Responding to behaviour and symptoms

Those close to people with schizophrenia are often unsure of how to respond when patients make statements that seem strange or are clearly false.

For the person with schizophrenia, the bizarre beliefs or hallucinations are quite real. They are not just imaginary. Instead of ‘going along with’ a person’s delusions, family members or friends can tell the person that they do not see things the same way or do not agree with his or her statements, while acknowledging that things may appear otherwise to the patient.

Caregivers should be careful not to challenge the person with schizophrenia’s beliefs but, at the same time, should not follow or agree with a patient's delusions. Doing this may undermine their self-esteem and coping strategies, which could lead to relapse. With the full agreement of the patient, it may also be useful for those who know the person with schizophrenia well, to keep a record of what types of symptoms have appeared, what medications (including dosage) have been taken, and what effects various treatments have had on the patient. By recognizing previous symptoms, family members can look out for signs of a relapse. Families may even be able to identify some early warning signs of potential relapses, such as increased withdrawal or changes in sleep patterns. Thus, the return of psychosis may be detected early and treatment may prevent a full-blown relapse. By knowing which medications have helped and which have caused troublesome side-effects in the past, the family can help those treating the patient to find the best treatment more quickly.