Schizophrenia
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Anxiety Disorders
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Treatment - Family Support

Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Family Support

Family members can play an important role in helping to keep their schizophrenic relatives supported and oriented. Before they can be properly supportive, however, they must first understand and accept that schizophrenia is a disorder of the brain just like diabetes is a disorder of the body; not anyone's fault; and not an indication of moral or spiritual failure. Family members need to know this so that they do not blame their schizophrenic relatives for being schizophrenic, or think of them as willfully lazy. Patients are often incapacitated, and a drain on family energy and resources, but this is not intentional on the part of patients, who are in many ways victims more than anything else.

The single most important thing family members can do to support their ill relatives is to help them remain oriented and on task with their therapeutic routines; helping them stay on medications, and attend scheduled psychotherapy sessions and doctor visits, for instance. Family members can also benefit their ill relatives by helping them with with personal care, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting regular exercise (even if it's just a walk).

Therapy is work for schizophrenic patients, who already suffer from a condition that robs them of their better judgment. When left to their own devices, many schizophrenic patients are prone to avoid therapy or to attend it only intermittently. Either of these outcomes add up to trouble. Family members can thus help their schizophrenic relatives by continually encouraging them to keep their therapy appointments, and doing things to make it more likely that treatment is maintained.

Caring for sick relatives is frequently painful and heartbreaking. Family members may benefit from seeking out therapy for themselves as well as for their ill relatives. Participating in a self-help group for families of psychiatric patients is known to reduce family member's sense of burden, aloneness and stress.