Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders
The schizophrenia program at Mount Sinai is one of the most specialized and sophisticated in the country. We have specific programs created to identify the earliest stages of psychosis, and a highly focused one designed to treat the chronic stages. Our psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers have extensive knowledge across the whole spectrum of the disease, and deep experience in diagnosis and treatment. Many of our clinicians are thought leaders in the field, and are known nationally and internationally for their scientific and clinical contributions.
We know that schizophrenia is not the same for everyone, so we offer personalized treatment options that combine medication with social interventions and psychotherapy. We also know that the disease places an enormous burden on patients and their families, so we offer an integrated program. We make sure to engage the whole family in the diagnosis and treatment process because we know how important it is for recovery.
Schizophrenia is an illness that can begin during early development, although some of the symptoms may not be clearly identifiable at that time. The signs become more obvious in the early teens, and are usually expressed as intellectual and social problems at school. The earliest sign is that the adolescents cannot seem to keep up with their peers. Many years—sometimes a decade—later, psychotic symptoms begin to manifest. Psychotic symptoms are delusions (unrealistic thoughts that cannot be corrected) and hallucinations (hearing voices or seeing things). Fortunately, these can be treated effectively with medications. Some patients do quite well and can continue to go to school and have a job; others need continuous care and support. However, most patients are able to recover and live without psychotic symptoms.
Because the symptoms initially are not very specific—meaning that they can also suggest other illnesses such as manic depressive illness or depression—it is very important that the diagnosis is made by highly trained and specialized physicians, since it informs the course of treatment. Once the diagnosis is established, we make sure that there is intensive follow-up and that the right medications, psychotherapy, and social interventions are given. We also ensure that support is provided for the family in how to live with a patient with schizophrenia.
We rely on science to inform our treatment approaches; in fact, we produce much of the science ourselves. Our treatment programs are evidence-based, with the goal of providing tools to help prevent relapse and enable recovery. We keep both the patient and family in mind as we create a tailored treatment plan that ensures the patient receives personalized care for their specific needs.