December 20, 2016

Why Schizophrenia Is Difficult To Treat

Schizophrenia is a fairly common type of mental illness. About one in hundred persons suffer from this debilitating condition.  In spite of this being a common condition, schizophrenia is difficult to treat. A large number of schizophrenic patients don’t receive treatment. Worse still, very few patients who start a treatment regime stick to it. There are several reasons for this.

Major Side effects

Schizophrenia medication is highly effective and can treat several symptoms of the illness like delusions and hallucinations. About 80 percent of the people who receive the treatment will not have another psychotic episode. What, then, is the problem? The problem is that schizophrenia patients simply don’t take their medication. There are several reasons for this. Schizophrenia medication can produce several side effects. These include the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle movement disorders
  • Blurry vision
  • Blood sugar and blood pressure problems
  • Sexual dysfunction

The side effects prevent the patient from taking the medication. Unfortunately when they stop taking the medication, they fall into psychosis. At this stage, it is not possible for them to work with a therapist or a doctor.

Most patients suffering from schizophrenia don’t understand the gravity of their illness or the need for medication. People who aren’t aware of their condition will assume that they don’t need treatment.

Schizophrenia patients are also more likely to suffer from depression and substance abuse. Because of these additional problems, treating schizophrenia becomes even more difficult. Sometimes it is also misdiagnosed as depression or drug addiction. In addition, schizophrenia patients who do drugs are much less likely to stick to a treatment plan.

Social, financial, and environmental factors also make schizophrenia difficult to treat. The illness can strain relationships and many patients are not in touch with their family. As a result, they lack an emotional or financial support system. Many of them are homeless. This is probably because many patients develop the illness in their twenties. This is the age when they should be looking for a job. Since the symptoms of their illness can be quite severe, many of them find it difficult to find a job. Those who have a job get fired because they are no longer able to do justice to it. The joblessness easily leads to homelessness and homeless patients are less likely to seek or receive treatment. A large number of schizophrenia patients live in jails. This also makes it difficult for them to receive proper treatment.

The main goal of schizophrenia treatment should be reducing the severity of symptoms and preventing the chances of relapse. It is not easy to define relapse. However, the worsening of symptoms, exhibition of suicidal or homicidal tendencies, and the need for re-hospitalization are all considered as relapse.

Schizophrenia is a chronic disorder and therefore it needs long term treatment. Other treatment options like stress management, education, and psychotherapy can also delay the occurrence of relapse. Even so antipsychotic therapy is the most effective treatment for the prevention of relapse. Therefore, it is crucial that the patient adheres to a treatment regimen.

It is not easy for clinicians to assess the patient’s adherence to medication. Most of them seek reports from the patients themselves, their family, and caregivers. However, such information can be inaccurate. The clinician may also try to obtain plasma levels of some antipsychotics to determine whether the patient is taking the medication. This, again, does not always produce accurate reports because this method is not good at discovering partial adherence. Some patients tend to produce better results with injectable antipsychotic drugs that produce long-acting results. This does not mean that injectable drugs are a panacea for the illness.

How To Improve Treatment Outcome

Clinicians should involve family members in the treatment plan. They should inform the patient and their family how important it is to take the medicines. When the family is actively involved in the treatment, the patient is more likely to recover from the condition.

Patients suffering from schizophrenia suffer from acute cases of depression and social anxiety. They have trouble interacting with others. They are also more likely to get into drug and alcohol abuse. Each of these problems can affect the patient’s quality of life and the outcome of the treatment. About one-half of schizophrenia patients use alcohol or other drugs. This increases their chances of relapse. They are also more likely to get involved in violent activities. They may even commit suicide.

To conclude, schizophrenia is a treatable illness. However, the patient needs to follow a drug regimen. One way of improving the outcome is to ensure the active participation of family and caregivers in the treatment plan.