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What happens if schizophrenia is left untreated?

by Krutika Lohakare
What happens if schizophrenia is left untreated?

Schizophrenia is a severe and debilitating mental disorder that causes hallucinations, delusions, strange behaviors, and suicidal thoughts. It is a serious and life-threatening disease, but nearly half of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia do not get treatment. It appears during late adolescence or early adulthood and affects a person’s speech, thoughts, and emotions. 

Their mental health worsens and they develop other mental health disorders. Sadly, schizophrenia is a lifelong condition and it cannot be cured. Schizophrenia treatment helps a person to manage the symptoms, prevent relapses, and avoid hospitalization. The options in the treatment include antipsychotic drugs, counseling, and coordinated specialty care.

Reasons contributing to schizophrenia

  • Genetics
  • Brain development
  • Brain structure
  • Brain chemistry
  • Environment

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

Healthcare providers can diagnose schizophrenia in people between the ages of 15 and 35. Doctors cannot diagnose schizophrenia with a single test. The diagnosis requires a physical exam, tests and screenings, and a psychiatric evaluation by a mental healthcare professional. It is important to detect schizophrenia at an early stage when the chances of recovery are high.

Types of schizophrenia

Paranoid schizophrenia – having feelings of grandiosity, suspicion, or persecution

Disorganized schizophrenia – experiencing incoherent thoughts which need not be delusional

Catatonic schizophrenia – isolation and withdrawal

Residual schizophrenia – hallucinations and delusions may disappear, but the person loses interest in life

Schizoaffective disorder – showing symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disorder

Symptoms of schizophrenia

Positive symptoms – severe or mild delusions, hallucinations, and thought disorders

Negative symptoms – inability to speak, express emotions, make plans, or find pleasure in life.

Cognitive symptoms – problems with memory and attention in planning and organizing to achieve a goal.

How is schizophrenia treated?

Schizophrenia treatment includes a combination of medication and therapy. A team of doctors, nurses, therapists, and counselors provides the treatment. During the treatment, the psychiatrist teaches a person to deal with their thoughts and behaviors. They learn to differentiate between what is real and what is not real. The healthcare providers train them to manage everyday life without depending much on others.

What happens if schizophrenia is not treated?

If schizophrenia is not treated at an early stage, the mental health of a person worsens. The severity of the disease increases and they develop other mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. A person with untreated schizophrenia and comorbid disorders can experience suicidal thoughts. In some people, it causes brain damage, liver disease, heart disease, or diabetes.

Schizophrenia also causes economic and social impacts. It affects relationships, social standing, financial security and makes it difficult to maintain healthy, meaningful relationships. All schizophrenia patients do not become violent, but they can become a victim of a violent crime.

Treating schizophrenia

Schizophrenia patients can live a normal life only through early diagnosis and treating and managing the symptoms with medicine and therapy. With schizophrenia treatment, they have fewer relapses and hospitalizations.

They learn to manage symptoms, live and work independently, build satisfying relationships, and enjoy a rewarding life. The treatment helps the maximum number of schizophrenia patients to get better and by sticking to it they are less likely to experience a situation that requires hospitalization.

The earlier a person begins schizophrenia treatment, the greater are the chances to get better. Taking medicines alone will not help. Schizophrenia patients should take self-help measures, build a strong support system, and stick to the treatment plan. Taking a proactive role and self-help is crucial for recovery. Take your illness seriously, but be confident that you can improve.

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