How Do You Treat Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

Medically Reviewed on 3/31/2022
How Do You Treat Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
There is no effective treatment available to enhance cognitive function in patients with schizophrenia.

Problems in cognitive function occur early in people affected with schizophrenia. Cognitive impairment is a frequent symptom occurring in nonelderly patients with schizophrenia or other brain disorders that involve degenerative changes.

Treating cognitive symptoms through cognitive enhancement remains a clinically unresolved issue. To date, there is no effective treatment available to enhance cognitive function in patients with schizophrenia. However, research and trials are underway for several medications and other treatments, such as psychosocial therapy.

7 types of treatments for cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia

  1. Medications
    • Antipsychotic medications may work for positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, but they do not work well to treat the cognitive symptoms.
    • Studies suggest some newer antipsychotic medications may help treat the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as:
  2. Psychosocial therapy
    • Psychosocial therapy or treatment involves cognitive remediation, supported employment, social skills training, psychotherapy, and family intervention.
    • The therapy aims to:
      • Make the person have a few or stable symptoms
      • Avoid hospitalization
      • Enable the person to manage their funds and medications
      • Allow the person to work or study in school until at least half-time
  3. Cognitive remediation
    • Cognitive impairment affects a person’s work, social relationships, and independent living.
    • Cognitive remediation is a treatment based on the idea that the brain has some plasticity, and brain exercises can encourage the brain cells (neurons) to grow and can develop the neurological pathways that are fundamental to many mental activities.
    • Numerous different models of cognitive remediation are available. Some involve using computers, whereas others help people develop strategies to improve areas of weakness.
    • Cognitive remediation techniques involve labor and time. Because persons affected with schizophrenia have various degrees of cognitive symptoms, customized cognitive remediation techniques work best. When combined with other therapies, such as supported employment, cognitive remediation improves cognitive function.
  4. Social skills training
    • Social skills training involves equipping the affected person with interpersonal skills: how to relate to other people.
    • By learning the right techniques, a person with schizophrenia can live an independent life. For example, the sessions involve role-playing that includes making small talk and maintaining eye contact while interacting with others.
  5. Psychotherapy
    • Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, involves the affected person working with a therapist to learn more about the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that cause the symptoms.
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective type of psychotherapy that can help reformulate how a person with schizophrenia recognizes, understands, and manages symptoms.
  6. Vocational rehabilitation (supported employment)
    • More than half of the people with serious psychiatric disorders are capable of employment, and most of them want to work. However, they may face difficulties while looking for jobs due to factors, such as sensitivity to stress, symptoms, social anxiety, and stigma, on the part of employers.
    • Therapy that aims toward supporting employment helps overcome these hurdles. This involves assisting the person with job searching, designing jobs that suit the person and providing continued support during employment.
  7. Family intervention
    • The family intervention involves teaching the family members to recognize the symptoms of schizophrenia in their loved ones and techniques for dealing with them.
    • Schizophrenia affects the person’s whole family, and the family’s responses can affect the trajectory of the person’s illness. The family is taught how to create a safe and calm environment to prevent relapses of schizophrenia.
    • The family members of affected people can join The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), which is an advocacy group that supports family members of people affected with mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia.


What's Schizophrenia? Symptoms, Types, Causes, Treatment See Slideshow

What else can affected people do on their own for their cognitive symptoms?

Engaging their intellectual muscles daily will help people affected with schizophrenia improve their cognitive functions and fight off cognitive symptoms.

  • This can stimulate positive feedback activity in the brain so that the pathways involved in the mental processes are maintained.
  • This can be done by performing activities that the person enjoys or is interested in. For example, they can read books on their topic of interest or solve puzzles.

Some may want to learn new things or master hobbies, such as singing, a new language, archery, or playing chess. Anything that involves exercising the brain can help improve cognitive functions.

What are cognitive functions?

Cognitive functions mean the intellectual functions of the brain. They enable a person to acquire and process information and knowledge. It drives an individual’s understanding and actions in their environment.

With aging, people experience cognitive changes, including a decline in processing speed, memory, and language. Therefore, elderly people require a longer time to grasp, learn, store and recall information.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 3/31/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Frankenburg FR. Schizophrenia Treatment & Management. Medscape.

Hsu WY, Lane HY, Lin CH. Medications Used for Cognitive Enhancement in Patients With Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Alzheimer's Disease, and Parkinson's Disease. Front Psychiatry. 2018 Apr 4;9:91.