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How does schizophrenia affect the body?

Schizophrenia is primarily a disease of the mind. Most of its effects are mental or emotional in nature. However, the disease can affect the body in some key ways. Brain modifications cause the disorder to occur, although what causes the brain modifications is unknown. In addition, schizophrenia may cause sufferers to do harm to their physical bodies, as alcohol abuse, violence, and self-destructive behavior (including suicide) are all complications of the disorder.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

The primary part of the body affected by schizophrenia is the brain. People with schizophrenia have brains that look and function differently than people who don’t have schizophrenia. It may be due to the brain-messenger system of neurotransmitters malfunctioning. But schizophrenia affects the body in other ways, too. Most of us wake up each day, brush our teeth, bathe, and take some pride in how we look, smell, and dress. Unlike the average person, people with schizophrenia tend to neglect their personal hygiene and health. As a result, they may get sick more often, have problems with tooth and gum disease, and fall prey to preventable health problems like high blood pressure or high LDL (lousy) cholesterol.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
Untreated schizophrenia can affect the body in many ways. Because it is a brain disorder, many of the complications associated with the disease affect the mind or the brain. These complications include depression and self-injury. An extreme effect of schizophrenia on the mind is suicide. A person may decide that he can no longer cope with the challenges of this disease.

Besides complications that affect the mind, schizophrenia is also linked to alcohol and illegal drug use. These can lead to a variety of physical health problems, such as heart disease or liver failure. Smoking is another behavior that is associated with schizophrenia. This dangerous habit can cause different kinds of cancer, heart problems, and strokes. Treating schizophrenia with antipsychotic medications can also affect the body by causing side effects such as weight gain, movement problems, blurry vision, and an abnormally fast heartbeat.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.