Coping Skills for Schizophrenia

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

This lesson will discuss coping skills for the different symptoms of schizophrenia, including: hallucinations, delusions, voices, and paranoia. These skills all stem from the need for distraction.


Schizophrenia is a mental illness that ranges in severity, and may include symptoms like emotional disconnect, auditory hallucinations, and paranoia. Points to keep in mind when learning about this illness are that it is not a multiple personality disorder, and usually people with schizophrenia are not violent. What schizophrenia does is add and detract factors to a person's personality, called positive symptoms and negative symptoms.

A positive symptom means it adds something to the person, like now that person hears voices, where they did not before. A negative symptom refers to something it takes away from the person, such as emotional or motor function. These symptoms can be immensely distracting for those with schizophrenia and make it challenging to get through the day.

There are medications called neuroleptics, which are antipsychotics, that medical professionals often suggest to resolve schizophrenia symptoms. However, not all medications work for everyone, so someone with schizophrenia should consult a doctor and work with them on a medical plan to help them personally. Counseling and coping skills are also common treatments.

The coping skills discussed in this lesson are intended to alleviate positive symptoms, particularly hallucinations and paranoia.

General Coping Strategies

Some coping skills can be used to alleviate a variety of symptoms that schizophrenics may experience, such as voices, or delusions that someone is spying on them:

  • ''Utilize distraction.'' Like with most mental illnesses, distraction is a key coping skill. Some schizophrenic patients find music, TV, or audio books to be good distractors. Patients who hear voices often find these auditory distractors to be successful.
  • ''Document symptoms through a diary.'' Always documenting when a person suffers symptoms helps them track patterns and can provide insight into coping with the symptoms.
  • ''Assess and test reality.'' This technique involves the assistance of a trusted person, who is honest with the schizophrenic at all times and can inform them if their symptoms are real or imagined. Additionally, they can be around to help distract a schizophrenic if they need help.
  • ''Join a support group.'' Schizophrenics can benefit from the support of others who are dealing with the same challenges and obstacles. Being able to speak with others about certain delusions or hallucinations can also help with reality testing.
  • ''Avoid stimulants like alcohol, drugs, and caffeine.'' Although avoiding these may not make all symptoms disappear, it can help lessen the symptoms.
  • ''Find a relaxing escape.'' This might be a hot bath, painting, taking a walk, or sitting on the beach. Incorporating these aspects into daily life can not only interrupt hallucinatory events but prevent some from happening as well.

Coping Skills for Hallucinations

Auditory hallucinations, or hearing voices, is a common type of hallucination experienced with schizophrenia. Usually the voices heard with schizophrenia are not kind. They tend to be degrading and negative, which is why they can be so disconcerting and painful. This makes it important to find techniques to at least doubt the voices even if one cannot stop them. Some additional coping skills that can be used for moments when a schizophrenic hears voices are:

  • ''Create lists of positive personal aspects.'' These should be aspects that counter the negative words of the voices. Keep them around either on paper or even a recording on a cell phone. This will help a person doubt the voices in their head.
  • ''Focus on something auditory.'' This could include listening to a loud movie, listening to music, or playing an instrument. This will interrupt the voices, because the person is also hearing other things.
  • ''Use one's own voice to drown out the others.'' This could include talking to oneself, talking to others, or singing and shouting to one's favorite music. When someone hears their own voice, it can help distract them from the others.
  • ''Wear just one earplug in one ear.'' Try with one ear then the other; usually there is one ear that is more effective.
  • ''Keep a hallucinations diary.'' Writing down what the voices say and when, helps a person to keep track of what is happening, and it provides a reality check of what is real compared to the false things the voices say.
  • ''Test reality.'' The schizophrenic can let a trusted person know when they hear voices and what they say, so they can help dispute them. For example, if the voice tells the schizophrenic that they are stupid, they would then tell their friend, and their friend would remind them that they received A's in college.

Use headphones and music as a distraction.

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