Dangers of Untreated Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that causes symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, suicidal thoughts, isolation, and bizarre behaviors. While a stigma keeps many people from talking about schizophrenia, approximately 3.5 million people in the United States live with the disorder, or 1.1 percent of the population.
Due to the nature of the disorder, the stigma surrounding treatment, and several other factors, about half of the people who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia do not receive treatment. Many more people may live with symptoms and without a diagnosis or treatment. The lack of treatment can be dangerous.
Mental Health Consequences
Without proper, well-managed treatment, people with schizophrenia can develop other mental health disorders as well. As their symptoms continue and possibly worsen, people with schizophrenia may develop:
- Anxiety disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
The symptoms of the co-occuring disorder can range from mild to severe. Sometimes, the new symptoms can feed into the problems that schizophrenia causes. For example, someone with paranoid delusions from schizophrenia may have panic attacks due to their delusions.
In some cases, patients may have suicidal thoughts or attempts. If you or someone you love has suicidal thoughts, seek help from the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Nearly 5 percent of people with schizophrenia die by suicide, which is a higher rate than most demographics.
Although schizophrenia is a type of mental health disorder, it impacts the physical health of patients as well. First and foremost, many experts believe that schizophrenia can damage the brain if left untreated. However, the mechanisms by which this happens and the exact impacts are still up for debate.
Without treatment, people with schizophrenia are more likely to have other major health problems as well. In fact, people with schizophrenia live 28.5 years less than the general population. This could be because of the disease in the brain, or the lower life expectancy could be due to the fact that people with the disorder often do not seek preventative treatments. People with schizophrenia are also more likely to live with heart disease, liver disease, and diabetes.
Social and Economic Consequences
Schizophrenia affects the mind, body, and livelihood of patients who do not get adequate treatment. The symptoms can affect a person’s job, family, home, friends, and several other areas of life. Some ways that untreated schizophrenia hurts people include:
- Substance abuse: Without prescribed medication and therapy to curb the symptoms, people with schizophrenia may search for less healthy ways to cope with their struggles. This can often lead to abuse of and dependence on drugs and alcohol.
- Social isolation: The symptoms of schizophrenia and the stigma surrounding the disease can make it difficult for people with the disorder to maintain healthy relationships. Without intervention, they may shut themselves off from family and friends. Furthermore, loved ones may not know how to help or may even be afraid.
- Homelessness: Many symptoms of schizophrenia can make it difficult to keep a stable job. As such, many people with this disorder find themselves without a home of their own. While some people find help with their loved ones, others end up living on the streets or in shelters.
- Victimization: Unfortunately, one of the many myths about schizophrenia is that people with the disorder are violent. In actuality, people with schizophrenia are more likely to become the victims of violent crime than most people.
If you or someone you love shows signs of schizophrenia, be sure to contact GBHP. Our professionals can connect people with the resources they need to help prevent some of these outcomes and experience healing.