be a huge hurdle in life with any mental illness, and the stigma surrounding schizophrenia can make it even more daunting. But having a support system can be vital in navigating life with a serious mental illness. Having someone who can check in with you or in whom you can confide can ease the burden this diagnosis lays across your shoulders. They may not know what to do or may not fully understand what you’re going through, but they can still offer support. In addition to your local support system, finding others with schizophrenia and related disorders either in person or on social media can help you feel less alone and give you the opportunity to connect with people with similar experiences.

6. Don’t forget about self-care. 

Having symptoms and going through the diagnostic process and treatment is a lot to handle! Even if it feels unimportant or awkward, make time to take care of yourself. Take a bath, curl up under a blanket with a cup of hot tea, go for a walk, unplug from the world for a bit — whatever makes you feel calm and centered. Taking even a few minutes of self-care time on a daily basis can help make your recovery a little easier to tackle.

7. But above all else, keep in mind treatment looks different for everyone. 

The truth about schizophrenia is it’s unpredictable and impacts people in all different kinds of ways based off of many different factors. So, it’s important to remember what works for other people may not work for you. For some people, medication is great. For others, not so much. And that’s OK. Don’t forget, there are other options in addition to medications. Talk therapy can be very helpful for people with schizophrenia. Focus on what works for you, take care of yourself, and surround yourself with people who support you. The stereotype, the stigma, and the shame may be ringing in your ears, but stop. Take a breath. You are still you. And you can do this.

This story originally appeared on [CREDIT SOURCE HERE]
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Originally published: October 2, 2021
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