Why Schizophrenia Patients Are Difficult to Treat

Schizophrenia patients can be difficult to treat for several reasons. One is that schizophrenia patients often stop taking their medication.

Schizophrenia patients make up about 1% of the general population (see Schizophrenia Statistics) but can be very difficult to treat, with schizophrenia patients taking up about 8% of the hospital beds. Moreover, people with severe mental illness, like schizophrenia patients, make up about 20%-25% of the homeless population.1 There are a variety of reasons why schizophrenia patients are a challenge to successfully treat.

Medication and Schizophrenia Patients

Schizophrenia medication is extremely effective for treating many of the symptoms of schizophrenia, like hallucinations and delusions. In fact, when treated, about 80% of people who experience their first psychotic episode will never have another.

The problem, though, is that many schizophrenia patients stop taking their medication; this is known as medication noncompliance. A schizophrenia patient may stop taking their medication for a variety of reasons, medication side effects being one. Just some of the medication side effects include:2

  • Muscle movement disorders
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Sedation
  • Blurred vision
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Blood sugar problems
  • Blood pressure problems

It’s unfortunate that patients with schizophrenia stop taking their medication because this often sends them into psychosis, making it impossible for them to work with a doctor or therapist to find a better treatment for them.

Other reasons a schizophrenia patient may not take their medication include:

  • Cost
  • Medication availability
  • Not "feeling like themselves"
  • Reemergence of symptoms

Insight of Schizophrenia Patients

One symptom that 97% of schizophrenia patients suffer from is lack of insight. This means that the schizophrenia patient doesn’t fully understand their illness and the need for treatment. This symptom, in and of itself, can make patients stop taking medication simply because they do not believe they need it and do not believe they are sick.

Schizophrenia Patients and Co-Occurring Disorders

Schizophrenia patients also have high rates of co-occurring disorders, like substance abuse and depression. These additional disorders can make the underlying schizophrenia more difficult to treat and it is possible schizophrenia may even be misdiagnosed due to the existence of the other disorders.

Additionally, schizophrenia patients with substance use disorders are known to be less likely to follow a treatment plan.

Schizophrenia Patients and Social Environment

Unfortunately, patients with schizophrenia also suffer from social and environmental factors that can make the illness more difficult to treat. For example, many schizophrenia patients have lost touch with their friends and family, removing the social supports needed to facilitate recovery. This might be because of the strain the illness has placed on those relationships before treatment is attempted.

Schizophrenia patients are also often homeless. This may be because many schizophrenia patients initially develop the mental illness around age 20 – the age when they are to be entering the workforce. Because the symptoms can be so severe, many people with schizophrenia lose, and then later cannot regain a job. This joblessness can easily lead to homelessness.

Up to 6% of schizophrenia patients also live in jails or prisons, creating an environment that makes the treatment of schizophrenia more difficult.

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 19). Why Schizophrenia Patients Are Difficult to Treat, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Last Updated: March 25, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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