What are persistent symptoms?
For many people with schizophrenia disorders, medications don’t completely get rid of all symptoms (though for some they do). The medications do get rid of some symptoms, and make the others less severe, but it can still be helpful for you to learn to manage those that are still there. These symptoms, called “persistent symptoms,” are ones you experience even when you are taking your medication as prescribed. (They are different from “warning signs,” which will be addressed in a later blog.)
Persistent symptoms can be any type of symptom, including voices, visions, paranoia, other delusions, getting stuck on thoughts, trouble with concentration and memory, trouble getting things started, over-interpreting things, problems showing emotions, thinking everyone is focusing on you, and others. If it bothers you even when you’re stable, it’s probably a persistent symptom.
Ok, but how do I cope with these symptoms? Skills to cope with persistent symptoms are critical to quality of life—the better you can manage your persistent symptoms, the more you’ll enjoy everyday life. Everyone’s symptoms are somewhat different, so you may want to try different coping skills until you find the right ones for you.
Examples of persistent symptom coping skills:
- Make sure you’re taking your meds every day exactly as prescribed. If you don’t think your meds are working right, see your doctor, even if it’s not a relapse or emergency.
- Learn to recognize the symptoms as symptoms, not reality (do a reality check with someone you trust if you’re not sure), remind yourself it’s just a schizophrenia symptom, not reality.
- Take PRN (as-needed) meds if you have them for the symptoms that are bothering you.
- Get support from a trusted person. It can help to talk to someone who cares.
- Try therapy. Therapy can be extremely helpful in managing symptoms and stress.
- Focus on something productive, like tasks you have to do at home or work.
- Do something fun that takes your mind off your symptoms, like TV, music, time with friends, going for a walk, working out, doing hobbies, journaling, or sports.
- Make sure you take care of yourself physically (eat right, sleep, meds, avoid alcohol and drugs, etc.) and emotionally (get support, get therapy if needed, be kind to yourself, etc.) so that you’re in the best shape you can be to manage your symptoms.
- Keep a list of people to call and coping skills to use when symptoms are bad. It’s sometimes hard to problem-solve when symptoms are bad, it’s helpful to have a plan ready for when this happens
This is a brief list, there are many other skills you can use to cope with persistent symptoms. Try out different ones to see what fits your style and works on your specific symptoms. And once again, make sure you keep in contact with your doctor, and let him or her know if you feel your meds aren’t working right.