Schizophrenia is a serious and often debilitating condition that wreaks havoc on the lives of those who are diagnosed as well as their loved ones. Helping someone cope with a dual diagnosis of schizophrenia and depression can be especially difficult, but it is not an impossible feat. Helping someone with schizophrenia also deal with depression requires a significant amount of patience, understanding, and most of all, compassion.
Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder (a rare but chronic mental health condition in which a person will experience symptoms that are inherent in both schizophrenia and mood disorders like depression) are difficult to cope with, but there are proactive ways of helping individuals with these symptoms.
Learn About How These Symptoms Interact
First and foremost, it is crucial to learn about how symptoms of schizophrenia and depression interact. About 25% of people with schizophrenia also meet the criteria for a depression diagnosis. A person who is experiencing these symptoms is not deliberately trying to be difficult to deal with and might not be fully aware of how their words and actions are affecting themselves and others. A good place to start learning is by finding a licensed psychiatrist who can answer your questions. They can also help explain the difference between positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
Learn About Diagnoses and Available Treatment Options
Additionally, a psychiatrist can provide you with resources for treating your loved one’s condition. There are various types of inpatient and outpatient treatments. There are specialized treatment centers that deal with schizophrenia, including paranoid schizophrenia treatment centers located in Washington and other states.
You might also want to encourage your loved one to visit their primary care physician, who can order lab work to rule out the possibility of other explanations, such as thyroid or pituitary gland dysfunction or autoimmune disorders. Symptoms of these disorders can mimic both schizophrenia and depression.
Note Changes in Symptoms Over Time
A person with schizophrenia who is also dealing with depression might experience changes in symptoms over time. They might not always be aware of this, but your outsider’s perspective can help them with tracking these changes. Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are not static over time in any individual, but changes in those with schizophrenia and depression should be noted so that the individual can receive proper treatment and feel supported by their loved ones.
Empower the Individual
As researchers into schizophrenia note, it is crucial that you empower your loved one throughout their struggles with schizophrenia and depression. This provides that person with the best chance for a successful recovery outcome. You can help them establish, meet, and build upon their goals without sacrificing your own. Even checking in with your loved one every few days to see how they are doing with their goals can be extremely helpful (as long as you don’t come off as being pushy).
Your support and compassion should not waiver. Even though it can be difficult, acting as a reliable system of support for your loved one is the biggest and most important step you can take in helping them cope with schizophrenia and depression. Remind them that they are not in this fight alone.
You will need to maintain boundaries (for example, letting them know you won’t do things for them that you know they are capable of doing for themselves) and speak slowly and clearly so that your loved one will be able to focus on and correctly interpret your words. Of course, you need to do this consistently but without being condescending toward or lecturing your loved one.
Remember, you cannot cure someone’s mental illness. There is no magical treatment to get rid of depression or schizophrenia for good. Despite your absolute best efforts, their symptoms might stay the same or even get worse. Refrain from dedicating all of your energy to their recovery (since that can lead to some pretty tough feelings, such as resentment), but allow the individual time to go through the motions. Having your shoulder to lean on is often one of the best things you can give to someone dealing with schizophrenia and depression.