What to Know About the Phases Of Schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia is a chronic mental condition that severely disrupts a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

A person with this condition might become out of touch with reality. While it might progress rapidly for some people, in most cases, it progresses so gradually that you might not notice the symptoms at the early stage of the condition. Research shows that the condition affects up to 0.64% of the United States population.

Schizophrenia affects men and women equally. However, men are more likely to exhibit symptoms earlier than women. A man with this condition might start to notice symptoms in their early 20s and sometimes even in their late teens. 

This article details the three phases of schizophrenia and the symptoms that appear in each. It also covers treatment options.

Prodromal Phase 

This is the earliest stage of schizophrenia. The word prodromal is often used to describe the period in illnesses where symptoms haven’t begin to properly manifest. Due to this, It’s often hard to diagnose a condition in the prodromal phase.

However, an accurate diagnosis in this stage could vastly improve the quality of life of a person with this condition. Proper treatment may even slow the progression.

Making a diagnosis of schizophrenia is also tricky because the symptoms in this stage often mirror that of several other mental health conditions such as depression.

Moreover, this phase could last from a few weeks to several months and not everyone with the condition might go through this phase. 

Symptoms 

Most of the symptoms people with schizophrenia experience in this stage are so mild that they can be hard to notice. And even when they are noticed people often fail to draw a link to schizophrenia.

These symptoms often include: 

  • Self-isolation 
  • Loss of interest in activities they’d usually engage in 
  • Clumsiness
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Anxiety 
  • Believing in things many people might describe as odd 
  • Changes in appetite 

It’s important to remember that not everyone with schizophrenia will experience these symptoms at this stage. And symptoms will look different from person to person.

Acute Phase


This phase of schizophrenia is also known as the active phase. In this stage of the condition, a person with schizophrenia will actively experience psychosis symptoms.

It’s often easier for an accurate diagnosis to be made in this stage of the condition. Symptoms of the condition at this stage can severely disrupt a person’s daily functioning. However, with the right treatment, these symptoms can be managed.

Symptoms 

Symptoms of schizophrenia are classified into negative and positive symptoms. In the acute phase of this condition, a person is most likely to predominantly experience positive symptoms.

Positive Symptoms 

Positive symptoms of schizophrenia are typically displays of abnormal behavior (i.e., behaviors that someone without schizophrenia would not exhibit) such as:

  • Thought broadcasting, where a person believes that people around them can hear their thoughts
  • Delusions, which could include delusions of grandeur where a person believes they belong to a high status. For instance, a person could suddenly believe that they are the Queen of England. Delusions may also be persecutory where a person believes that they are being plotted against or there’s some sort of threat to their being when there’s not.
  • Hallucinations, which further skew their perception of what is real and what is not 
  • Disorganized speech, which often makes communication difficult 

Recovery Phase 

This is sometimes referred to as the residual phase. Proper treatment in the acute phase of the condition is often required to reach this stage.

In some cases, it’s possible for a person to slip back into the acute phase of schizophrenia after being in the recovery phase. However, with the right treatment, the odds of this occurring are slim.

Symptoms


Unlike with the acute phase, people who are in this stage of the condition will most likely stop experiencing positive symptoms and experience more negative symptoms. 

Negative Symptoms 

Negative symptoms detract from a person’s functioning. Some of them include: 

Getting a Diagnosis  

If you notice that you or a person you love is exhibiting any of the above symptoms. It’s important to get help immediately. A diagnosis will likely be made in the acute phase.

In order to come to an accurate diagnosis, a doctor will have to ensure that other conditions with similar symptoms are ruled out. With proper treatment, a person with this condition could lead a healthy and full life. 

In making a diagnosis, medical professionals make use of either the International Classification of Diseases or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). These manuals provide a guide on what the symptoms of the condition are and how long symptoms must be present before giving a diagnosis. The doctor takes a medical history and evaluates the person’s symptoms. 

Treatment 

A combination of medication and psychotherapy is often used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia most effectively.

In the acute stage, antipsychotic medications such as Clozapine, Navane, and Haldol are prescribed to treat positive symptoms that people with this condition experience. However, these medications don’t cure the condition.

There is currently no cure for schizophrenia and medication serves to help lessen the severity of the condition’s symptoms.

Psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy and family intervention can also help people with schizophrenia manage their symptoms (especially negative symptoms like difficulty concentrating and lack of motivation).

It’s important to prepare a person with this condition for the next steps in managing it. This is especially important during the recovery phase when they are no longer experiencing psychosis symptoms. A person with this condition will most likely need treatment for life. 

A Word From Verywell 

While schizophrenia is a chronic and potentially debilitating condition, a person with this condition can live a relatively normal life with the proper treatment. If you have a loved one with schizophrenia, you can help them through their treatment by being supportive and respectful.

Joining a support group in your area for people and the family of people living with schizophrenia is a great way to get support from people who understand what you are going through. 

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6 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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