young woman suffering from dangers of untreated schizophrenia

What Can Happen if Schizophrenia Goes Untreated

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that affects about 3.5 million Americans. This illness can cause severe symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, strange behaviors, and suicidal thoughts. It is a lifelong illness and one of the top reasons people are on disability.

Despite the serious and life-threatening symptoms, about half of the people who receive this diagnosis do not get treatment. Furthermore, there may be many more who go undiagnosed and untreated. This lack of treatment is dangerous and can cause several additional problems. That’s why it’s important to break the stigma about schizophrenia and encourage those who live with the disorder to get help.

Impacts on Mental Health

When people with schizophrenia live without adequate treatment, their mental health can worsen. Not only can the signs of schizophrenia get more severe, but they can also develop other mental health disorders, including:

Sometimes the comorbid disorders cause symptoms that worsen the person’s schizophrenia and vice versa. For example, someone may have delusions about being watched due to schizophrenia. Then, the person may develop OCD and believe they need to complete certain rituals to stop the people they believe are watching them.

While the severity of the symptoms vary, some people may have serious comorbid disorders. In some cases, people with untreated schizophrenia and other mental health disorders can experience suicidal thoughts or attempts. If you or someone you love has suicidal thoughts, do one of the following:

  • Go to the nearest emergency room
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
  • Text CONNECT to 741741

4.9 percent of people with schizophrenia die by suicide, which is much higher than the rate in the general population.

Physical Health Consequences

While it may seem obvious that mental health can decline without schizophrenia treatment, fewer people may know about the physical impacts of the disorder. One way in which the disorder affects the body is by being toxic to the brain. Without treatment, a person with schizophrenia can undergo brain damage, though experts debate the mechanisms through which this happens. People with schizophrenia also have higher rates of liver disease, diabetes, and heart disease than their peers.

Economic and Social Impacts

Not all consequences of untreated schizophrenia take place inside the person’s body and mind. This serious disorder can affect the patient’s relationships, financial security, and social standing. People with schizophrenia are more likely to:

  • Social withdrawal: One of the symptoms of schizophrenia is isolating oneself from others. Without a concentrated effort from loved ones, it can be impossible for people with schizophrenia to maintain healthy, meaningful relationships.
  • Become a victim: Although many people believe that those with schizophrenia are more likely to perpetrate violent crime, the opposite is true. While some people with the disorder act out in violence, they are much more likely to become the victims of violent crime than the general population.
  • Experience homelessness: Several schizophrenia symptoms can make it hard to get and keep a job. As such, people with the disorder often find it difficult to pay their bills and can end up without a home of their own. Some such people stay with friends and family. However, others end up living in homeless shelters or on the streets.
  • Abuse alcohol and drugs: Schizophrenia can be difficult to live with, even when a person is on medication and seeking treatment. Without this help, patients may try to self-medicate and use substances to drown out the symptoms. This can lead to dependence on alcohol and illicit substances.

If you or someone you love has schizophrenia or shows symptoms of it, be sure to contact LifeStance Health. We can help you devise a treatment plan that helps prevent some of these issues and encourages healing.