Dealing with Stress and a Mental Illness Like Schizophrenia

August 11, 2016 Elizabeth Caudy

Stress complicates mental illnesses like schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Here's how I relax when anxiety and schizoaffective disorder team up on me.

Stress and mental illness is difficult to deal with for everyone, but possibly more so for those of us with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. For those of us who do live with these disorders, stress can escalate other schizoaffective disorder symptoms that increase anxiety. This is what it’s like to live with stress when you have schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

Schizophrenia and the Stress of Mental Illness

I’m stressed out by a lot of things right now. Maybe they’re not worth getting stressed out over – that’s what everyone tells me. But I have generalized anxiety disorder along with my schizoaffective disorder, and I basically get stressed out if I hear a pin drop. It’s summer, and heat waves always spike my anxiety. There’s a presidential election in November, and I am totally stressed out about that. Also, my family is heading to an annual vacation spot in a week. Even though I’m looking forward to the vacation, things like packing stress me out.

One of the scariest parts is that I hear voices when I get really stressed. That’s the schizophrenic part of my schizoaffective disorder reacting to stress. I know the voices aren’t real, and they don’t tell me to do anything, but as I’m sure you can understand, I would still rather not hear them. When I do hear voices from getting stressed out, I feel like it’s “my fault” for letting myself get so stressed out. That’s called internalized stigma or self-stigma. That means I turn the stigma surrounding mental illness inward, toward myself.

How I Cope with Stress on Top of Mental Illness

Stress complicates mental illnesses like schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Here's how I relax when anxiety and schizoaffective disorder team up on me.I’ve itemized things I can do to lessen my stress levels, but, unfortunately, I can’t seem to think of them when I’m really stressed out because of my schizoaffective disorder. I pull out my list. One thing that helps is doing a guided meditation. This is especially good when I wake up first thing in the morning. I recommend this to anyone living with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

Another very simple thing that helps is drinking water. There’s something very soothing about water – I like to take cool baths in the summer and hot baths in the winter. A little imagination makes the baths fun --I like to pretend I’m a mermaid when I take a bath. I know that sounds silly, but sometimes you have to allow yourself a little fun when you’re trying to de-stress. Also, sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly stressed out I’ll book an extra therapy session.

Those are just a few of the things I do to calm myself down when I’m feeling stressed out. Other people have said they like to read, do deep breathing, or do yoga to alleviate stress.

I hope this article helps others who have a mental illness that gets compounded under stress. At the very least, I hope it helps you to remember that you’re not alone. We’re in this together.

Photo by Elizabeth Caudy.

Find Elizabeth on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and her personal blog.

APA Reference
Caudy, E. (2016, August 11). Dealing with Stress and a Mental Illness Like Schizophrenia, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 16 from

Author: Elizabeth Caudy

Elizabeth Caudy was born in 1979 to a writer and a photographer. She has been writing since she was five years old. She has a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Tom. Find Elizabeth on Google+ and on her personal blog.

August, 11 2018 at 6:28 pm

I loved your post. I am schizoeffective and general anxiety disorder myself, in remission mainly for my adult life but active over 12 years. I still can't handle any stress though and it starts activating it. I keep telling people one reason I can't handle the heat in florida summers is when I get hot I start getting anxious or exhausted, and if something else is already wrong I can't calm down if I'm hot. I thought I was unique to be so drawn to baths and showers all the time to feel so much better, and be fascinated by water, as I've never heard others really mention this - very cool that we share these two in common. Maybe it's a connection with the illness.

August, 20 2016 at 6:51 am

I feel the exact same way! I stress out about everything! Like traveling, work, not working, driving long distances to name a few. I book extra therapy sessions when I stress out too. I also suffer from depression and it acts up from time to time. Thank you for sharing your insight.

August, 14 2016 at 5:24 pm

I don't have schizophrenia, but I do have plenty of paranoia. Paranoia seizes you. It makes you see the worse in people. Everything is the worse. Nothing positive, just the worse.

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