Helping someone with schizophrenia deal with negative symptoms

The negative symptoms of schizophrenia can be hard to treat. Medicines do not always work well for these symptoms, which include finding little or no pleasure in life and feeling no emotions.

Negative symptoms may be harder to deal with than positive symptoms, because they often are long-lasting and may make your loved one appear to be concerned only about himself or herself.

To help you deal with your loved one's negative symptoms:

  • Remember that they may go away, but it will take some time. Don't expect too much, too fast. Provide a sense of hope. Don't ask for fast changes.
  • Understand that what you may see as "being lazy" or having an "attitude problem" is the illness. Even though it may be very hard, don't get angry or upset. This may offer important support to your loved one.
  • Encourage the person to focus on his or her own recovery goals. This may help the person reconnect with others and make negative symptoms a little better.
  • Gently suggest things to do. These could be social events or small tasks around the house, such as sweeping the floor.
    • Say exactly what you want. Don't expect your loved one to read your mind or understand hints. For example, ask "Could you help me sweep the floor?" and not "It would be nice if the floors were cleaned."
    • If you are suggesting something the person once liked to do, remind him or her of this.
    • If your loved one acts on your suggestion, praise him or her, no matter how small you might think it is.
    • If your family member doesn't act on your suggestion, don't push him or her to do it, because this may make your loved one feel worse. Remember that your loved one will act when he or she can.

Last Updated: August 28, 2008

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