What are the complications of schizophrenia?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
Schizophrenia can be a dangerous disease if it is not treated properly. It can cause complications in many areas of life. Physical, emotional, legal, and financial problems can occur if the symptoms of schizophrenia are not well controlled. People with schizophrenia are at higher risk for complications such as depression or suicide. They may engage in self-destructive behaviors and may abuse cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol. Heavy cigarette use can make them more likely to get heart disease. Other problems, such as being unable to maintain a job or be in a relationship, may lead to poverty or homelessness. People with schizophrenia may get involved in violent crime, either as the victim or as the person committing the crime. In addition, antipsychotic medications used to treat schizophrenia can lead to complications by causing serious (and sometimes permanent) side effects.
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 from 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.

Like other disorders, schizophrenia can become complicated if sufferers do not take their medication or do not respond well to treatment. When people have schizophrenia, they cannot think clearly. This leads to a host of problems that not only affect the mind and the body but also living situation of the person with schizophrenia. For instance, some complications of schizophrenia include other disorders like alcoholism and depression. Others involve the inability to function in normal society, which may leave a person jobless and homeless. People with schizophrenia may also find themselves involved in violence, whether that is violence toward themselves or toward others. This may lead to jail time, injury, or death.

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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.