Schizophrenia is a costly and debilitating mental illness that affects approximately 1% of all people worldwide. It is characterized by illogical thoughts and inappropriate emotional feelings. One of the classic signs of schizophrenia is hearing voices. This is frightening for schizophrenic as well as his family. If your loved one is schizophrenic and is hearing voices, there are some things you can do to help minimize the severity of these symptoms.
What are the voices saying?
It is most important to know what the voices are telling your loved one. Sometimes the voices come across like background noise and may not even be understandable. During one clinical rotation, I had a patient who heard voices in Arabic (he served in Iraq 2009) yet he could not speak or interpret this language. However, when the voices are giving commands or repeating hateful or negative messages, this is cause for immediate concern. It is not unusual for a schizophrenic to hear voices that are telling him to hurt himself or others.
Acknowledge that the voices are real to him
Though you cannot hear the voices, the schizophrenic can hear them and they sound as real as any conversation you have ever had. But just because you cannot hear these voices, doesn't mean you discredit how real and frightening this is to a schizophrenic. Give your loved one some reassurance and acknowledgment by saying "I believe you when you say you are hearing voices and understand how real they sound to you."
Reinforce that the voices do not exist
While you need to reassure the schizophrenic that the voices he hears sound very real to him, you also need to reinforce that YOU do not hear the voices and that they do not truly exist. In addition to acknowledging how real the voices are, you can say "But I do not hear voices and they are not really there." Whatever you do, do not play into the voices as if they exist. For example, if your loved one tells you he hears a voice telling him the Devil is watching him, do not say something like "Well tell the Devil I'm watching him too!" This could send a message that you believe the voices are actually real.
Develop a medication schedule
Anti-psychotic medications like Abilify, Zyprexa, and Clozapine are very helpful in controlling the symptoms of schizophrenia including hearing voices. Make sure you administer all prescribed medications on a regular basis to avoid a potential lapse in coverage. If you do not see any improvement in your loved one's condition even after several weeks of taking a particular medication, speak to the prescribing doctor.
When a schizophrenic hears voices, it feels like emotional and psychological torture that won't go away. Once your loved one is seen by a professional doctor and given medications to reduce the frequency of hearing voices, you can encourage him to take control over the voices. Explain to him that when he hears voices, he should yell at them Go away! or Leave me alone!
Participate in family therapy
Family therapy is a great way to involve the family in the support and treatment of the schizophrenic. It also keeps your loved one within your home and within the community without resorting to committing him to a hospital.
Townsend, Mary C. (2009), Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing (6thedthed)