New post in Advice! — Helping a roommate with a new schizophrenia diagnosis.

Greetings!

It’s been a while, but there are a lot of things that have been cooking for MyStudentBody in its new home at Hazelden. One of the things that subscribers will see more of is new posts in the Advice section.

In order to give people who don’t currently have access to MyStudentBody a little idea of what the site is all about, we’d like to share the text of our newest advice piece with you. If you have a MyStudentBody account, you can view this and other Advice items by logging on, visiting the MyStuff page, and then clicking on the Advice tab.

The question is, “My college roommate just got diagnosed with schizophrenia. What does this mean and how can I support them?”

Here’s our answer:

It’s good that you want to understand what your roommate is going through and you want to support him or her. Your compassion and concern will be a big help.  These symptoms may be frightening to the person with schizophrenia and to his or her friends. Medication, rehabilitation, and various forms of therapy can help, so if your friend has schizophrenia, offer your reassurance, support, and help during the treatment process.

A psychiatric disorder that affects about 1 percent of the population, schizophrenia is usually long-term and can affect behavior, thinking, feelings, and functioning. Its characteristic symptoms include delusions (episodes of hearing voices or perceiving others as personally threatening) or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) as well as apathy, social withdrawal, and lack of pleasure. Also common are mood changes and difficulties with attention, concentration, and social skills. That said, schizophrenia is not a “split personality” or a “multiple personality”; this is a common misconception. Nor is it the same as drug-induced psychosis, although it may be triggered by substance use, especially drugs.

It is believed that schizophrenia is caused by imbalances in the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The biological elements of the disorder are thought to be shaped by a combination of factors, including genetics and early environmental influences such as prenatal nutrition and obstetric complications.

Remember, no one has the exact same symptoms or is bothered by them to the same degree. With some exceptions, schizophrenia usually develops in early adulthood, generally between ages sixteen and thirty. People vary in the frequency and severity of their symptoms and how much the disorder interferes with their lives.

It may help you to remember that schizophrenia affects people in different ways and can vary in intensity over time. Some people have a milder form of the disorder and only have symptoms a few times in their lives. Others may have several episodes, some of which may require hospitalization. Some people experience symptoms much of the time but do not have severe episodes that require hospitalization.

There are many medications and other evidence-based treatments that reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia for most people. And everybody with schizophrenia is capable of coping more effectively with symptoms and leading a productive, meaningful life.

The greatest thing you can do to support your roommate is understand that schizophrenia is a medical condition, not a choice. Sometimes people feel shame about having a mental disorder like schizophrenia. Your acceptance and support can be very helpful.  It is also helpful to know the signs when your roommate’s symptoms may be worsening and they may need medical help. You are not responsible for their care, but encouraging them to seek medical help can be important.

If you would like to learn more about supporting your roommate visit: http://www.whatadifference.samhsa.gov/2gether/  

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