7 Ways To Help Prodromal Schizophrenia Symptoms | MyDepressionTeam

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7 Ways To Help Prodromal Schizophrenia Symptoms

Medically reviewed by Ifeanyi Nwaka, M.D.
Updated on April 10, 2024

Schizophrenia is a lifelong mental illness that affects the way you think, feel, and act. It’s a complex disorder that can have a significant impact on your life and the lives of your loved ones. Before developing all the symptoms of schizophrenia, you may experience less severe ones. These early symptoms are part of what’s called the prodromal phase of schizophrenia.

For most people, the prodromal stage lasts about one to two years before they receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia. About 80 percent to 90 percent of people diagnosed with schizophrenia experienced prodromal symptoms before entering the active phase of schizophrenia.

In this article, we’ll explore seven ways to help manage the prodromal phase of schizophrenia, including making lifestyle changes and establishing mental health care.

Practice good sleep hygiene to counter sleep disturbances from prodromal schizophrenia.

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1. Take Note of Changes in Your Work or School Performance

One of the first steps to handling the prodromal symptoms of schizophrenia is recognizing how they’re affecting your mental state.

As the prodromal phase begins, you may experience impairment in your ability to function in daily life. These difficulties may lead to declines in your academic or work performance. You may begin to struggle with tasks that used to be easy for you. You may appear less motivated or engaged in your work or school activities. Difficulties with problem-solving or planning may cause you to miss deadlines or fall behind in your work.

This decline in functioning can have a big impact on you, such as decreased productivity at work or school, missed opportunities, financial problems, and tension in relationships with co-workers or classmates.

If you realize that these symptoms may be affecting your schoolwork or job, it may be a good time to reach out for help from a medical professional to seek a diagnosis or discuss treatment options.

2. Keep Track of Extreme Mood Changes

One of the symptoms that can occur during the prodromal phase of schizophrenia is a noticeable lack of emotions. This is one of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. It may include:

  • A general disinterest in activities that you previously enjoyed
  • A lack of motivation
  • A decreased ability to experience pleasure

You may also display less emotional expression, which can make it difficult for others to read your feelings or understand your reactions to different situations.

Other mood changes may also occur during the prodromal phase. These changes may include depression, anxiety, or irritability. You may have intense feelings of sadness or hopelessness, experience worry or fear, or become easily agitated or angry. These mood changes can be upsetting and significantly affect your daily life.

These symptoms can be mistaken for depression or other mental health conditions, but when combined with other prodromal symptoms, they can be an early warning sign of schizophrenia. If you are concerned about a changing mood — especially if you haven’t yet been diagnosed with schizophrenia — it may be a good time to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.

Mood changes may occur during the prodromal phase. These may include depression, anxiety, or irritability.

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In the meantime, relaxation methods can help you regulate your emotions. “I listen to music and do a hobby to keep a calming environment,” said one MyDepressionTeam member living with schizophrenia.

3. Recognize Unusual or Strange Beliefs

During the early stages of schizophrenia, some people may experience perceptual changes associated with psychosis.

Psychotic symptoms (also known as positive symptoms in the context of schizophrenia) may include:

  • Hallucinations — Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there
  • Delusions — Holding on to false beliefs
  • Distortions — Having difficulty thinking clearly and processing information accurately

The symptoms of psychosis can be scary and confusing, especially if you’re not aware that you’re experiencing the prodromal phase. Keep track of these beliefs by keeping a journal. Speak with a therapist or mental health counselor about potential hallucinations, delusions, or distortions.

4. Establish Psychiatric Care

If you have any of the above symptoms, it’s important to establish care with a therapist and psychiatrist that you trust and have a good connection with. This will include regular psychotherapy appointments during which you’ll feel comfortable openly sharing your mental and emotional changes.

Diagnosing schizophrenia is not straightforward and requires a combination of symptoms that last over a period of six months or more. However, early intervention — recognizing and treating schizophrenia in its prodromal phase — often leads to better long-term outcomes.

If your psychiatrist recommends antipsychotic treatment, ask about what side effects you’re likely to experience and how long it will take for your medication to start working. If you have trouble tolerating or affording your treatment, speak to your doctor about a treatment regimen that is effective and realistic for you.

5. Prioritize Sleep Hygiene

Sleep disturbances often occur during the prodromal phase of schizophrenia. These can include difficulty falling or staying asleep, as well as waking up too early in the morning.

Disturbed sleep can lead to feeling tired and unrefreshed during the day, which can make it harder to concentrate and function in daily activities. Sleep problems can also worsen other prodromal symptoms, such as anxiety and social withdrawal, and make it harder to cope with everyday life.

Not getting enough sleep can be a vicious cycle with schizophrenia, only worsening your symptoms. Practicing good sleep hygiene can help promote better-quality sleep. This includes:

  • Creating a calming environment for yourself around bedtime
  • Avoiding late-night screen time
  • Limiting caffeine use

6. Avoid Substance Use

Use and abuse of drugs and other substance are common among people with schizophrenia and can be particularly problematic during the prodromal phase. A person may turn to substances as a way to cope with the prodromal symptoms they are experiencing.

Substance abuse can make the symptoms of schizophrenia worse and may even lead to the development of substance-use disorders.


You may experience hallucinations, delusions, or distortions as prodromal schizophrenia symptoms.

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It’s important to seek help if you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse while experiencing prodromal schizophrenia symptoms. Treatment can help manage symptoms and prevent more severe problems from developing.

7. Maintain Relationships

Going through the prodromal period of schizophrenia can be scary, but you’re not alone. If you feel comfortable disclosing your diagnosis to select family members or close friends, they can help you manage your condition.

For example, it may be hard to remember to take your medications every day, so ask a loved one for support. They can help remind you to take your medications, keep you accountable, and ease some of that burden.

Dealing with some of these symptoms can be isolating, and receiving support from people around you can be helpful. Furthermore, joining a support group for people with schizophrenia can help you feel less alone. Hearing from peers who experience the same symptoms, treatment side effects, or life challenges as you can be empowering as you face this journey.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyDepressionTeam is the social network for people with depression and related mental health conditions (like schizophrenia) and their loved ones. On MyDepressionTeam, more than 146,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with different mental health conditions.

Have you experienced the prodromal symptoms of schizophrenia? How have you dealt with these symptoms? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Updated on April 10, 2024
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    Ifeanyi Nwaka, M.D. earned his medical degree from the American University of Antigua College of Medicine. Learn more about him here.
    Scarlett Bergam, M.P.H. is a medical student at George Washington University and a former Fulbright research scholar in Durban, South Africa. Learn more about her here.

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