For most people with schizophrenia, symptoms first appear during adolescence or young adulthood. And while this can be a confusing time, at least upon its resolution, individuals are usually set up to manage their schizophrenia symptoms throughout the rest of their lives. However, in certain cases, late-onset schizophrenia can appear well into adulthood, which can present new, concerning mental health symptoms.
To help you navigate this confusing period, we’re sharing schizophrenia facts and important information about late-onset schizophrenia. But first, let’s start with some background information on schizophrenia.
What Do I Need to Know About Schizophrenia?
There is a lot of fear and stigma surrounding schizophrenia, but ultimately, it is simply a mental health condition like depression or anxiety. With that said, schizophrenia does sometimes present with symptoms that can be alarming if you’re not sure what’s causing them. Some of the most common schizophrenia symptoms include:
- Delusional beliefs
- Disorganized thinking, which can lead to trouble communicating
- Stiff, repeated movements or periods of being unable to move, called catatonia
- Negative symptoms: These include dull, monotonous speech, trouble maintaining relationships, and some depression symptoms
Schizophrenia is an uncommon condition, but certainly not rare; in fact, estimates put schizophrenia prevalence rates at between 0.25% to 0.64% of the United States population. And while it generally develops in younger adults, there is some variance in when it can present.
There are certainly exceptions to the rule, but men tend to present with schizophrenia symptoms earlier than women. Men usually develop schizophrenia symptoms between their late teens and early twenties, whereas symptoms usually appear in women in their late twenties to early thirties. Across all genders, though, schizophrenia symptoms rarely occur before the age of 13 or after the age of 40.
An individual is diagnosed with late-onset schizophrenia when their symptoms start in the mid-life period, usually around the age of 45. But late-onset schizophrenia doesn’t just affect the age of occurence; it can also affect what symptoms an individual presents with.
In cases of late-onset schizophrenia, delusions and hallucinations are more common. However, other schizophrenia symptoms are less likely to appear, including negative symptoms and disorganized thoughts. In this way, people with late-onset schizophrenia may have unique needs, which are best handled with professional mental health care.
At present, nobody is sure why some people present with schizophrenia later than others. Genetics may be a factor, or late-onset schizophrenia could be related to pre-existing conditions, including cognitive, visual, or auditory disabilities.
But regardless of the cause, the way forward can be hard to find for people with late-onset schizophrenia. This is because the symptoms can seem to come out of nowhere, and they can feel like they’re derailing your life, especially when you have other concerns like family, work, and your own interests. For this reason, it’s especially important to seek professional help in diagnosing and treating this mental health condition.
Diagnosing and Treating Late-Onset Schizophrenia
The process of diagnosing schizophrenia can be complicated. Often, people use drugs or alcohol to cope with their untreated symptoms, and some of these substances can lead to temporary drug-induced psychosis that alters or worsens schizophrenia symptoms. Moreover, lack of information about schizophrenia makes many people with this condition unwilling to believe that they have it, which makes it harder for people to get help.
Unfortunately, there is no objective, biological way to tell if someone has schizophrenia. However, a health care provider can record and evaluate symptoms to make an informed diagnosis. This is especially easy if the symptoms are ongoing, which typically means lasting at least six months. However, six months of untreated schizophrenia is enough to derail someone’s life, so there is a clear need for early identification of symptoms and treatment.
Once a diagnosis has been acquired, schizophrenia treatment can begin. Each treatment plan will be different depending on the individual, but antipsychotic medications are often a cornerstone of treatment. These may be especially important for people with late-onset schizophrenia, since they are more likely to deal with psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.
However, medication is not the only way to treat schizophrenia. At Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital, we also administer group therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy treatments as part of our adult psychiatric program. By adding mental health therapies to antipsychotic medication, we can help you learn to cope with schizophrenia symptoms, even on the bad days. And when you’re surrounded by people going through similar mental health struggles, it’ll become easier to not feel so isolated by your own mental health condition.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your late-onset schizophrenia, just call our admissions specialists at 225-300-8470. Or, if you don’t feel ready to talk over the phone, you can always ask your questions online and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Finding that you’ve developed late-onset schizophrenia is concerning, but the only way to get back in control is to seek professional mental health care.