A study published this April has found that a new, holistic treatment method may benefit individuals living with schizophrenia more than medication alone.
The results of this study were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Why does schizophrenia need new treatment methods?
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental illness that can result in symptoms including delusions, hallucinations, blunted emotions, disorganized thoughts and numerous cognitive impairments. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that roughly 1.2 percent of all Americans are living with schizophrenia in any given year.
The most common way in which clinicians treat schizophrenia is through the use of antipsychotic medication. Antipsychotics, while effective, sometimes result in uncomfortable side effects including weight gain, extreme drowsiness and emotional numbing.
For this reason, researchers hope to find ways to treat schizophrenia that are less reliant on high doses of medication.
A group of researchers led by Dr. John M. Kane, chairman of psychiatry department at Hofstra North-Shore-LIJ School of Medicine investigated the efficacy of a new treatment method to treat schizophrenia.
This new treatment plan includes three components in addition to the standard medication.
- As part of the first component, clinicians offer patients assistance with work or school, such as helping decide which classes or opportunities are the most appropriate given a person’s symptoms.
- In the second component, the clinicians educate family members to increase their understanding of schizophrenia and make them more efficient allies.
- In the third component, patients receive regular one-on-one talk therapy in which they learn tools to build social relationships, reduce substance abuse and manage their symptoms.
To test the efficacy of this treatment plan, the researchers recruited 404 patients who had recently experienced their first episode of psychosis. These patients were located in 34 community care clinics across 21 states.
Patients were randomly assigned to receive the new treatment plan or treatment as usual. Both groups were monitored by clinicians and instructed to regularly rate their symptom severity and quality of life. The researchers also monitored how well the patients were getting along with their family members and whether or not they were working.
On average, the patients in the new treatment program experienced more symptom relief than the patients who received antipsychotics alone. Patients in the new treatment program also reported better functioning, including an increased ability to maintain a job and more positive social relationships. The researchers also found that the sooner patients started this new treatment method, the better their outcome.
What does this mean?
This new, in-depth treatment plan appears to be more effective than previous treatment methods at reducing symptoms and increasing the quality of life for people with schizophrenia. Ideally, this treatment program will also reduce reliance on antipsychotics which, while effective, can sometimes result in unpleasant symptoms.
More research will be necessary before this treatment program becomes widespread. In the meantime, clinicians should do what they can to provide their patients with holistic, personalized treatment.
At Sovereign Health, we pride ourselves on offering our patients individualized, customized treatment plans best suited to their unique challenges. Our comprehensive treatment program is specifically designed to help our patients to regain control over their mental and emotional state. For more information, contact our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Courtney Lopresti, M.S., is a senior staff writer for the Sovereign Health Group, where she uses her scientific background to write online blogs and articles for a general audience. At the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her master’s in neuroscience, she used functional neuroimaging to study how the human cerebellum contributes to language processing. In her spare time, she writes fiction, reads Oliver Sacks and spends time with her two cats and bird. Courtney is currently located in Minneapolis. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.