Study ID’s Coping Strategies Used by Schizophrenia Patients to Manage Symptoms

A qualitative study published in the journal Psychiatry Services aimed to identify the various coping strategies used by patients recovering from schizophrenia, adding to the somewhat limited information available about how individuals manage their schizophrenia. 

Researchers at the Los Angeles Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System enrolled 20 patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia who experienced at least one persistent psychotic symptom in the past month. Each participant was employed and maintained an occupation for six continuous months within the past 2 years.

The participants took part in three meetings and 1 person-centered interview with study psychologists, in which coping strategies were collected. Transcripts of the interviews were summarized and coded with a hybrid deductive-inductive approach. Half the participants were male and the average age was 40-years. Most participants had a history of at least one psychiatric hospitalization and were currently prescribed psychotropic medications. 

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The researchers identified 8 categories of coping strategies: avoidance behavior, utilizing supportive others, taking medications, enacting cognitive strategies, controlling the environment, engaging spirituality, focusing on well-being, and being employed or continuing their education.

For instance, avoidance of behaviors or situations was a result of a trial-and-error process over the individual’s life. Medication was a key aspect for many participants and for some there was a distinct point at which they recognized its importance to their well-being. Enacting cognitive strategies involved ways to systematically reason through their problematic thinking. Most participants also believed that support from family, friends, or professionals was important to provide objective insights into symptom exacerbation and nonjudgmental support. 

Most participants described more than one strategy to help them manage their symptoms. Although these strategies aided to a certain extent in managing symptoms, many still reported difficulty in managing day-to-day life. 

The authors note that their findings indicate that having ongoing symptoms does not preclude occupational and educational goals. They suggest that the next revisions to evidence based practices should incorporate consumer input. They conclude that, “this research demonstrates that individuals with serious mental illness can articulate numerous ways in which they manage their symptoms while also achieving their goals.”

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