Schizophrenia ‘s Impact on Relationships

Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects not only the individual, but his entire family and loved ones.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia can be defined as “a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder” whose symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and thought and movement disorders. The disorder occurs in less than one percent of the American population, but it is a genetic mutation that does run in families and will last the lifetime of the individual. Schizophrenia research continues, but the causes are still unknown. Various treatments exist to help to eliminate the symptoms of the disorder, including antipsychotic medications. 

Often, an individual living with schizophrenia is unable to function on his own and requires the support of a family member or caretaking facility. If untreated, MayClinic asserts that “schizophrenia can result in severe emotional, behavioral and health problems, as well as legal and financial problems that affect every area of life.” This has a direct impact on relationships with loved ones. Support groups can help families realize they are not alone and provide recommendations for resources and advocacy. While it may seem a daunting task, it is possible to care for and live with someone with schizophrenia.

There are a number of organizations that offer support for individuals dealing with schizophrenia as well as their loved ones and friends. Some of the top resources include:

  • Schizophrenics Anonymous has been in existence for 30 years and is a self-help group that supports individuals experiencing the disorder. SA meetings help “to help restore dignity and sense of purpose for persons who are working for recovery from schizophrenia or related disorders; to offer fellowship, positive support, and companionship in order to achieve good mental health; to improve attitudes about member’s own lives and illness; to provide members with latest information regarding schizophrenia; and to encourage members to take positive steps towards recovery from the illness.” To find a group meeting, visit the SARDAA website.
  • Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA) is the overarching organization that assists both individuals living with the disease and family members. SARDAA provides various resources, including supporting SA meetings and Friends and Family Support (FFS) conference calls between peers to help loved ones cope, advocating for greater research funding and public awareness, and providing up-to-date information on the disease. 
  • World Fellowship for Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders is an organization focused more on the needs of family members and loved ones, “dedicated to lightening the burden of schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses.” Many events are regularly hosted by WFSAD, including conferences, support groups, and workshops. The volunteer-run organization provides support services for families all around the globe and is quickly growing.

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.” Mainly an educational resource that helps not only individuals living with a mental disease and their families, but also helps shape public policy and raise public awareness. Join NAMI to learn more about various disorders and to gain direct access to their many resources, including a help line where you can get questions answered about disease specifics and support groups.

While schizophrenia can be a debilitating disease, it is possible to live with and support someone who has it. When both the individual and his family and loved ones actively take part in educating themselves on the disease and in finding support through peer groups and medical facilities, strong relationships can still be kept.