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page 6.Schizophrenia:Understanding the Disorder



††††††††††††††† Side Effects:


††††††† For some individuals, the side effects of their medications can cause many problems.It is the group of side effects know as extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) thatare the most debilitating.Uncontrollable restlessness, muscle stiffness, tremors and involuntary movements characterize these side effects.These people may further isolate themselves from family and friends because they are embarrassed by these side effects, and are unable to control them.They may decide to stop their medication.Family members may think that extrapyramidal symptoms are part of the disease itself.


††††††† That is why it is important for individuals and families to monitor drug doses regularly, and to know and understand the side effects of particular antipsychotics.


††††††††††††††† Psychosocial Therapy and Social Support:


††††††† Psychotherapy and rehabilitation go hand in hand with the use of medication in the treatment of schizophrenia.Especially when the acute phase of the disorder is over, many people need help to rebuild their lives so that they can make the best use of their capabilities- enabling†† them to work, and build personal and social relationships.Supportive therapy is important for individuals living with schizophrenia;to provide them with encouragement, friendship and good practical advice on how to manage their day.Teaching of life skills Ė the management of medication, keeping appointments, learning to socialize again, getting a job Ė are all part of the rehabilitation process.Tragically, because the disorder afflicts many people while in the full bloom of youth, they havenít even had the opportunity to learn these basic life skills yet.Itís as if they did not get the chance to fully mature.So rehabilitation can be very challenging.


††††††† For most individuals, one big key in the treatment of their disease is acceptance.This is also true of the family that surrounds the person with schizophrenia.Acknowledgement that the disease is real, that it is not likely to go away, and that it may put limitations on what the person can do, will make it easier for everyone.


††††††††††††††† The Cost of Schizophrenia:


††††††† In addition to the emotional strain caused by schizophrenia, families and people with the disorder must deal with additional financial costs, primarily due to the loss of employment.Although some people with schizophrenia are able to work, many cannot.


††††††† The burden on the healthcare system is very real as well.In fact, schizophrenia is the number one mental health care cost.In Canada alone, total costs are well over two billion dollars per year.The largest contributor to these costs is hospitalization.


††††††† Early treatment of the disorder is critical.It has been suggested that delays in treating the early episodes of schizophrenia with medication may result in a poorer long-term outcome for individuals.At any time, over 50% of the repeat admissions to hospitals for mental illness are individuals with schizophrenia.With early treatment, with the best medications, relapses may be minimized.Costs to people with schizophrenia, their families and the healthcare system can therefore be reduced.