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Can schizophrenia be prevented?

Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
While schizophrenia can often be effectively treated, it is impossible to prevent it. However, early treatment may keep schizophrenia from getting worse. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that it may be possible to predict whether teens will be affected by schizophrenia. Many teens who have a family history of the illness and who display certain thought patterns or behaviors of schizophrenia can be diagnosed and treated early.

For example, while it is sometimes normal for teens to becomes withdrawn and moody, teens who exhibit paranoid behavior or hallucinations may be identified for early treatment and intervention. Getting treatment early may prevent or reduce the risk of dangerous or life-threatening outcomes from the illness. The Mayo Clinic advises people with schizophrenia to avoid using drugs, get enough sleep, reduce stress, and take medications regularly to help keep schizophrenia symptoms in check.
Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
At this time, there is no clear way to prevent schizophrenia. If you are at increased risk for developing this lifelong condition -- for example, if you have a family history of this disease -- the best things to do are to minimize stress, avoid using illegal drugs, and get plenty of sleep. If you do develop symptoms of the disease, getting help as soon as possible and starting antipsychotic medications may prevent the symptoms from becoming worse.

Also, a crucial part of preventing serious consequences of schizophrenia may also be the hardest to follow: you should continue the treatment plan outlined by your doctor even when you think you are doing well. By sticking with the various aspects of your treatment plan -- medications, support groups, psychotherapy, or other therapies -- you will maximize your chances of coping and living as well as possible with this difficult disease.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
You can’t prevent schizophrenia at this point in time, but you can try to prevent symptoms from re-occurring by taking your medication regularly and consistently participating in therapy. The medications can mitigate symptoms, and the therapy can help you learn to identify relapse warning signs. Over time, this can reduce the severity of the illness.

Preventive measures to reduce the incidence of schizophrenia are not known at this time. However, identification and early intervention can improve the quality of life experienced by persons with schizophrenia. Further, treatment is most successful when symptoms of the first psychotic episode are addressed properly and promptly. It is crucial for an individual who is prescribed medications for the treatment of schizophrenia to remain compliant. Dosages and types of medications may need to be adjusted periodically to maintain effectiveness. Always consult your physician for more information.

Like other disorders, schizophrenia can become complicated, but you can prevent these complications if you closely monitor your schizophrenia and stay on top of your treatment. Likewise, if you know you're at risk for developing schizophrenia, some lifestyle choices may help you prevent yourself from developing the disorder. These include staying away from drugs that have not been prescribed to you, avoiding stressful situations, and following your doctor's orders.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.