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When to Get Help for Schizophrenia

It can be hard to know when you or a loved one who experiences schizophrenia needs mental health treatment. You may feel fear and uncertainty. You may hope that ignoring what’s happening will mean that everything will get better on its own. It can be especially hard on caregivers when a loved one may not see the need for treatment or may actively refuse to get help. There are different levels of care and a range of services that can help. Some are more appropriate during different phases of the illness. As a Veteran who experiences schizophrenia, it is important that you find the treatment that is right for you and in line with your goals and values. As a caregiver, being fully informed of treatment options will help you be an effective support for your loved one.

Recognizing early signs of trouble

The earlier you can get help the better. You can talk with your family member about signs that you are feeling badly and make a plan for what to do when you see those signs. Some of the more common early signs of developing schizophrenia or having a psychotic episode include:

  • Changes in mood or behavior

  • Believing that people are following you or out to harm you

  • Isolating yourself at home and refusing to engage in activities or see other people

  • Having disorganized thoughts that, when expressed, are difficult to understand

If you are experiencing these signs, you will often have trouble:

  • Performing well at work or in school

  • Maintaining relationships with other people

  • Taking care of yourself

If these sorts of experiences last longer than 1 week or if they interfere with your life, talk with a healthcare provider about your concerns. It is important to note that these signs mean that you need to see a healthcare provider. They do not mean that you or your loved one has schizophrenia.

Many of these signs may have other causes, such as:

  • Medical illness

  • Stress

  • Grief

  • Medicine side effects

  • Lack of sleep

Early diagnosis and treatment make addressing all problems much more effective. Talking to someone and getting their take on what is going on is an important step. It will help you identify problems and get help to solve them. There are many treatments that can help people who experience schizophrenia feel better and lead meaningful lives.

Who can treat schizophrenia?

There are a range of healthcare providers who can help diagnose schizophrenia. They may work together as a team to treat it. These include healthcare providers such as general doctors, family medicine doctors, and nurse practitioners, as well as mental health treatment experts such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors. The earlier you seek help and support from any of these healthcare providers, the sooner effective treatment can begin.

As a general rule, call a healthcare provider if you or a loved one experiences any of the following:

  • A sudden change in behavior, such as withdrawing from other people or refusing to leave the house because you believe that other people will harm you

  • Hearing things that other people don’t hear, such as hearing someone calling your name when no one is there

  • Talking with people who are not present or believing things that you know are false

  • Having difficulty taking care of yourself or becoming confused doing simple chores or tasks

  • Talking about death or that you or your family would be better off if you were dead

There will be times when getting treatment is urgently needed. There is no time to waste. In such cases, you or your loved ones should call 911 or other emergency services right away. Get help right away if:

  • You or your loved one are thinking about or threatening suicide

  • You or your loved one is hearing voices that tell you to hurt yourself or someone else or to do something illegal, such as destroy property or steal

  • You notice that your loved one is showing warning signs of violence towards others, such as thinking or talking about harming someone or becoming aggressive

Do you have thoughts about suicide?

If you or a loved one has thoughts about death or suicide, call 911 or the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) and press 1, or use other emergency services. Or you can chat with a trained counselor online at

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 3/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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