Schizophrenia can give rise to a range of mental, physical, and social complications. Here’s what we know.

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While schizophrenia causes serious symptoms, treatment and support are available.

Early diagnosis of schizophrenia can help reduce symptoms and complications. Schizophrenia symptoms can worsen and can seriously impact your life in many ways if left untreated.

Importantly, not everyone has equal access to mental health resources or care. People of Color, for example, are more likely to face greater barriers to healthcare access, as older research details.

Black people and people of Latin American descent are more likely to receive a misdiagnosis different from schizophrenia particularly due to healthcare inequities and cultural perceptions.

You can read more about how schizophrenia is perceived in an underrepresented culture, such as American Indigenous communities, here.

In addition to typically co-occurring with other conditions, schizophrenia causes many symptoms that may lead to additional mental health complications.

One 2018 review points out that the long-term outcome of schizophrenia depends a great deal on whether a person has consistent access to mental health care.

The research suggests folks who receive treatment earlier and get ongoing support are more likely to experience better outcomes. Yet, lack of continuous maintenance can cause increasingly worse symptoms.

A 2018 study found people who stop treatment for schizophrenia also have greater chances of experiencing long-term complications and symptom relapse.

These complications can occur within schizophrenia or with co-occurring conditions.

Drug and alcohol use disorders

Folks with schizophrenia may be more likely to have drug or alcohol use disorders. Someone with schizophrenia may attempt to self-medicate, which can, in turn, worsen their symptoms.

Suicide

Additionally, those who experience psychosis have higher rates of suicide or suicide attempts.

Psychosis can happen if schizophrenia is left untreated. And for some individuals, psychosis may also be the first obvious sign of schizophrenia.

In addition to psychosis, other factors may increase the chances of suicide or a suicide attempt in people with schizophrenia:

  • having depressive symptoms
  • stopping or never receiving treatment
  • having previous suicide attempts
  • being younger
  • having alcohol or drug use disorders
  • having a family history of suicide or depression

Other mental health effects

Schizophrenia also causes symptoms that look a lot like depression. These may include:

  • loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • difficulty concentrating
  • trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • loss of motivation
  • difficulty with social situations
  • lack of energy
  • problems keeping up with hygiene

Schizophrenia also causes a decrease in cognitive functioning.

Schizophrenia can lead to physical complications as well.

For example, people with the condition have a higher likelihood of developing:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • infections

Complications may occur because schizophrenia changes the way a person behaves and interacts with themselves, other folks, and their environment.

Research suggests that lifestyle and behavioral factors of individuals with schizophrenia may impact physical health. But there’s still not enough evidence to say for sure whether biological factors may also play a role.

Some medical side effects from long-term antipsychotic medication use can occur. These include:

Evidence also suggests that people with serious conditions like schizophrenia are more likely to have shorter life spans than the general population.

Those with the condition benefit from visiting their primary care doctor more routinely, which can be done in collaboration with psychiatrists. Some states financially support care teams that can oversee collaborative care situations.

Because schizophrenia affects a person’s thinking, perception, emotions, and behavior, it may make it difficult to find and hold a job. However, managing schizophrenia with professional support can help make it possible to work.

Homelessness is another complication of schizophrenia and public health concern, as discussed in this “Inside Schizophrenia” podcast episode.



Individuals with this mental health condition may also have challenges keeping track of their finances and maintaining relationships.

People may face challenges in finding support and seeking treatment because of the stigma surrounding the condition.

Symptoms of untreated schizophrenia can also make it difficult to accept treatment and continue with daily routines.

A 2018 study found that only 24% of Swedish adults with schizophrenia had a job 3 years before their first diagnosis. At the time of diagnosis, the employment rate dropped. Employment decreased to 10% at the 5-year mark after participants were diagnosed.

However, because the study focused on nationwide register data, researchers couldn’t determine the severity of symptoms for each person. Study authors did conclude that the following were associated with higher rates of employment:

  • high level of education
  • being older at the time of diagnosis
  • not having a substance use disorder
  • having none or few previous hospitalizations
  • cohabiting or being married

It’s possible that people with higher levels of education are more likely to have access to healthcare resources. Those with support systems like a live-in partner may also be more likely to seek out and continue treatment.

It’s also possible that some individuals are better able to function socially or achieve higher levels of education because they have milder symptoms.

There’s no cure for schizophrenia, but treatment options can help manage symptoms and prevent a relapse.

Medications and psychological treatments can help with complications. For example, a combination of therapy and antipsychotic drugs may help improve mood and deter suicidal thoughts.

Treatment may also help people with schizophrenia improve their social lives and employment status.

However, it’s essential to discuss each treatment option’s pros and cons with your care team. Psychiatrists and therapists who specialize in treating people with schizophrenia can help you navigate the different treatments available and decide on a regimen that works for you.

Depending on whether someone with schizophrenia has minimal support needs or requires more full-time support daily, they may need benefit from an occupational therapist or social worker to help coordinate care.

It’s vital to continue treatment because stopping early can cause a relapse of symptoms.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, it may be a good idea to seek help from a professional.

A clinician can help you decide on a treatment plan that fits your needs. The sooner you seek and get treatment, the better you may feel.

If you think someone you know is showing signs of this mental health condition, showing your support is crucial. If they’ve confided in you about a mental health disorder, here’s how you can respond.

If you’re not sure where to turn for help, you can try asking your doctor for a referral or visit Psych Central’s find a therapist page.