Can Schizophrenia Worsen with Age?

man with schizophrenia in case management treatment

Any physical or mental ailment will worsen with age, our bones, heart, and skin seem to decide when they are done aging on their own time. Some of us have to go to the hairdresser to remove grays in their 20s while others can run marathons at 70. While those with chronic illnesses can age quicker, can schizophrenia worsen with age?

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe form of mental illness that interferes with an individual’s ability to function in society, manage their emotions, think clearly, and make sense of the world around them. People living with schizophrenia usually begin experiencing symptoms during their late teens or early twenties. On average, symptoms manifest for males during the earlier half of this time range, and later for females. However, early-onset schizophrenia can present in children as young as 13, and late-onset schizophrenia can present in adults over age the age of 45, though both conditions are much less common.

In the past, it was accepted that schizophrenia can worsen as people age. However, research in recent years suggests that although some symptoms may get worse with age, others will remain stable, and some symptoms may actually improve with age.

Types of Symptoms Schizophrenia can Cause

Schizophrenia symptoms can be divided into three categories:

  • Positive symptoms: Some of these symptoms may include altered perceptions, such as hallucinations and delusions, as well as disorganized or unusual thinking patterns.
  • Negative symptoms: Psychological symptoms such as declined motivation, affectation, intense emotions, enjoyment or interest in life as well as the absence of a healthy mental state.
  • Cognitive symptoms: Processing information problems, attention deficiencies, and troubles with working memory problems are common.

It is important to note that the symptoms of schizophrenia can vary from person to person. A person’s symptoms can change throughout the course of their lifetime. There is currently no cure for schizophrenia. The symptoms won’t disappear on their own, but they can be managed and treated with medication and psychotherapy. In spite of the many factors that affect a person’s ability to live a happy and productive life, schizophrenia treatment is by far the most significant factor in improving the quality of life for schizophrenia patients, regardless of age.

How Schizophrenia Changes With Age

The idea that schizophrenia develops with age was widely accepted for a long time. However, more recent research has shown us that this is not always the case. Some findings that have come to light include:

  • There is evidence that older patients with schizophrenia tend to have fewer and less severe positive symptoms than younger patients with schizophrenia.
  • It is common for negative symptoms to persist in later life.
  • Schizophrenics who are late in onset usually require lower doses of antipsychotic medication than those who are early in onset.
  • The risk of age-progressive decline is no greater for people with schizophrenia than for people without schizophrenia, even though they often have lower baseline neurocognitive abilities than the general population.
  • Schizophrenia patients are relatively more likely to have medical comorbidities. In older people with schizophrenia, the prevalence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and lung disease is higher than in those without schizophrenia. 

Researchers believe these findings are extremely valuable because they give us a better understanding of how the disease works, how it progresses, and what needs to be done to treat it. 

Why Treatment is Important for Schizophrenia

If schizophrenia is left untreated, it often leads to a further deterioration of mental and physical health, putting the sufferer at risk of suffering serious medical complications, such as brain damage, liver disease, and heart disease. Fortunately, by starting schizophrenia treatment early and being consistent, it is possible to manage the symptoms and enhance the health and quality of life of patients. It is essential to conduct research to further our understanding of schizophrenia as well as to develop treatments that provide relief to the most vulnerable members of society.

Treatment for schizophrenia usually involves a combination of approaches. Medication can help regulate symptoms, but some form of psychotherapy is typically required to make progress towards recovery. Outpatient rehabilitation services like LAT’s Intensive Outpatient Program significantly improve treatment outcomes for people living with schizophrenia. The personalized care, mentorship, and coaching offered by our Team give our clients a strong foundation to build happier, healthier lives. 

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