Know Your Schizophrenia Treatment Options


Gina Garippo

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A diagnosis of schizophrenia can be devastating, but there are therapies available that reduce symptoms and help people with schizophrenia live better lives.


Why It's Used

Common Types

Benefits and Success Rates


Psychosocial therapy

To help people gain insight into their illness as well as function better in everyday life, including socially, at work, and with family and friends.

Cognitive behavioral therapy: Focuses on thinking and behavior

Psychosocial rehabilitation: Helps with everyday living skills, housing, social skills, education, work

Self-help groups: Provide support from other people who have the illness and their families 

Studies show that psychosocial therapy can lead to greater medication compliance. It can also help people deal with everyday challenges of the illness, such as functioning at work, managing self-care, and forming relationships. 


Conventional, or "typical," antipsychotics

To reduce and prevent psychotic symptoms 

  • Etrafon

  • Haldol

  • Prolixin

  • Thorazine 

Typical antipsychotics have been shown to greatly reduce psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. 

Side effects can include neurological and movement problems, such as tardive dyskinesia—a potentially chronic and untreatable movement disorder. This can lead to rigidity, persistent muscle spasms, tremors, and more.

Second-generation, or "atypical," antipsychotics 

To reduce and prevent psychotic symptoms 

  • Abilify

  • Clozaril

  • Geodon

  • Risperdal

  • Saphris

  • Seroquel

  • Zyprexa 

Some atypical antipsychotics are thought to be more effective than typical antipsychotics at controlling psychotic symptoms, especially "negative" symptoms such as emotional flatness. They're also much less likely to cause movement problems. 

Atypical antipsychotics may cause major weight gain and changes in blood sugar or blood lipids. This, in turn, can increase the likelihood of developing diabetes and cardiovascular illness.

Clozaril, considered the most effective antipsychotic medication, can cause a problem called agranulocytosis. This involves a severe reduction in white blood cells, which help fight infection. People taking the drug must have their white blood cell count checked regularly. Other types of atypical antipsychotics very rarely cause agranulocytosis. 

 Long-acting injectable antipsychotics, or depot injections 

To reduce and prevent psychotic symptoms without the need for daily medication 

Typical antipsychotics:

  • Haldol

  • Prolixin

Atypical antipsychotics:

  • Zyprexa

  • Invega

  • Risperdal

  • Abilify Maintena

Research shows that depot injections can greatly increase medication compliance. Injections are given once or twice a month. People have commonly reported preferring depot injections over pills after trying both. 

Risks are generally the same as the medication in pill form (see above). These may include movement problems, restlessness, weight gain, and more. 

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 5, 2017

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Medical References

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  2. Challenges in Preventing Schizophrenia. Harvard Mental Health Letter. December 1, 2009.; “Encouraging Patients to Take Medications as Prescribed.” Harvard Mental Health Letter. January 2010.
  3. Partial Compliance With Antipsychotic Medication is Common in Patients with Schizophrenia. C. Rummel-Kluge et al. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. May 2008. Vol. 42, no. 5, pp. 382-8.
  4. The Use of Depot Medications in the Treatment of Schizophrenia. J. Davis. American Journal of Psychiatry. February 2010, vol. 167, no. 2, pp. 125-6.
  5. Use of Depot Antipsychotic Medications for Medication Nonadherence in Schizophrenia. J West et al. Sept. 2008, vol. 34, no. 5, pp. 995-1001.
  6. List Results: Schizophrenia. U.S. National Institutes of Health. Accessed May 25, 2010.
  7. Columbia’s Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman Leads Nationwide Effort to Develop Early Intervention for First Signs of Schizophrenia. Columbia University Medical School. July 21, 2009.
  8. North American Prodrome Longitudinal Study (;
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  12. Impaired Brain Connections Traced to Schizophrenia Mutation. National Institute of Mental Health. March 31, 2010.
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