Schizophrenia Effects and Complications

Schizophrenia is one of the most disabling of all psychiatric illnesses. Many people who develop schizophrenia struggle with recurring episodes of psychosis and other symptoms throughout their lives. Because of the severity of symptoms and very nature of the disorder, schizophrenia has many effects and complications which often go along with the disorder.

Schizophrenia and Depression

People who have schizophrenia often suffer from other psychiatric disorders as well. Depression afflicts approximately half of schizophrenic patients. Sadly, it is not always recognized or treated. It can significantly add to the suffering of the person. Additionally, comorbid depression increases the risk of suicide in someone who is schizophrenic.

Schizophrenia and Suicide

Suicide is one of the primary causes of death for individuals with schizophrenia. There are several factors which contribute to suicide risk in schizophrenia. These include psychotic symptoms, such as voices telling the person to kill himself/herself, substance abuse, recent diagnosis of schizophrenia, and comorbid depression.

Schizophrenia and Anxiety

Many individuals with schizophrenia also have an anxiety disorder, such as social anxiety disorder, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, or panic disorder. In fact, research suggests between 30% and 85% of people with schizophrenia or related disorders have had an anxiety disorder at some point in time 1, 2.

Substance abuse and smoking

Substance abuse is a form of self-medication for many people with psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. Unfortunately, when schizophrenic individuals use substances such as alcohol or street drugs it can make their symptoms worse. They are also less likely to continue taking their medications when they abuse substances.

Many schizophrenic individuals are addicted to nicotine. It is believed that nicotine actually may decrease their psychotic symptoms to some degree.

Schizophrenia and Homelessness

Sadly, many individuals who develop schizophrenia end up homeless at some point in time. This may be due to many factors, including the severity of their psychotic symptoms, non-compliance with treatment which can lead to significant decline and inability to function in society and lack of family support. Since the illness can be very disabling, if the person becomes disconnected from treatment providers and family, they have no where to go and end up on the streets. Once there, it can be difficult to get the help they need.

Schizophrenia and Self-Injury

Self-injury, especially bizarre types of self-mutilation, is not uncommon with schizophrenia. Hallucinations and delusions can cause them to harm themselves in ways which can be very serious, such as attempting to remove a finger or other body part.

Schizophrenia and Violence

While the media often depicts schizophrenic patients as violent, they are not necessarily more prone to violence than the general population. That being said, some factors can increase the risk of violent behavior in individuals with schizophrenia, such as delusions or command hallucinations, a history or violent acts, or using alcohol or drugs.

written by Dr. Cheryl Lane, PsyD

References

  1. Prevalence of Comorbid Anxiety Disorders in Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders: A Literature Review
  2. "Schizophrenia and Social Anxiety Disorder," John J Spollen III, MD

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