What is schizophrenia?

What treatment is available?

Page last updated: May 2007

The most effective treatment for schizophrenia involves medication, psychological therapy and support with managing its impact on everyday life.

Education about the illness and learning to respond effectively to the early warning signs of an episode are important.

The development of anti-psychosis medications has revolutionised the treatment of schizophrenia. Now, most people can live in the community rather than be hospitalised. Some people are never hospitalised and their health care is delivered entirely in the community.

Medications work by correcting the chemical imbalance in the brain associated with the illness. Newer, but well-tested, medications promote a more complete recovery and have fewer side effects.

Schizophrenia is an illness, like many physical illnesses. Just as insulin is a lifeline for a person with diabetes, anti-psychosis medications can be a lifeline for a person with schizophrenia. As with diabetes, some people will need to take medication indefinitely to keep symptoms under control and prevent recurrent episodes of psychosis.

Lifestyle changes, such as reducing harmful alcohol and other drug use and other triggers of episodes, can assist people to recover.

Although there is no known cure for schizophrenia, regular contact with a doctor or psychiatrist and possibly a multidisciplinary team (that might comprise mental health nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and psychologists) can help people to manage their symptoms and live full and productive lives.

Peer support can also be a valuable source of support, useful information and hope.

Sometimes, specific therapies directed towards symptoms, such as delusions, can be helpful. Physical health problems also need to be attended to.

Psychiatric disability rehabilitation services and support can help with problems related to work, finances, accommodation, social relationships and loneliness.

The family and friends of people with schizophrenia can often feel confused and distressed. Support and education, as well as better community understanding, are an important part of treatment.