• Open communication with members of your healthcare team can help you find an effective treatment for schizophrenia.
  • You may consider asking your doctor more about the disorder, medications for schizophrenia, potential side effects, and psychosocial support options.
  • Joining a schizophrenia support group can also give you an opportunity to share common experiences and feel less alone.

If you recently received a diagnosis of schizophrenia, you might have a lot of questions about the condition and what it means for your life. It’s a serious psychiatric disorder that can cause distortions of reality, including delusions and hallucinations.

With a combination of medication and psychosocial support, though, people with schizophrenia can lead full, productive lives.

Schizophrenia can affect people in different ways. Because it’s so variable, open communication with your healthcare team is crucial.

A doctor or psychiatrist should welcome questions and take time to address your concerns. Learning all you can about schizophrenia and how it’s treated allows you to become a vital member of your own healthcare team.

Here are a few questions that can help you start a conversation about schizophrenia with a doctor. Keep in mind that discussions about schizophrenia should be an ongoing process, though. Be sure to keep your healthcare team in the loop on how you feel and ask additional questions as they pop up.

1. What is schizophrenia?

It may sound like too simple a question, but schizophrenia is frequently misunderstood and confused with other mental health conditions. It’s easier to navigate a condition when you have a clear idea of what it is — and what it isn’t.

2. How confident are you in the diagnosis?

There’s no single test a medical professional can use to diagnose schizophrenia. A psychiatric professional will usually consider a person’s medical history and symptoms as well as the results of certain exams to make a diagnosis.

However, other conditions can cause symptoms that look like schizophrenia, which could lead to a misdiagnosis.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), African Americans and Latinos are more likely to receive an incorrect diagnosis. This may have to do with differences in cultural perspectives or structural barriers to care.

It’s also possible to have schizophrenia and another related mental health that may also require treatment.

Asking a doctor about their confidence in their diagnosis can help you decide the next steps to take, such as starting treatment or seeking a second opinion.

3. What experience do you have in treating schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a lifelong psychiatric disorder that requires careful management, so it’s important to work with a medical professional who has a lot of experience treating this condition.

If you are working with several medical professionals, such as a primary care physician and a psychiatrist or psychologist, they’ll need to coordinate all your care.

4. What medications are available to treat schizophrenia?

Antipsychotic drugs can help control some schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. However, they don’t help with all symptoms. Since schizophrenia affects each person differently, medication choices should be tailored to each person.

Every drug has potential side effects. Some go away in time, but others can be significant and persistent. Troublesome side effects can make you want to stop taking your medication, but stopping suddenly can be dangerous.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recommends that doctors and people with schizophrenia work together when deciding which medications to try.

Here are some questions to ask about your medications:

  • Why do you recommend this particular medication over other choices?
  • What are the potential side effects and risks?
  • Does it interact with other drugs, foods, or alcohol?
  • How long will I need to take this medication before I start to feel a difference?
  • Can I stop taking it if the side effects are bad?

5. What psychosocial therapies are available for schizophrenia?

With the right support, you can work on reducing the impact that schizophrenia symptoms have on your life. People who have regular psychosocial treatments are less likely to relapse or be hospitalized, according to the NIMH.

If you have schizophrenia, you might benefit from therapies such as:

  • talk therapy
  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • behavioral skills training
  • employment support

Here are some other questions to ask on this topic:

  • What types of therapy do you recommend for me?
  • What are the short- and long-term goals of these therapies?
  • How long are the sessions?
  • How often will I need these sessions?
  • When can I expect to start seeing results?

6. What happens if my treatment isn’t working?

Treatment for schizophrenia can take some trial and error before you land on the right mix. If your medication isn’t working, your doctor may need to adjust the dosage or prescribe other drugs to find what works best for you.

Your doctor may also recommend changes to your psychosocial therapies, depending on your symptoms and the ways in which schizophrenia is affecting your life.

Your doctor should keep up with the American Psychiatric Association’s evidence-based practice guidelines and be willing to discuss all options with you.

7. What should I do if I have an emergency between visits?

Your doctor may be able to provide you with a phone number you can call if you experience an urgent mental health crisis. Keep this information on hand in a place that’s easily accessible in case of an emergency.

You should also ask your doctor about when you should call 911 instead of their emergency line.

8. What should I expect in the long term?

Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition, but it can be successfully managed. Thanks to advances in treatment and a growing understanding of this disorder, many people with schizophrenia are living full, active lives.

There’s plenty of reason for hope. Your doctor can periodically reassess your health and provide an update on your individual outlook.

Healthcare professionals play an important role in helping people manage schizophrenia, but there are also many other places to turn for emotional and practical support. In fact, your doctor may be able to steer you to specific resources in your community.

If you’re not sure where to start, you may consider calling the Schizophrenia Action Alliance helpline at 800-493-2094. Its team members can connect you with tools and support services in your area.

Joining a support group, whether in-person or virtual, can also give you an opportunity to share common experiences and feel less alone. Some are affiliated with nonprofits, hospitals, or mental health professionals, while others may be led by people just like you. The point is that you can connect with people who “get it” and help each other out.

Here are some places to start your search for a schizophrenia support group:

Mental health hotlines can also be helpful resources. You might want to keep these numbers handy:

  • NAMI HelpLine, a free support service for people living with a mental health condition, available Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET at 800-950-NAMI (6264)
  • SAMHSA National Helpline, a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-per-year treatment referral and information service at 800-662-HELP (4357)

And if you’re facing a crisis or medical emergency, call 911.