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Complications That Can Happen With Schizophrenia

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on March 10, 2021

Schizophrenia can affect your life in many ways. It can impact your job, your relationships, and your finances. The large number of complications that come with schizophrenia make treatment so important.

Getting the right mix of medicine, therapy, and support early on will give you or your loved one the best chance to manage your illness and lead a more fulfilling life.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Substance use is a common problem in people with schizophrenia. One reason people use drugs and alcohol is to self-medicate. They think these things will relieve symptoms like depression and anxiety.

Though you might feel better for a short time while using drugs or alcohol, you'll feel much worse in the long run. Some drugs, like marijuana, can trigger psychotic symptoms and make you more likely to relapse after treatment.

If you've used substances to manage a mental illness, see your doctor. Treatments can safely relieve your schizophrenia symptoms and lower your desire to use drugs and alcohol.

Trouble Keeping a Job

Symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and scattered thinking can make it hard to hold a job. People with schizophrenia are six to seven times more likely to be unemployed than those without this condition.

Working is important for many reasons. Not only does having a job let you support yourself, it also gives you a feeling of self-worth.

You'll be more likely to find and keep a job if you can get on a treatment to manage your symptoms. If you already work, you may qualify for job accommodations -- things that make it easier to do your work -- under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Helpful accommodations for schizophrenia include:

  • A flexible schedule
  • Extra breaks during the day
  • Headphones to mask the noises around you
  • Memory apps
  • Counseling

Financial Problems

Without a steady job, it's hard to afford a place to live. Even though only 1% of Americans have schizophrenia, up to 20% of homeless people have this condition.

Just because you have schizophrenia doesn't mean you'll end up homeless. Getting on the right treatment will make you more likely to keep your job and stay financially independent.

Thoughts of Suicide

Suicide is a real risk among people with schizophrenia. Many who have this condition think about ending their life. Between 20% and 40% attempt suicide.

You're most likely to have suicidal thoughts during your first year of living with the disease, when everything still seems new and unknown. If you feel sad, hopeless, or worthless, or you've lost interest in life, see your doctor. Treatments can stop these upsetting thoughts and prevent you from hurting yourself.

Stress on Relationships

It isn't easy to meet new people when your moods are unstable, your behavior is impulsive, you feel anxious, and you have the urge to withdraw from the world. Even when you do meet someone you like, the stigma of your disease can make the person shy away from you.

Schizophrenia can lead to a much smaller social circle, especially if your symptoms aren't well controlled. Research shows that people who have more negative symptoms have fewer friends.

Loneliness is twice as common in people with schizophrenia than in those without it. Feeling lonely can have a wide range of effects on your health, including depression, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease.

The challenges don't end if you're already dating someone or married. Mental illness can put a strain on relationships. And if you're in a bad relationship, it could make your schizophrenia worse.

Sex can be another issue. The antipsychotic drugs you take to manage schizophrenia could dull your interest in sex. If you're having problems with your relationship or sex life, talk to your doctor or a therapist.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

NAMI: "Romantic Relationships," "Schizophrenia," "Substance Use Disorders."

Psychiatry Journal: "Impact of Substance Use Disorder on Presentation and Short-Term Course of Schizophrenia."

Schizophrenia Bulletin: "Schizophrenia -- Time to Commit to Policy Change."

Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment: "Employment and the associated impact on quality of life in people diagnosed with schizophrenia."

National Institute of Mental Health: "Schizophrenia."

Job Accommodation Network: "About Schizophrenia."

U.S. Department of Labor: “Accommodations.”

Brain and Behavior Research Foundation: "Homelessness and Mental Illness: A Challenge to Our Society."

National Alliance to End Homelessness: "New Study Offers Hope for Homeless People with Schizophrenia."

Frontiers in Psychiatry: "Suicide in the Early Stage of Schizophrenia."

Schizophrenia Research and Treatment: "Schizophrenia and Suicide Attempts: Findings from a Representative Community-Based Canadian Sample."

Mayo Clinic: "Depression (Major depressive disorder)."

PLoS One: "Friends and Symptom Dimensions in Patients with Psychosis: A Pooled Analysis," "Loneliness in Schizophrenia: Construct clarification, measurement, and clinical relevance."

Medicina: "Suicide in Schizophrenia: An Educational Overview."

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