Like the acute form, chronic schizophrenia can cause hallucinations, memory loss, and other symptoms. There are many treatment options, but no cure is currently available.

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition. It affects the ways a person thinks, behaves, and feels. It can cause symptoms like hallucinations, loss of motivation, incoherent speech, and movement difficulties.

With treatment, schizophrenia may be limited to short-lived episodes or no symptoms at all.

Without treatment, however, these symptoms can impair a person’s ability to take part in everyday activities. This may include attending school, having a job, and building relationships. The symptoms and complications of the condition can be ongoing or chronic.

Find out more about chronic schizophrenia, how it’s treated, and what the outlook is like for people diagnosed with the condition.

What is chronic schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder. It affects about 3.5 million Americans, or about 1% of U.S. adults.

It’s a serious mental disorder that impacts how people interpret reality. It can cause a range of issues with thinking, decision-making, and expressing one’s self. These issues can include hallucinations, difficulty with daily activities, delusions, and a decreased experience of positive emotions.

Treatment can help people manage the disorder. However, for some people, the symptoms do not disappear, even with medication or therapy. This is considered chronic schizophrenia.

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It’s not entirely clear what causes schizophrenia. It’s believed to be a combination of issues, including:

  • Genetics: People with a family history of the disorder are more likely to develop it
  • Brain chemistry: Certain brain chemicals may influence who develops schizophrenia.
  • Environment: Exposure to viruses or nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy or infancy may increase your risk.
  • Life events: People living in poverty or stressful surroundings may develop the disorder more frequently.
  • Substance use: Smoking cannabis in teenage years and young adulthood has been shown to increase the risk for psychotic episodes that can signal schizophrenia.

It’s also not clear why some people have infrequent, acute episodes, while others don’t respond to treatment and have ongoing, or chronic, symptoms.

Symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into three categories.

Psychotic symptoms impact how a person experiences the world. These symptoms cause a distorted view of reality.

They include:

Negative symptoms can best be described as the absence of something, like motivation, expression, and interest.

These symptoms include:

  • trouble planning or carrying out activities like shopping, errands, and work
  • showing no emotions or expressions on your face
  • avoiding social interactions
  • having very little energy or motivation for activities
  • not maintaining personal hygiene

Cognitive symptoms impact a person’s attention, memory, and concentration. These issues can make day-to-day interactions difficult.

These symptoms include:

  • difficulty processing information and making decisions
  • difficulty paying attention or focusing
  • difficulty recalling information after learning it

What is the difference between acute and chronic schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a chronic condition. It rarely disappears entirely. However, there can be periods of greater activity followed by times with very few symptoms.

During these acute, or episodic, periods, symptoms may worsen. New symptoms may appear. Eventually, however, the symptoms typically resolve.

One-third of people with schizophrenia experience complete remission of symptoms after an acute episode.

Chronic, or continuous, schizophrenia, on the other hand, rarely gets better. Symptoms may not worsen, but they may not improve much either.

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Chronic schizophrenia doesn’t have a cure. Treatments can help people maintain control over symptoms and minimize episodes.

Treatment can also help you improve daily function. That may help you be more successful with personal achievements, daily goals, and long-term efforts, like holding a job.

Treatment for chronic schizophrenia often includes several of these strategies:

  • Medication: Antipsychotic medications are the primary treatment, but some of these drugs have side effects that need to be monitored closely.
  • Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common treatment for people with schizophrenia. This type of therapy can help people cope with symptoms. It can also strengthen decision-making, goal-setting, and organization skills.
  • Social and vocational rehabilitation: These life skills services can help people learn to interact at school, work, or in social interactions.
  • Family interventions: Caregivers and family also need resources for coping with the symptoms of schizophrenia. These groups provide resources for coping and evaluating changes in their loved one’s condition.
  • Assisted living: People with chronic schizophrenia may require some level of personal assistance. Assisted living facilities or supported housing can help, while still allowing for some independence.

Diagnosed schizophrenia (ICD-10-CM codes F20 and F25) is a costly economic issue for the U.S. healthcare system. Most commercial insurance companies pay for some portion of treatment for the condition. Medicaid and Medicare do, too.

However, the total coverage and personal costs will vary from plan to plan.

One report found that the annual average cost for uninsured people with schizophrenia is $1,289. For people with insurance, it varies from $19,293 for commercial insurance plans to $11,963 for Medicare. Much of that may be covered by health insurance plans, but it’s best to check with yours to find out the details.

The most common expenses are medication, outpatient and inpatient services, emergency department visits, and long-term care. New treatments, including new antipsychotic medications, have increased the pharmacy costs for treating this condition.

Want to get involved?

If you have schizophrenia and want to get involved with the latest treatments, you can check out to learn about what studies are currently looking for participants.

Make sure to discuss any studies with your doctor and/or therapist, especially if it would involve any changes to your current treatment plan.

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Is chronic schizophrenia considered a disability?

Chronic schizophrenia can impair daily functioning. It can even be disabling.

Most people with chronic schizophrenia will require some form of daily living support, and unemployment rates are high in people with the condition.

For those reasons, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does classify schizophrenia as a disability. People diagnosed with the condition can qualify for disability benefits.

However, having a diagnosis does not mean every person is eligible. The process of qualifying can take months or even years. It may also require a great deal of medical review and meetings with case workers.

Still, many people need this assistance for their care. If you or a loved one have schizophrenia, social workers can often help guide you through the process to get approved.

Chronic schizophrenia, like many mental health conditions, is often misunderstood. People with this condition are sometimes poorly represented in books, movies, and media. They may be portrayed as violent and dangerous.

That behavior is not typical. People with schizophrenia often avoid interaction with others. They can prefer isolation. In fact, those with schizophrenia are far more likely to be the victims of violence than to commit it.

Discrimination can prevent access to basic services, healthcare, employment, and housing assistance. But healthy relationships with others may make it easier for people with this condition to get the help they need.

If you have schizophrenia, know that there are many organizations out there to support you:

Click here to read Healthline’s top 5 online schizophrenia support groups.

If you know someone with schizophrenia, combating the stigma of this condition begins with understanding. Recognizing the symptoms may help you interact in a more productive way. Understanding why and how the condition can make relationships difficult can make you more empathetic to the person with the condition.

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition. For people whose symptoms don’t improve, the symptoms can be continuous, or chronic.

Treatment can help prevent symptoms from getting worse. It may even improve them slightly. That’s why it’s important to maintain treatment once it has started. Stopping treatment may make symptoms worse.

What’s more, early treatment for schizophrenia may help you or a loved one manage symptoms and prevent serious complications. It may also improve your long-term outlook. With time, it can reduce the risk of other chronic health issues.