Coping with a loved one’s schizophrenia during the holiday season can be challenging. Knowing how to connect and help the individual remain engaged in family activities can ensure that the holidays remain joyous for all parties involved.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), schizophrenia affects approximately 1 percent of the U.S. population. Symptoms usually first develop between the ages of 16 and 30. There are many misconceptions about schizophrenia, including confusion between it and dissociative identity disorder (DID) and a misrepresentation of its relationship to violence. As a 2011 publication authored by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine notes, those with schizophrenia are at an “increased risk of becoming victims of violence in the community setting, with risks up to 14 times the rate of being victimized compared with being arrested as a perpetrator.”
The holidays can present obstacles for family members taking care of loved ones with schizophrenia. It can be tempting to forgo medications or skip regular therapy sessions due to holiday festivities or out-of-town guests. However, maintaining treatment plans is essential during this season. Many people with schizophrenia reject treatment in general or do not have the financial means to receive adequate care. This often leads to homelessness, unemployment and alienation from family and friends.
Primary symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations and delusions. The former are sensations experienced by an individual that have no basis in reality. Examples include seeing a person who is not really there, smelling something that does not exist or hearing voices inside his or her head. Delusions are false beliefs, such as an individual’s delusion that everyone is trying to kill him or her.
Knowing how to respond to comments regarding hallucinations or delusions can make a huge difference to the individual experiencing these symptoms. Challenging the reality of someone with schizophrenia is futile and can trigger arguments and negative emotions that are best avoided during the holidays. It can also be dangerous to validate these thoughts, as it reinforces that hallucinations and delusions are real. Mental health professionals recommend that loved ones acknowledge that they see things differently and, without picking a fight, move on to another subject.
This can be easier said than done. With other stressors during the holiday season, arguments might occur or an individual’s symptoms might be exacerbated. If your loved one is struggling with schizophrenia, help is available. Call Sovereign Health Group today to speak with a professional.
Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health writer