Managing Multiple Diagnoses: Schizophrenia and Anxiety

April 5, 2023 Rebecca Chamaa

It is common to have more than one mental illness at a time. Most people I know (from support groups) have multiple diagnoses. I have both paranoid schizophrenia and generalized anxiety disorder. I know people with schizoaffective disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I also know of people with bipolar disorder and eating disorders. It is not rare to have a personality disorder along with schizophrenia, bipolar, or another diagnosis. People call it a dual diagnosis if someone has a substance abuse disorder and a mental illness

Managing one mental illness is complicated, but managing two or more can be like standing on a log during a log-rolling competition. Falling in the water is highly likely as the wood is so slick from the moisture (and the log is rolling quickly). It is challenging to manage because each disorder or illness has its own symptoms and requires different treatments.

There Are Medications for Schizophrenia and Anxiety

I'm on medication for schizophrenia and medication for anxiety. That seems straightforward enough, but when it comes to self-care, my two illnesses require very different approaches, and all the things I have to do to try and maintain an acceptable (to me) level of functioning are hard work.

My symptoms of schizophrenia, like psychosis, can be much more severe than anxiety, but that doesn't mean anxiety doesn't interrupt my life, goals, and plans. The best way to keep me from psychotic episodes is to take antipsychotic medication, monitor my sleep, exercise and care for my body in ways I can manage each day (without spending all of my time on those pursuits). The best way to manage my anxiety is a mystery because I have anxiety attacks (known trigger) and panic attacks (unknown trigger). 

I know some things that trigger an anxiety attack (going to the doctor, waiting for test results from lab work or medical procedures, etc.). Still, most of the time, I have no warning about a panic attack, which happens without an identifiable trigger. Treating the underlying cause of a panic attack when you don't know why you had it mystifies me. Dealing with these symptoms or episodes makes it hard to plan for the future. Due to my anxiety, my husband and I have canceled countless parties, vacations, etc. 

We hear a lot about anxiety on social media, in magazines, and on shows. That might be because it is easier for most people to relate to and understand. People might also be more vocal about this illness because there is less stigma surrounding having it. We also have mainstream characters like Ted Lasso, who has panic attacks (I'm not sure if he had panic attacks or anxiety attacks, considering the two differ). But just because they are more familiar to most people doesn't mean they are easy or don't cause significant disruption to people's lives.

Which Is Worse, Schizophrenia or Anxiety?

I can't compare having schizophrenia to anxiety in a way that would say which one is worse than the other. They both require treatment, tools, and life changes and make life with them a struggle. I only know that having more than one diagnosis requires more effort to try and manage and many more symptomatic days as I try to juggle the impact of not one but two mental illnesses. 

APA Reference
Chamaa, R. (2023, April 5). Managing Multiple Diagnoses: Schizophrenia and Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Rebecca Chamaa

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