Schizophrenia Treatment: New Hope with Talk Therapy, Plus Risk Factors

imporving outcome for schizophrenia

Schizophrenia treatment for even the most severe cases has new hope this week, as a kind of talk therapy invented to treat depression has shown great promise for deeply anti-social schizophrenia patients. New research from the University of Pennsylvania followed 31 patients from the Philadelphia area and had them engage in therapy that involved not only cognitive therapy to reduce their schizophrenic symptoms such as hallucinations, but also goal-setting in addition to their regular medicine regimen. The therapists worked with the schizophrenic patients to set goals such as find a relationship, get a job or work on their education.

After six months, the researchers noticed some improvement, but it was after the 18-month mark that the most significant improvement was seen. They measured their success on the Global Assessment Scale, which is a standard scale to measure a person”s functioning ability. They generally saw an improvement of 10 points, which according to the study takes the patients up to a whole new level of social functioning. This is very exciting news indeed.

So are there any risk factors that people should be aware of for schizophrenia? Schizophrenia risk increases nearly eight times for those with epilepsy, reports a Taiwanese study. The reasons could be genetic or environmental perhaps, the researchers don’t know yet why exactly the connection exists. The prevalence of schizophrenia was about 3.5 per 1,000 people for epileptic patients, compared to about 0.5 among those without epilepsy. The study showed slightly higher incidence of schizophrenia among men with the disease than women. Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental illness that .

Other recent research has shed some light on very early risk factors for schizophrenia as well. Schizophrenia may be caused by low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy. New research suggests vitamin D deficiencies in utero may be associated with increased risk of schizophrenia later in life.  Decades of research have identified numerous risk factors for the condition, one of which is the observation that those born in the winter or spring have a small but significantly increased risk of developing schizophrenia.

Because sun exposure stimulates production of vitamin D in our bodies, deficiencies are more common during the winter and early spring. These convergent clues led researchers to develop the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency during critical periods of development may be a risk factor for developing schizophrenia.

Early diagnosis and fast intervention are the best courses of treatment for schizophrenia. Treatment with antipsychotic medications is the standard course of care for patients who have schizophrenia. However, the high incidence of adverse effects and relapse associated with long-term treatment with these medications suggests the need for a better approach. A recent study conducted in China found that patients with early-stage schizophrenia who were treated with a combination of antipsychotic medication and psychosocial intervention (psychological development in and interaction with a social environment) had better clinical and functional outcomes.

With all this recent research about risk factors, there’s new hope that this serious mental disorder can be treated better and earlier.

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