Schizophrenia and addiction

There are many myths about schizophrenia. People often imagine that sufferers have conversations with voices in their heads or have two personas like Jekyll and Hyde. The reality is that schizophrenia is a real and serious mental health condition which is far more complex and can affect every part of a person’s life. Unfortunately, many people with schizophrenia also develop addiction issues with the two conditions constantly bouncing off each other and making the situation incredibly difficult to manage.

If you need support, there is real help available; Banbury Lodge has guided many people with addiction and schizophrenia along the path to a brighter future in recovery.

Schizophrenia and addiction - man looking concerned

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves. It is a chronic and disabling disorder that affects around 1% of people. Schizophrenia is now categorised as a spectrum disorder with varying symptoms and severity which makes it easier to diagnose and treat the condition than when it was split into separate types. The symptoms of schizophrenia can be chronic, meaning they last for a long time, and can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to function in everyday life.

The exact causes of schizophrenia are not fully understood but research has found that it is most likely a result of a combination of genetic, environmental, and brain chemistry factors. Some of the symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, disordered thinking, and abnormal behaviours.

There is a great degree of stigma around schizophrenia due to misconceptions about the condition. These include the belief that all people with schizophrenia are violent, that they have split personalities or that they are unable to function in society. However, these beliefs are generally inaccurate and can contribute to discrimination and prejudice against people with the disorder.

Common schizophrenia symptoms

The symptoms of schizophrenia can be classified into three categories: positive, negative and cognitive symptoms.

Positive schizophrenia symptoms…

Positive schizophrenia symptoms are those that are not normally present in healthy individuals. These symptoms can include:

  • Hallucinations – sensory experiences that are not based on reality
  • Delusions – fixed false beliefs that are not based on reality
  • Disordered thinking – when your thoughts do not flow logically

Negative schizophrenia symptoms…

Negative schizophrenia symptoms refer to the absence or reduction of normal functions or behaviours. They include:

  • Emotional and social withdrawal – this can be reduced interest in social activities, decreased emotional expressiveness
  • Lack of motivation – no interest in or pleasure from goal-directed behaviour or activities
  • Reduced speech, movement and ability to experience pleasure – all of these can lead to extreme isolation

Cognitive schizophrenia symptoms…

Cognitive schizophrenia symptoms refer to problems with thinking, memory and attention and can include:

  • Attention issues– difficulty focusing on a task or maintaining attention over a period of time
  • Memory issues – inability to recall information and issues with working memory which involves holding information in the mind for a short period of time
  • Executive functioning issues – problems with planning, organizing, and problem-solving

It’s important to note that not all individuals with schizophrenia will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity of the symptoms can vary from person to person.

Dual diagnosis addiction and schizophrenia

Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe the co-occurrence of a mental health and addiction disorder, in this case, addiction and schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia are more likely to develop addiction problems, and vice versa.

Simultaneous schizophrenia and addiction can be challenging to diagnose and treat, as the symptoms of each condition can overlap and interfere with each other. For example, the symptoms of schizophrenia can make it difficult for people to recognise and seek help for their addiction problems, while addiction can worsen schizophrenia symptoms and make them harder to manage.

Why do schizophrenia and addiction often co-occur?

There are several reasons why schizophrenia and addiction often co-occur, including:

  • Self-medication: Some people with schizophrenia may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their symptoms, such as anxiety or depression.
  • Schizophrenia-related behaviours: People with schizophrenia may also engage in risky behaviours, such as substance abuse, to cope with their symptoms.
  • Impulsivity: Impulsivity is a common symptom of both addiction and schizophrenia, which can lead to poor decision-making and risk-taking behaviour.
  • Emotional instability: Schizophrenia can cause emotional instability, which can contribute to addiction problems as people try to manage their emotions through substance use.
  • Delusions, paranoia and hallucinations: Schizophrenia symptoms such as delusions, paranoia and hallucinations can contribute to substance abuse by altering the perception of reality.

How is addiction treated in the presence of schizophrenia?

The simultaneous presence of addiction and schizophrenia can make treatment more complicated as the two conditions are so intrinsically linked. At Banbury Lodge, our team are experts at treating addiction in the presence of schizophrenia and we have helped many people with the conditions make huge steps forward.

To begin rehab treatment at Banbury Lodge, your schizophrenia symptoms must first be stable. This is very important because treatment can be mentally tough which can exacerbate schizophrenia symptoms. Once your condition is stable, you can begin rehab at Banbury Lodge and we will ensure you receive any medicine you have been prescribed and get all the extra support you need.

After that, you will begin a programme of addiction counselling therapies which will help you achieve recovery but can also have major benefits for co-occurring schizophrenia.

These include:

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. It is effective for addiction treatment and can also help people with schizophrenia manage their symptoms. By learning to recognise and challenge their delusions or hallucinations, people with schizophrenia can reduce their impact on daily life which means they are less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)

DBT is a form of therapy that focuses on regulating emotions and improving interpersonal relationships. It is particularly helpful for people with schizophrenia who struggle with emotional regulation and impulsivity, both of which can lead to substance abuse and addiction. DBT provides tools and techniques to manage emotions, improving the ability to cope with challenging situations without needing the crutch of addictive substances.

Motivational interviewing (MI)

MI is a type of therapy that helps people identify and address their motivations for change. It is particularly useful for addiction treatment, as it can help people overcome ambivalence and resistance to change. For people with schizophrenia, MI can also help them identify and address any lack of motivation towards their treatment, increasing their commitment to their addiction recovery.

Family therapy

Family therapy involves loved ones in the treatment process, improving family communication and support. It can be helpful for people with co-occurring schizophrenia and addiction and provide a safe and supportive environment for open communication. Family therapy can also increase empathy and reduce stigma, helping family members understand the challenges of living with schizophrenia and addiction.

Schizophrenia and addiction - group therapy

Mindfulness-based therapy

Mindfulness-based therapy involves learning mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and breathing exercises, to manage stress and emotions. It is helpful for both addiction and schizophrenia as it can improve emotional regulation and reduce symptoms of anxiety or stress related to the conditions.

Group therapy

Group therapy is an effective form of treatment for people with schizophrenia and addiction as it can provide vital social support and peer encouragement. In the inclusive environment created in group therapy, people feel more comfortable sharing their experiences which can reduce feelings of isolation and improve self-esteem.

Unique challenges for schizophrenia sufferers in rehab

People with schizophrenia and addiction may face many unique challenges during rehab, such as difficulty managing their symptoms or accessing appropriate treatment. Here are some of the challenges and how they can be overcome:

Stigma about their condition…

Stigma and discrimination are common struggles for schizophrenia sufferers and this can make them feel isolated and discouraged during rehab. At Banbury Lodge, we tackle this problem by providing a supportive and inclusive environment for all clients at rehab and fostering a sense of community.

Medication management …

People with schizophrenia may need to continue taking medication during rehab which can complicate their addiction treatment. At Banbury Lodge, our psychiatrists and medical team will ensure that the medication prescribed by your doctor is managed appropriately.

Cognitive impairment …

Schizophrenia can commonly cause cognitive impairment which can affect a person’s ability to participate in therapy and engage in treatment. At Banbury Lodge, we address this by providing therapy that is tailored to a client’s cognitive abilities.

Communication difficulties …

Schizophrenia can also cause communication difficulties which can make it challenging for people to express their thoughts and feelings. Banbury Lodge addresses this issue through alternative forms of communication, such as art therapy or music therapy.

The next step

If you or a loved one is struggling with schizophrenia and addiction, the first step is always to seek professional help. Banbury Lodge can provide a safe and supportive environment for addiction recovery while also ensuring schizophrenia symptoms are managed effectively. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options and start the journey towards recovery.

Frequently asked questions

Can rehab cure schizophrenia?
Rehab is the treatment for addiction and cannot cure schizophrenia as it is a chronic and lifelong condition. However, many of the therapies delivered in rehab can help people with schizophrenia and addiction manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
Can co-occurring schizophrenia and addiction be fatal?
Dual diagnosis schizophrenia and addiction can be fatal for a number of reasons if left untreated or not managed properly. People with addiction and schizophrenia are at higher risk of suicide, accidental overdose and other health complications so seeking treatment for both conditions as soon as possible is crucial for preventing these risks.
How can I help a loved one with schizophrenia and addiction?
Some ways to support a loved one with schizophrenia and addiction include learning as much as you can about the conditions, offering emotional and practical support, encouraging them to seek professional treatment, avoiding enabling behaviour and celebrating recovery milestones. The support of loved ones can be instrumental in helping people overcome addiction so be a strong, loving presence in their lives at all times.
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