Since schizophrenia is a lifelong condition, some have asked: does schizophrenia get worse as you age? Simply put, there’s currently no evidence suggesting age worsens schizophrenia symptoms. ¹ However, without the proper treatment, this condition may worsen as time progresses.
Throughout this article, we’re going to consider what may cause schizophrenia to worsen and how this may appear in those struggling and onlookers. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What Causes Schizophrenia to Get Worse?
In most cases, schizophrenia worsens when someone is not following a treatment regimen. Admittedly, schizophrenia symptoms may cause someone to avoid treatment or simply not follow the treatment plan they’ve been given.
More specifically, symptoms of schizophrenia may convince someone to not take their medication. This is important as medication is one of the fundamental ways people with schizophrenia ease symptoms. ² When you suddenly stop taking your medication, it’s only natural for symptoms to worsen.
To take this further, unchecked schizophrenia symptoms may cause violent or erratic behavior. ³ Such behavior can lead to societal consequences – making the path to treatment all the more difficult.
Beyond this, age can play one significant factor in schizophrenia – older adults may have difficulty with daily responsibilities, making it more difficult to manage symptoms. Naturally, such circumstances can make schizophrenia worsen.
If Schizophrenia Does Worsen, What Does it Look Like?
When schizophrenia worsens, it can appear in a number of different ways. Most notably, the person struggling may find themselves more isolated or unable to properly manage relationships. Furthermore, daily responsibilities will likely become more difficult, only making them want to spend more time at home.
This isolation may promote hallucinations and delusions – two of the most common negative symptoms. ⁵ This can lead to confusion which can result in certain responsibilities, such as avoiding hygiene or not paying bills.
If these symptoms go unchecked, they may also lead to other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and mood swings. With enough time, this may cause frustration and further difficulty in coping with the illness. If the weight is unbearable, it may also lead to suicidal ideation.
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You can call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 – this service is available 24/7.
What Does Schizophrenia Look Like When it Improves?
Vice versa, if schizophrenia symptoms are improving, you’ll find the person struggling will become more social. This may appear as spending more time with friends and family, going on dates again, or appearing at events.
Furthermore, people with an improved condition will get back into daily responsibilities. This can appear in big ways, such as going back to school or getting a job. However, this may also appear in small ways, such as taking care of their personal hygiene.
Does Schizophrenia Get Worse as You Age?
As discussed, age doesn’t determine whether or not schizophrenia will worsen. Instead, your condition is ultimately based on your treatment regimen.
Admittedly, if treatment isn’t followed, schizophrenia can worsen with age. However, this isn’t due to age itself (or health conditions caused by age). Instead, it’s a product of the condition worsening with time.
Schizophrenia Life Expectancy
Since schizophrenia can cause a lot of stress for those struggling, their life expectancy is shorter. More specifically, people with schizophrenia are expected to live 16 to 18 years shorter than the average population. ⁶ Therefore, such a person will likely live to about 64 years old. ⁷
However, these statistics largely apply to those who have not received the proper treatment. If you’re treating schizophrenia with the right medication, you have a better chance of living to the average life expectancy.
Furthermore, the age you’re diagnosed also plays a significant role. If you’re diagnosed at a younger age, you have more of a chance of overcoming this condition than someone diagnosed later on. However, it’s worth noting that a younger diagnosis may lead to poorer outcomes in comparison to those who are older. ⁸
Can Schizophrenia Lead to Dementia?
No matter what age you receive a diagnosis, people with schizophrenia are more likely to develop dementia than the average population. ⁹ Therefore, elderly people with schizophrenia are at a higher risk of this condition (along with Alzheimer’s disease) and should be monitored.
While schizophrenia doesn’t get worse with age, it can worsen over time without the proper treatment. For this reason, it’s vital to speak to a mental health professional if you see signs of schizophrenia in yourself or a loved one.
With the proper treatment, people with schizophrenia can go on to live long and fulfilling lives. Furthermore, if you’re looking to help someone with schizophrenia, you can learn more from our guide here.
So, does schizophrenia get worse as you age? As we’ve answered, it doesn’t. But you may still have more questions.
We invite you to ask these in the comments section below. We’d also love to hear from you if you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional.
¹ Current Opinion in Psychiatry: Recovery from schizophrenia: is it possible?
² Journal of Medical Economics: Medication adherence and discontinuation of long-acting injectable versus oral antipsychotics in patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
³ JAMA Psychiatry: Association of Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders and Violence Perpetration in Adults and Adolescents From 15 Countries: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
⁴ Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine: Social functioning and the quality of life of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia
⁵ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Schizophrenia
⁶ Schizophrenia Research: Life expectancy among persons with schizophrenia or bipolar affective disorder
⁷ The Lancet Psychiatry: Years of potential life lost and life expectancy in schizophrenia: a systematic review and meta-analysis
⁸ Early Intervention in Psychiatry: Age at onset and the outcomes of schizophrenia: A systematic review and meta‐analysis
⁹ Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment: Schizophrenia and risk of dementia: a meta-analysis study