Understanding the Stages of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that disrupts an individual's thoughts, behaviour, and emotions. A person suffering from this condition loses his connection with reality. While it might develop rapidly for some people, it progresses so gradually in most scenarios that you might overlook schizophrenia symptoms. Research shows that schizophrenia affects approximately 0.64% of the USA population.

Schizophrenia affects women and men equally. However, men are more likely to develop signs of schizophrenia than women. A man with this mental condition might notice symptoms in the early 20s and sometimes even late teens.

Stages of Schizophrenia

Prodromal Phase

The earliest stage of schizophrenia is called prodromal. This term describes the period in illness where symptoms haven't begun to properly manifest. Therefore, it isn't easy to diagnose a condition in the prodromal phase. A proper diagnosis in this stage could improve the life quality of a person who has schizophrenia. In addition, appropriate treatment may slow down the progression.

Diagnosing schizophrenia is also challenging because the symptoms often mirror other mental health conditions such as depression. This stage could last from a few weeks to several months, and not everyone with this condition goes through this phase.


Most of the symptoms people with schizophrenia experience in this phase are mild that can be difficult to notice. And even they are noticed, people often fail to link them with schizophrenia.
Symptoms in this phase may include:

  • Anxiety
  • solation
  • Clumsiness
  • Irritability
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Change in appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Difficulty while expressing emotions
Acute Phase

This stage is also known as active schizophrenia. People with this condition show the telltale symptoms of psychosis, including suspiciousness, hallucinations, and delusions.


Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia are categorized into positive and negative symptoms. In the acute phase, people have been showing symptoms of prodromal schizophrenia for approximately 2 years.
Symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Paranoid delusions
  • Disordered speech
  • Confuses and disorganized thoughts

Recovery Phase

It is also referred to as the residual phase. In some cases, a person can go back to the acute stage of schizophrenia after being in the recovery stage. However, proper treatment in the acute stage of the condition is often needed to reach this stage.


Unlike with acute phase, a schizophrenic person with this phase will most likely stop experiencing positive symptoms and experience negative symptoms.
Symptoms of the residual phase are:

  • Lack of emotions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Frank vocalization
  • Illogical thinking
  • Eccentric behavior
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of interest
  • Conceptual disorganization

Getting a Diagnosis

If you notice that you or your loved ones are having any of the above-outlined symptoms, it's essential to seek professional help immediately. A diagnosis will likely be made in the acute phase. A doctor will ensure that other conditions with similar symptoms are ruled out for a proper diagnosis. After getting adequate treatment, a person could live a better and healthier life.

In making a schizophrenia diagnosis, healthcare professionals use the International Classification of Diseases or Diagnosis and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). These manuals are a helpful guide for the symptoms of the condition and how long symptoms must last before giving a diagnosis. Furthermore, a doctor conducts a medical history of an affected person and evaluates the symptoms.


A combination of psychotherapy and medication is used as an effective schizophrenia treatment. In the acute stage, antipsychotic drugs such as Navane, Clozapine, and Haldol are prescribed to treat the positive symptoms. Remember that medications don't cure schizophrenia. Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy and family intervention can also help people manage their negative symptoms of the condition, especially lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating).

It is essential to prepare a person with schizophrenia for the next steps in managing it. This is needed during recovery when they no longer have psychosis symptoms. A person with this condition will likely need treatment rest of his life.

Final Words

While schizophrenia is a potentially deliberating and chronic condition, a person with it can spend an everyday life with proper treatment. If anyone in your circle has schizophrenia, you can assist them through their treatment by being respectful and supportive. Joining a support group for people and the family of people living with this condition is also another great way to get support from people who better understand what you're suffering.