4 Tips for Preventing a Schizophrenia Relapse

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If you have schizophrenia, you’ve probably been working with your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you. Successfully managing symptoms is a big step in living a productive life with the illness.

As part of a successful plan, it’s extremely important to guard against relapse—when your symptoms come back or get worse. Unfortunately, relapses are common for people with schizophrenia. But you can help take control of your illness and reduce your risk with these four steps:  

1. Take Your Medication as Prescribed

It’s essential to take your antipsychotic medication exactly as it’s been prescribed, even if you’re feeling fine or don’t believe you need it. Relapses occur most often because people stop taking their medication or don’t take it consistently.

Never stop taking antipsychotic medication or other medications prescribed by a doctor on your own. If you have concerns about your medication for any reason, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can also help if you have trouble remembering whether you’ve taken your medications. Bring this up during your next visit.

2. Participate in Therapy

If your doctor has prescribed psychosocial therapy to help treat your illness, make sure you participate. This type of counseling can help you learn to cope with stress and with the challenges of the illness, such as difficulties finding work or forming close relationships.

Also, the skills you learn through the therapy can make a difference in how your illness progresses. People with schizophrenia who undergo regular psychosocial treatment are more likely to keep taking their medication and have a greater awareness of their illness. In turn, they have fewer relapses. 

3. Focus on Lifestyle

How you live each day can also decrease your risk for relapse. Healthy lifestyle habits are important. For example, studies show that substance abuse can greatly increase your risk for relapse. Try to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

Staying physically healthy can also help your psychiatric well-being. Try to reduce or stop smoking, eat healthfully, and exercise regularly. If you’re struggling with any of these issues, bring them up with your doctor.

4. Address Early Symptoms of Relapse

Often, people with schizophrenia experience early warning signs before a relapse occurs. Be on the lookout for these signs. Listen to people close to you who may point out symptoms that they’re concerned about. If you think you may be at risk for a relapse, call your doctor. Getting treatment can help prevent it.

Some common early warning signs of relapse include:

  • Absent-mindedness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Difficulty distinguishing what’s real and what’s imagined

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Disinterest in people

  • Feeling more distrustful  or irritable

  • Slipping hygiene

  • Unexplained fear or anxiety

Key Takeaways

  • Relapses occur most often because people stop taking their medication or don’t take it consistently. It’s essential to take your antipsychotic medication exactly as prescribed.

  • If your doctor has prescribed psychosocial therapy, make sure you participate.

  • Try to stay away from drugs and alcohol, reduce or stop smoking, eat healthfully, and exercise regularly.

  • Be on the lookout for early warning signs of a relapse, such as absent-mindedness, difficulty sleeping, disinterest in people, and unexplained anxiety.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 28

  1. The Difficulty in Seeing Your Own Illness, National Alliance of Mental Health, January 24, 2014. http://www.nami.org/ADVTemplate.cfm?Section=20111&Template=%2FContentManagement%2FContentDisplay.cfm...

  2. Schizophrenia, National Institutes of Mental Health, Accessed January 24, 2014.  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml

  3. Relapse of Schizophrenia, U.S. Office of Veterans Affairs.  http://www.veteranshealthlibrary.org/MentalHealth/Schizophrenia/About/142,AA48178_VA

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