What are the treatments for psychosis?

There are many ways to manage schizophrenia, treatment ranges from antipsychotic medication to psychotherapy, meeting the various needs of the patients.

Antipsychotic medication forms the core of schizophrenia treatment. On one hand, these medications can effectively reduce symptoms and the anxiety and distress that comes with it; on the other hand, it also prevents relapse. The medication works by acting on the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.

Anti-psychotics have been available since the 1950s, known as the ‘typical’ antipsychotics; in the 1990s, new antipsychotic medications were developed, known as the ‘atypical’ antipsychotics. Recent studies found that there are less severe side-effects in the newer medication; nonetheless, the drug efficacy is relatively similar in both the ‘typical’ and ‘atypical’ antipsychotics. Antibiotics are available in tablets, capsules, liquid form or ‘depot’ injections; oral medications are easier to use, though injections are slow-release medication which targets those who have difficulty taking pills, and are easier to remember.  

Doctors may alter the drug prescribed if the side effects brought on are too severe; Benzhexol and benztropine are normally prescribed to manage facial and limbs stiffness, tremour of the hands and feet. Nonetheless, these drugs also have side effects which are less debilitating, such as dry mouth, decrease in memory and constipation. If the drug dosage is too high, patient could be in hysteria.

Side effects from medication are commonly appear during the early phase of treatment, though the side effects and its severity experienced varies from person-to-person. Shortly after medication, anxiety and sleep problem caused by the illness will be alleviated. Within a few days or weeks, other symptoms such as hallucination and delusion will gradually improve. Some other symptoms, such as lack of motivation, flat expressions, etc, may take 1 to 2 years to improve. It requires patience from patients and their families during treatment. About 80% of the patients can gradually recover. Moreover, medication dosage and type are adjusted according to the patient’s symptoms and side effects. 

Apart from medication, psychosocial therapy plays a significant role in treating psychosis. Psychosocial therapy can be given in the form of individual or group. Based on personal needs, professionals design ample intervention methods, to enhance patients’ psychological qualities and abilities in social life, handling the illness, etc. Methods such as counselling, psycho-education and cognitive behavioral therapy ameliorates the situation.

In general, there is no need to isolate the patients in hospital and hostel. Majority of the patients can receive treatments in the society. In fact, family members and friends around the patients can help a great deal by understanding their feelings, supporting and encouraging them so as to strengthen their motivation to recover.