Does Schizophrenia Get Worse with Age?

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

What Causes Schizophrenia to Get Worse?

There are many reasons why schizophrenia may appear to worsen over time. The symptoms of schizophrenia can make it difficult for people with the illness to follow their treatment plan, and this can cause a worsening of the illness over time.

People with schizophrenia need to take medication regularly in order for their symptoms to be controlled. When people with schizophrenia stop taking their medication it is likely that their symptoms will become worse. When people with schizophrenia start taking their medication again it is likely that they will be less symptomatic over time.

For some people, the symptoms of schizophrenia will become so severe that they engage in erratic or violent behavior. When this happens, they may face additional societal challenges which can further damage their chances of improving and living a normal life. Some people who have schizophrenia develop symptoms severe enough that they cannot work any longer.

People with schizophrenia may also find that they need more support as they get older, because adult responsibilities like work and family can become difficult to manage while coping with the illness. This can make it appear as though their illness is worsening, when in fact it is their inability to manage life circumstances that creates problems in older persons with schizophrenia.

What Does Schizophrenia Look Like When It Gets Worse?

As the symptoms of schizophrenia get worse people with this illness often become more isolated and they find it difficult to maintain relationships. They may not be able to work or go to school any longer due to their symptoms, and they may spend most of their time alone in their homes.

People with schizophrenia who continue to experience hallucinations and delusions over many years may become increasingly confused about what is real and what is not. They may stop bathing and grooming, and their living conditions will likely decline in quality as they have a harder time maintaining a clean home or paying bills on time.

People with schizophrenia who experience depression, anxiety, or mood swings over many years may become increasingly frustrated due to their illness. They may have difficulty coping with their emotions, and they may feel hopeless about life.

What Does Schizophrenia Look Like When It Gets Better?

As the symptoms of schizophrenia get better, people with this illness often become more involved socially. They may start dating again or they may spend more time with family and friends. The return to school or work, if this is possible for their circumstances, can provide structure that helps them remain stable.

Does Schizophrenia Get Better as You Get Older?

Schizophrenia does not typically get better as you get older. The symptoms of schizophrenia may become worse over time, or they may remain the same for some people. Schizophrenia is a chronic illness that can be managed with medication and therapy, but it does not typically go away as you get older.

What Is the Average Life Expectancy of Someone With Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a debilitating disorder that can make it difficult for people to live their lives. It can also be extremely stressful for family members who are close to someone who has schizophrenia.

The good news is that schizophrenia is a treatable condition and people with the illness can live long and productive lives.

The average life expectancy of someone with schizophrenia may depend on several factors such as how soon the person was diagnosed, the severity of their symptoms, and whether or not they take their medication as they are supposed to.

People who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia at a younger age tend to have poorer outcomes overall than those who do not develop schizophrenia until they are older.

The average life expectancy of a person diagnosed with schizophrenia is about 16 to 18 years shorter than the average life expectancy of someone who does not have the illness. The average life expectancy of a person with schizophrenia is around 64 years old. By comparison, the average life expectancy of the general population in the United States is around 77 years old.

Elderly Schizophrenia and Dementia

People with schizophrenia are more likely to develop dementia than those in the general population. This means that the elderly person you know who has schizophrenia is at a greater risk of developing dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, later in life.

What Are the Signs of Schizophrenia Getting Worse?

There are several signs that indicate the symptoms of schizophrenia are worsening. For example, if the person with schizophrenia is not taking their medication as prescribed and experiencing an increase in hallucinations or delusions.

It may also be a sign that the symptoms of schizophrenia are getting worse if you notice any changes in your loved one's hygiene routine, weight, appetite, sleep patterns, and overall health condition. It is important to note that it may not be the schizophrenia itself that is causing these changes, but rather your loved one's coping strategies related to their schizophrenia.

The Following are Some Signs of Worsening Schizophrenia:

  • Disorganized speech: If the person with schizophrenia is speaking in a jumbled or incoherent manner, this could indicate that their medication needs to be adjusted or that they are experiencing a relapse of their illness.
  • Reduced or increased social contact: If the person with schizophrenia becomes less social or more isolated this may be a sign that they are slipping back into old patterns of behavior. On the other hand, if they become too attached to a specific individual it could mean that they are developing a new delusion and need to speak to their doctor about adjusting their medication.
  • Changes in appetite or weight: If the person with schizophrenia starts overeating and putting on weight, it could be a sign that they are experiencing negative symptoms related to their illness (e.g., delusions of poverty or poor health). On the other hand, if they start losing interest in food and begin losing weight, they may be experiencing hallucinations related to food.
  • Changes in sleeping patterns: If the person stops sleeping for long periods of time every day, it could be due to their schizophrenia medication interfering with the quality of their sleep. An increase in nightmares or difficulty falling asleep are also common signs of schizophrenia worsening.

A Word From Verywell

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that often comes with challenges for the individual who has it and for their loved ones. It is important to pay attention to any changes in your loved one's behavior, even if they are subtle.

Noticing these changes will enable you to intervene early before the symptoms of schizophrenia get worse. If you think the symptoms of schizophrenia in your loved one are intensifying, be sure to bring it up with their doctor and health care team.

10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Arlin Cuncic, MA
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology.