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Outcomes and Recovery Factors of Schizophrenia

Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D., edited by Kathryn Patricelli, MA


There is currently no cure for Schizophrenia. There are effective treatments that can:

  • reduce symptoms
  • decrease the likelihood that new episodes of hallucinations and delusions will happen
  • shorten the length of psychotic episodes
  • offer many people suffering from schizophrenia the possibility of living more productive and satisfying lives.

With the right medications and counseling, the ability of people with schizophrenia to live and function relatively well in society is excellent. The outlook for these patients is optimistic.

sad man outside Ten years after initial diagnosis, approximately 50% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia are either completely recovered or improved to the point of being able to function independently. 25% are improved, but require a strong support network. 15% remain unimproved and are typically hospitalized. Unfortunately, 10% sees no way out of their pain except through death and ends up committing suicide. Long-term statistics for 30 years after diagnosis are similar to the 10-year point, except that there are even more people who improve to become independent. However, there is also an increase in the number of suicides to 15%. Over time, women appear to have a better chance at keeping up recovery from symptoms than do men.

It is an unfortunate fact that people with schizophrenia attempt suicide more frequently than do people in the general population. 5-6% of those with the condition will die from suicide. 20% will attempt suicide one or more times. This may happen for many reasons, including fears and anxieties that come with the hallucinations or delusions. It may also be affected by depression and hopeless feelings that may happen when the person realizes that they have a serious, ongoing and life-changing disease. Being unemployed, having a recent episode, or being released from the hospital can also be high risk factors for suicide attempts. It is always difficult to predict which people are at serious risk for suicide. While people in the general population talk about suicide from time to time, professional mental health help should be sought right away for people who:

  • make a habit of discussing suicide
  • express a feeling of hopeless and believe that nothing will ever change or get better
  • feel helpless and like nothing that they do will make any difference
  • feel like they have become a burden to family and friends
  • express any sort of plan to commit suicide
  • stockpile pills, tools (rope, razors) or weapons to commit suicide or self-harm
  • act out a suicide or self-harm plan, however half-heartedly
  • start abusing alcohol or drugs (or abuse drugs and alcohol that much harder)
  • begin the process of putting their affairs in order. This could include organizing finances or giving away possessions as a way of preparing for their death
  • write a suicide note
  • become impulsive and start taking risks that put them in harm's way, or into situations where there is a danger of being killed

The impulse to commit suicide is almost always a temporary crisis that can be overcome with time and proper care. With the right treatment, the chance for a reasonably balanced life is good.


The key to successful recovery is early diagnosis and treatment. In general, the earlier someone is diagnosed and stabilized with an appropriate treatment plan, the better their chance of recovery. Because of this, anyone who suspects that they (or someone they know) may have signs and symptoms that could be schizophrenia should see a psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Multiple factors appear to influence outcomes in schizophrenia. Family history of those with the condition is relevant. If no one in the immediate biological family (parents or siblings) has schizophrenia or a related condition, that is a good sign. Multiple relatives who have the condition is a bad sign.

Other good signs include:

  • being adjusted well at work and in social relationships prior to the start of symptoms
  • being aware of symptoms as signs of a problem, not just having a reaction to symptoms without seeing them as an issue.)

People who have both good signs may sometimes recover completely.

Chances for recovery are improved if the disease comes on suddenly, rather than when it comes on slowly. The older a person is at the start of schizophrenia symptoms, the better the outcomes are likely to be. If schizophrenia is treated quickly and consistently with a good response to treatment, the outcome is usually very good. Suffering with severe symptoms for a short amount of time and not having symptoms during periods between severe episodes are also good indicators of potential recovery. A personal history or family history of mood disorders may help a person to pass through a schizophrenic phase quickly. This happens because their primary condition may be some other disorder. Since schizophrenia is a brain disorder, a good outcome is also expected when the brain has a normal structure and function as shown on a brain scan.