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Living Well With Schizophrenia

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2023

The symptoms of schizophrenia can impact many areas of life, including work, relationships, travel, and more. Each area brings its own unique needs. Learning what your “new normal” is may be challenging.1

Working with schizophrenia

Schizophrenia symptoms can make it hard to do well at work. In some cases, “positive” symptoms, like hallucinations or delusions, may make previous job duties impossible. “Negative” symptoms, like lack of motivation, can decrease the desire to do well on assignments and tasks. Cognitive symptoms, like trouble thinking or concentrating, can also make functioning in a work setting challenging.2

For those who can and want to work, some common resources can make it possible. In the workplace setting, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that employers cannot make hiring decisions based on a person’s health needs. It also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations so that someone with extra needs can complete the responsibilities of their job.3

Human resource representatives at your work can help you request accommodations if you need them. Case managers at your healthcare clinic also can connect you with sources of support.4

If you are unable to work, you can apply for financial disability benefits through the federal government. But this can be a challenging process to navigate. Disability attorneys, case managers or social workers may be helpful with this, too.4

Going to school with schizophrenia

Some people are diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child or young teenager, when they are still in school. Like workplaces, schools have laws that require schools to grant accommodations. Certain health conditions allow kids to qualify for an IEP (Individualized Educational Program) or a 504 Plan.5,6

Both options allow kids to have reasonable schedule changes or extra support in school so that they can perform to the best of their ability. This support may include extra breaks or more time to do assignments. It might also allow kids to have extra learning style testing or an aide in the classroom. Communicating your child’s needs with their teachers and school staff can help create the best plan for everyone involved.5,6

Sexual health and relationships

Some drugs used to treat schizophrenia affect sexual desire and function. Negative symptoms, like difficulty feeling pleasure, can affect sex drive and enjoyment. Stigma related to schizophrenia and other physical symptoms can lower self-esteem, too.7,8

All of these issues may affect a person’s desire to form relationships or have sex. However, there are ways to manage this. Doctors can help manage treatment-related side effects. Working with a therapist on ways to navigate some of these emotions can be helpful as well.7,8

Financial impact of schizophrenia

Treating any health condition can be expensive. This is especially true if you do not have insurance or are missing work to take care of health needs. Having to stop working as a result of schizophrenia also can lead to serious financial strain. Caregivers, too, spend large amounts of money out of pocket to help care for someone with schizophrenia.9

In this case, a case manager or social worker at your healthcare clinic may be able to help. They can often point you and your family toward resources for support. Support may include setting up payment plans for hospital bills, navigating health insurance issues, and helping with immediate needs like housing and food.10

Traveling and driving with schizophrenia

Traveling can be stressful but rewarding. Some people may think that having a long-term mental health condition like schizophrenia makes travel impossible. Thankfully, this is not the case. There may be extra steps to consider, but with the right planning, people with schizophrenia can travel safely.11,12

Talk with your doctor before you leave to help make sure you are taking care of potential hurdles in advance. Ways to reduce the risk of problems occurring during travel include the following:11,12

  • Consider where to pack prescription drugs and how much to bring
  • Plan to adjust treatment schedules to new time zones before you leave
  • Make a list of emergency contacts for potential care
  • Bring a loved one along for the trip

You and your doctor also can talk through driving. There are no laws in the United States that say a person with schizophrenia cannot drive. In fact, as many as 2 out of every 3 people with stable schizophrenia are safe to drive in certain situations. But many medicines are sedating and should be asked about when discussing driving with your doctor.13,14

The ability to drive can also change over time. For example, if you are having worsening symptoms or develop a new side effect that makes driving unsafe, you may need to take a break. Carefully think through your decision about whether and when to drive.13,14

Tips for remembering medicines

Taking all medicines as prescribed is called treatment adherence. Regular treatment adherence is key in managing schizophrenia. When you do not take drugs at the same time each day or you skip doses, your symptoms can get worse.15

But, of course, life can be busy. It may be hard to remember to take your medicines each day. You do not have to be perfect. The important thing is to try your best to stay as close to the plan as possible. A few common strategies that may help you follow your treatment schedule are:15,16

  • Store pills in a weekly pillbox and prefill them each week so you (or a caregiver) can see what pills were taken and when
  • Pair when you take your drugs with something else you do each day, like brushing your teeth
  • Set an alarm on your phone or watch to remind you to take pills at the same time every day
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are confused about when to take your medicine or how to manage any side effects
  • Set up automatic prescription refill programs at your pharmacy so you will not have to remember to refill pills manually.
  • Enroll in mail-order services for your prescriptions to save you a trip to the pharmacy
  • Set up transportation in advance if you have to go to your doctor’s office for treatment regularly

Beyond remembering to take your drugs, it is important to understand your medication treatment plan, and discuss ways to stick to it. Having side effects or symptoms that do not fully respond to treatment can impact this desire. If you are unhappy with your current treatment plan, talk with your healthcare team. They may have other options to recommend. Some drugs come in different forms or can be taken less often.17

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