Does Schizophrenia Get Worse with Age? (2023)

For most people with schizophrenia, the condition spans a lifetime.

Symptoms often begin in the teen years with periods of greater intensity from time to time. As you get older, complications can emerge. This mainly happens because schizophrenia affects your whole body, not just your brain.

What should you expect from this mental health condition, and how could your treatment plan change as you age? This article explores these topics and offers some guidance on how to best move forward.

Research suggests that the severity of your symptoms may have more to do with the age you were when your symptoms first started than the age you are now.

Still, people with schizophrenia tend to age faster than the general population. This is likely due to a combination of factors and not just the disorder itself.

According to a 2018 research review, studies have found that people with schizophrenia have higher levels of oxidative stress than people without the condition. Oxidative stress is aging that takes place at the cellular level. During this process, your body slowly loses its ability to repair cell damage.

Oxidative stress is linked to schizophrenia but isn’t necessarily the result of the condition itself. It’s probably linked to schizophrenia-related factors like:

  • lower income and economic stress
  • inflammation
  • medication side effects
  • smoking

Symptoms in later life

Symptoms of schizophrenia are usually divided into three groups:

  • Positive symptoms. These are symptoms that most people without schizophrenia don’t experience. They are usually symptoms associated with psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions.
  • Negative symptoms. These are things present in most people but absent in people with schizophrenia. Examples include an inability to feel joy (anhedonia) and a lack of motivation (avolition).
  • Cognitive symptoms. These symptoms are related to learning, memory, concentration, and decision making.

It’s unclear how positive and negative symptoms progress with age. When looking at people with schizophrenia during later stages of life, a 2016 study produced conflicting results about these symptoms.

People with schizophrenia also tend to have a lowered ability to think during older age than people without, according to 2015 research. It’s unclear whether the rate of decline is similar to that of the general population or if schizophrenia causes a quicker decline.

Lower cognition may mainly result from a significant decline that happens when schizophrenia first starts.

(Video) The Most Commonly Googled Questions About Schizophrenia

Research from 2013 suggests that living in a care facility may increase your risk of cognitive decline. Since the staff manages many day-to-day activities, residents have fewer mental demands. Not exercising the brain increases the risk of greater cognitive decline.

Remission is a period of 6 months or longer when your symptoms are less severe. The symptoms healthcare professionals are likely to consider are:

  • disorganized thinking
  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • blunted affect or little emotion
  • social withdrawal
  • inability to be spontaneous
  • repetitive movements or mannerisms
  • unusual thoughts

Remission is possible for many people. In fact, a 2021 study of 129 participants found that 16 to 78 percent of people with schizophrenia have periods of remission. Similarly, a 2019 study of 77 older people with schizophrenia found that roughly half of the participants achieved remission.

What makes the difference for many people? Social support. Having a partner, family, or community to help you manage symptoms has a big impact on the likelihood of remission. For that reason, it’s important to strengthen support networks around people with schizophrenia.

People with schizophrenia have a lower life expectancy than the general population. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that schizophrenia could shorten your life by as much as 28.5 years.

That number is influenced by many different health factors, some of which you may be able to control, such as smoking.

People with schizophrenia have a higher risk of developing certain health conditions as they get older. This is partly because healthcare professionals may overlook signs of physical illness in people with a mental health condition. It can also be easy to neglect your physical health if you’re dealing with other effects schizophrenia has on your life.

Here’s what we know about the health risks linked to schizophrenia:

(Video) Aging with Schizophrenia: Bad News and Good News

Congestive heart failure

Schizophrenia affects your heart. It can change your heart rate and raise your risk of congestive heart failure, according to a 2022 study.

When you have congestive heart failure, your heart loses its ability to pump blood as well as it should. That means your organs don’t get the oxygen-rich blood they need to work properly.

Often, when someone with schizophrenia dies at an earlier age than expected, it’s because of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is more common among people with schizophrenia than in the general population, according to 2019 research. Some researchers think this could be because people with schizophrenia tend to smoke more often and for longer periods than the general population.

When you have COPD, your airways become blocked. This makes it more difficult to take deep breaths.


The risk of developing diabetes is two to five times higher if you have schizophrenia, though the relationship between these two conditions is complex.

Medication side effects and the amount of physical activity you get both play a role. Some people with schizophrenia still develop diabetes even if they’ve never taken antipsychotic medications, though it’s unclear why.


People with schizophrenia may have a higher risk of developing dementia later in life, according to 2018 research. It’s not completely clear why this is the case.

It may be that other health conditions, like diabetes and CVD, make dementia more likely. It could also be influenced by medication side effects, the use of alcohol or tobacco, or low physical activity.

Some researchers think that schizophrenia affects your memory and thinking abilities more as you age.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a health condition that affects your nervous system. This condition disrupts your ability to walk, balance, and move. People with schizophrenia have a greater risk of developing Parkinson’s disease as they get older, according to 2021 research.

Medication side effects may be part of the reason. It’s also likely that schizophrenia affects the amount of dopamine your body produces. Dopamine is a key brain chemical that aids movement.


There’s a 50 percent higher risk of certain cancers in people with schizophrenia. Studies have found a higher risk of developing breast, lung, pancreatic, esophageal, and colon cancers.

It’s important for people with schizophrenia to have regular cancer screenings. Early detection is often key to a successful treatment.

(Video) At What Age Does Schizophrenia Develop? | Schizophrenia

Older adults with schizophrenia sometimes experience additional mental health conditions at the same time. For example, anxiety and depression can sometimes increase with age.

People with schizophrenia have a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and actions. A 2019 review suggests that this risk is higher in younger people who have been recently diagnosed.

Some medications that have been shown to lower the risk of suicide include:

  • clozapine
  • risperidone
  • olanzapine
  • quetiapine

Antidepressants can also help. A mental health professional will help best determine a treatment plan if medication is needed.

Other interventions may help manage suicidal thoughts or symptoms of depression and anxiety. These include:

  • social support networks
  • teaching positive coping skills
  • behavioral therapy

Suicidal thoughts

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please reach out. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with someone who can help.

Treating schizophrenia as you age

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The best way to improve your mental and physical health as you get older is to stick with your treatment plan. It’s also important to keep up with annual screenings so you can detect any other potential health conditions that need to be treated.


As you get older, you may not need as high a dose of antipsychotic medication. In fact, antipsychotic medications can cause different side effects in older adults. They may even lead to a decline in your reasoning abilities.

If you’re noticing new symptoms or side effects, it’s a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional. They may recommend a lower dose or a different medication.

Psychosocial interventions

The quality of your life as an older adult with schizophrenia can be markedly improved with psychological and social treatment methods. In fact, 2014 research suggests you may enjoy more positive social interactions as you get older.

These interventions may help you stay connected and feel supported:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • functional adaption skills training
  • community living training
  • supported job skills training
  • cognitive behavioral social skills training
  • financial management training
  • self-management and self-care strategies
  • group, individual, and family therapy

You may want to consider living in a health home to make accessing these types of treatment programs easier. Health homes are a program of Medicaid offering support for people with chronic illnesses.

Lifestyle changes

To lower your risk of disease and improve your mental and physical health, it’s important to maintain a balanced diet, avoid tobacco products, and get plenty of exercise — outdoors, if possible.

These guidelines are important for everyone but can have a powerful impact on the lives of older adults with schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia presents some serious challenges to the health and well-being of older adults. In some cases, it increases the risk of an earlier death. You may develop health conditions that affect your heart, metabolic system, lungs, or mobility. You may also have to cope with depression or anxiety.

Even so, there are steps you can take to manage your risks and improve your quality of life. Building a strong connection with your family, friends, and community is one. Having annual health screenings is another.

(Video) 6 Signs Of Schizophrenia

You can also look after your health day to day by eating well, staying active, and avoiding tobacco products. Perhaps the most important thing you can do to improve your outlook is to keep up with your schizophrenia medications and the rest of your treatment plan.


Does schizophrenia get worse as you age? ›

Schizophrenia is a chronic disorder that may wax and wane in severity, but it does not typically worsen with age. 1 For some people, the symptoms of schizophrenia will improve over time while for others the symptoms will stay the same or get worse.

What age does schizophrenia peak? ›

The peak age of onset of schizophrenia is 15 – 25 years in men and 20 – 30 years in women. It is often preceded by a prodromal phase of vague symptoms, some odd behaviours and a decline in functioning at school or work and interpersonally.

Does schizophrenia get worse with age if untreated? ›

For some people, schizophrenia symptoms and episodes may grow worse with time or age, particularly if they avoid treatment or professional help. However, when schizophrenia manifests at a younger age, symptoms and behavior are generally more extreme than with later-onset schizophrenia.

Do people with schizophrenia age quicker? ›

While it is true that people living with schizophrenia have a higher risk of developing physical illnesses than the general population, they actually do not age any faster cognitively than those living without schizophrenia.

What age does schizophrenia progress? ›

On average, the age of onset for schizophrenia is the late teens to early 30s, according to the NIMH . If left untreated, schizophrenia can worsen at any age, especially if you continue to experience episodes and symptoms.

What can worsen schizophrenia? ›

Certain drugs, particularly cannabis, cocaine, LSD or amphetamines, may trigger symptoms of schizophrenia in people who are susceptible. Using amphetamines or cocaine can lead to psychosis, and can cause a relapse in people recovering from an earlier episode.

What is the lasting living age of someone with schizophrenia? ›

What is the life expectancy for people with schizophrenia? People with schizophrenia generally live about 15 to 20 years less than those without the condition.

Is schizophrenia inherited from mother or father? ›

Past studies have reported that offspring of affected mothers have a higher risk of schizophrenia than the offspring of affected fathers; however, other studies found no such maternal effect [Gottesman and Shields, 1976].

Which behavior is most suggestive of schizophrenia? ›

The 10 most common ones are:
  • Disorganized thinking. ...
  • Concentration and memory problems. ...
  • Overly excited. ...
  • Grandiosity. ...
  • Emotional withdrawal. ...
  • Lack of emotional expressions (blunted) ...
  • Difficulty with abstract thinking. ...
  • Extremely disorganized or catatonic behavior.

Do schizophrenics know they are sick? ›

Unfortunately, most people with schizophrenia are unaware that their symptoms are warning signs of a mental disorder. Their lives may be unraveling, yet they may believe that their experiences are normal. Or they may feel that they're blessed or cursed with special insights that others can't see.

Why is living with schizophrenia hard? ›

The individual will spend a large amount of time worrying about what others are thinking and doing to them. Thought and movement disorders: An individual with schizophrenia may have a hard time organizing thoughts into anything meaningful. They may stop speaking abruptly or speak in a garbled way.

Has anyone ever been healed from schizophrenia? ›

While there is no known cure, it is possible to live a meaningful and happy life with schizophrenia. There are many effective treatments, best provided by a team. These include medication, psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, and social services, as well as tools to help you stay in school or keep working.

What is the most common cause of death in schizophrenia? ›

Schizophrenia itself isn't life-threatening. But people who have it are more likely to have other health conditions that raise their chances of death. The 2015 study found that heart disease was the top cause of death in people with schizophrenia, accounting for about a quarter of all cases.

Will schizophrenia ever get easier? ›

Most people with schizophrenia make a recovery, although many will experience the occasional return of symptoms (relapses). Support and treatment can help you to manage your condition and the impact it has on your life.

How does schizophrenia progress over time? ›

Schizophrenia has three distinct phases, which share some overlapping symptoms. The three stages are prodromal, active, and residual. Diagnosing the stages of schizophrenia is important for an individual to receive the proper treatment to manage their condition.

What is the late stage of schizophrenia? ›

Late-onset schizophrenia is defined as onset of psychosis after age 45 years and it has been previously associated with a higher proportion of women, high levels of occupational functioning and marital relationships, as well as more severe paranoid delusions and more visual, tactile, and olfactory hallucinations.

What are 3 warning signs of schizophrenia? ›

Symptoms may include:
  • Delusions. These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. ...
  • Hallucinations. These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don't exist. ...
  • Disorganized thinking (speech). ...
  • Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behavior. ...
  • Negative symptoms.
Jan 7, 2020

Does schizophrenia cause brain damage? ›

Schizophrenia has been described as the “worst disease” to afflict mankind. It causes psychosis, which is an abnormal state of mind marked by hyperarousal, overactivation of brain circuits, and emotional distress. An untreated episode of psychosis can result in structural brain damage due to neurotoxicity.

What not to do with a schizophrenic? ›

While it may be easy to become frustrated or angry with them, you should never yell, say harsh things, or speak in a strong voice to them. Instead, speak gently. Be honest, but don't be harsh or aggressive. This person is probably relying on your support, and it's best to express your concerns in a gentle manner.

What causes schizophrenia flare ups? ›

Not taking medication regularly or as prescribed is by far the most common cause of schizophrenia relapse. Persistent use of drugs or alcohol and criticism from caregivers are next on the list. "Many people with schizophrenia abuse some type of drug, most commonly marijuana," Frangou says.

What should schizophrenics avoid? ›

Many people with schizophrenia have trouble with sleep, but getting regular exercise, reducing sugar in your diet, and avoiding caffeine can help. Avoid alcohol and drugs. It can be tempting to try to self-medicate the symptoms of schizophrenia with drugs and alcohol.

Can schizophrenia lead to dementia? ›

Cognitive decline can eventually lead to dementia. A 2018 study suggests that people with schizophrenia have a nearly twofold increased risk of dementia after adjusting for other standard risk factors.

What kind of jobs can schizophrenics do? ›

People with schizophrenia hold all kinds of positions, including senior managers and other professionals, cleaners and laborers, and salespeople. You may not have experience in a certain field, but if the job tasks fit your abilities, give it a try. Keep an open mind. You may want to work full time.

Is life hard for schizophrenics? ›

As a psychotic condition, schizophrenia can cause some very troubling symptoms, like hallucinations and delusions, that make daily life challenging. Without treatment it can lead to isolation, an inability to work or go to school, depression, suicide, and other complications.

What drug is most used for schizophrenia? ›

Conventional Antipsychotics

Haloperidol, fluphenazine, and chlorpromazine are known as conventional, or typical, antipsychotics and have been used to treat schizophrenia for years.

Is schizophrenia caused by poor parenting? ›

Contrary to the beliefs of professionals prior to the 1970s and to the impression still promoted by the popular media, there is no evidence, even after decades of research, that family or parenting problems cause schizophrenia.

Can a schizophrenic raise a child? ›

Newman adds that with support, parents with schizophrenia can provide for their children by working, as well as teaching and loving them just like parents without mental health conditions.

What are the red flags for schizophrenia? ›

Delusions. Disorganized speech. Disorganized or catatonic behavior. Negative symptoms (emotional flatness, apathy, lack of speech)

What is the strongest predictor for schizophrenia? ›

A family history of psychiatric conditions is considered to be the strongest risk factor for schizophrenia among first-degree relatives (8).

What goes on in the mind of a schizophrenic? ›

Schizophrenia usually involves delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that don't exist), unusual physical behavior, and disorganized thinking and speech. It is common for people with schizophrenia to have paranoid thoughts or hear voices.

Should you tell a schizophrenic they are wrong? ›

It's best to avoid arguing about these experiences. Remember that delusion are symptoms of schizophrenia—they are not thoughts that you can talk someone out of. Telling someone that their experiences aren't real or aren't true doesn't help when the experiences feel very real to that person!

Is it good to tell someone they have schizophrenia? ›

When you or someone you're close to has schizophrenia, you may not want anyone to know. But explaining the illness to friends and family is an important way to help set up a support network.

Can a schizophrenic fall in love? ›

The desire for love, meaningful personal relationships, romance, and family is well documented in persons with schizophrenia (Davidson and Stayner, 1997; Redmond et al., 2010; Davidson, 2011), as well as present in the clinical experience.

Do people with schizophrenia like to argue? ›

Psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations, with subsequent suspiciousness and hostility, may result in aggressive behavior. Or, aggression may be impulsive and caused by an environmental frustrating event. Patients may be more aggressive and violent during acute episodes.

Should a person with schizophrenia live alone? ›

New research shows that people who have schizophrenia can still live independently, pursue higher education or hold down a demanding job. In fact, many do manage their illness and live full and highly productive lives.

What is the best living situation for schizophrenia? ›

Supervised Group Housing

These group homes provide their residents with their own bed, dresser and closet space, and shared bathrooms and common areas. This is the best type of housing for people experiencing a serious mental illness which may affect their ability to perform their daily tasks.

What vitamins and minerals help with schizophrenia? ›

A large review of over 800 patients found that people who took high-dose B-vitamins like B6, B8, and B12 in addition to their medications significantly reduced symptoms of schizophrenia, compared with those who took medicines alone. These supplements seem most helpful when people start them early in their illness.

Can schizophrenics drive? ›

Driving. Having schizophrenia could affect your ability to drive. If you've had or currently suffer from a medical condition or disability that may affect your driving you must tell the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA).

What celebrities have schizophrenia? ›

Faces of Schizophrenia You May Know
  • Aaron Carter. 1/12. The former teen pop star, rapper, and dancer says he's dealing with several mental illnesses, including schizophrenia. ...
  • Zelda Fitzgerald. 2/12. ...
  • Darrell Hammond. 3/12. ...
  • Lionel Aldridge. 4/12. ...
  • Bettie Page. 5/12. ...
  • John Nash Jr. 6/12. ...
  • Eduard Einstein. 7/12. ...
  • Jim Gordon. 8/12.
Jan 12, 2022

What mental disorder gets worse with age? ›

Personality disorders that are susceptible to worsening with age include paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, obsessive compulsive, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, avoidant, and dependent, said Dr. Rosowsky, a geropsychologist in Needham, Mass.

What is late stage schizophrenia? ›

What Is Late-Onset Schizophrenia? Late-onset schizophrenia is a mental illness found in individuals age 45 or older. People with this mental illness can experience hallucinations, delusions, have trouble thinking clearly, and show extreme behavioral changes.

What happens to schizophrenia if left untreated? ›

Left untreated, schizophrenia can result in severe problems that affect every area of life. Complications that schizophrenia may cause or be associated with include: Suicide, suicide attempts and thoughts of suicide. Anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

What is the most serious form of schizophrenia? ›

Paranoid schizophrenia

It may develop later in life than other forms. Symptoms include hallucinations and/or delusions, but your speech and emotions may not be affected.

Who gets schizophrenia the most? ›

The risk for schizophrenia has been found to be somewhat higher in men than in women, with the incidence risk ratio being 1.3–1.4. Schizophrenia tends to develop later in women, but there do not appear to be any differences between men and women in the earliest symptoms and signs during the prodromal phase.

Is schizophrenia the most severe mental illness? ›

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe mental disorder that affects the way a person thinks, acts, expresses emotions, perceives reality, and relates to others. Though schizophrenia isn't as common as other major mental illnesses, it can be the most chronic and disabling.

What's the hardest mental disorder to live with? ›

But in the shadows are a cluster of conditions that continue to face deep discrimination: schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and BPD. BPD in particular is one of the lesser-known mental illnesses, but all the same it is one of the hardest to reckon with.

What is the most difficult mental disorder to live with? ›

BPD is considered to be one of the most serious mental illnesses, as it causes a great deal of suffering and has a high-risk for suicide.”

What mental illness has the worst quality of life? ›

The HRQoL 15D was again used to evaluate the quality of life in those found to have one of these disorders. Among those with one of these three disorders, those with schizoaffective disorder were found to have the worst quality of life, followed by those with schizophrenia, and then by those with bipolar disorder.

What not to do to someone with schizophrenia? ›

While it may be easy to become frustrated or angry with them, you should never yell, say harsh things, or speak in a strong voice to them. Instead, speak gently. Be honest, but don't be harsh or aggressive. This person is probably relying on your support, and it's best to express your concerns in a gentle manner.

What happens after 10 years of schizophrenia? ›

Ten years after diagnosis: 50% of people with schizophrenia recover or improve to the point they can work and live on their own. 25% are better but need help from a strong support network to get by. 15% are not better.

When should a person with schizophrenia be hospitalized? ›

You may have to go to the hospital if: You're having a psychotic episode. This means that you can't tell the difference between what is real and what isn't real. You talk about suicide or hurting yourself or others.


1. Man suffering psychotic episode left alone near highway by first responders
(CBS Evening News)
2. Young Man on Being Diagnosed With Psychosis
(PBS NewsHour)
3. The 4 Schizophrenia Symptoms You Need to Know
4. How psychosis bends your reality - BBC
5. 10 Early Warning Signs of Schizophrenia
(Living Well with Schizophrenia)
6. What They Don't Tell You About Mental Illness | Elizabeth Medina | TEDxSpeedwayPlaza
(TEDx Talks)
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