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Stages of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that is often misunderstood and left untreated. Due to its serious nature, it is important to reach out for help if you or someone you love is experiencing its symptoms. 

Different symptoms arise during each stage of schizophrenia, and it can be helpful to understand the progression of the disorder so you can seek treatment before it becomes overwhelmingly disruptive to your life.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by disruptions in perceptions, thought processes, responsiveness, and more. People who have schizophrenia may see, hear, or believe things that are not real. Some of the common symptoms that people experience include:

  • Confusion
  • Hearing voices
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Losing interest in everyday activities
  • Seeing things that aren’t real (hallucinations) 
  • Social isolation
  • Unusual beliefs (delusion) 

These symptoms are just some of the criteria that are used for a schizophrenia diagnosis. 

It is common for this mental condition to be a part of a dual diagnosis that includes substance abuse. People who experience disorders like schizophrenia often use substances to try to control or numb the symptoms. However, substances are only a short-term solution. Only treatment can truly help alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia. 

The Stages Of Schizophrenia

The symptoms of schizophrenia do not occur all at once. People often aren’t even aware they’re experiencing issues until the active stage. Unlike other disorders, the cycle of schizophrenia can repeat cyclically throughout your life. The length of each phase will differ depending on the person and how the illness manifests in them.


Simply put, the prodromal phase is the earliest stage of schizophrenia. During this phase, most people begin to lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed. They may withdraw from their friends and family members, preferring to spend their time alone. 

Generally, people in the prodromal phase will become confused. They may have trouble concentrating on things and feel apathetic or listless.

It’s common for friends and family members to become agitated by the behavior exhibited. Many people don’t understand that a legitimate illness is the underlying cause of this behavior. 

In the prodromal phase, you may find yourself uncharacteristically and intensely preoccupied with things like religion, public figures, and persecution.

For some people, the prodromal phase lasts days, but for others, it can last weeks, months, or even years. There are cases where the disorder does not develop past this stage, but that is an irregular occurrence. More often than not, your symptoms will progress into the next stage.


It is during the active phase of schizophrenia that people tend to experience symptoms of psychosis.

This phase typically includes delusions, hallucinations, mood disturbances, jumbled thoughts, and more. These are the signs that society usually associates with schizophrenia because this is the stage in which the symptoms are most noticeable. 

Though the active phase typically comes after the prodromal phase, this is not always true. Sometimes, these symptoms will suddenly appear without any indication or warning. It’s important to watch for these symptoms; even if you’ve experienced them before, you’ll want to avoid enduring them again.

Other physical and mental health conditions can exhibit symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia during the active stage. For example, illnesses such as bipolar disorder are often confused with schizophrenia and can lead to misdiagnosis.


After the active phase is over, the last stage in the cycle of schizophrenia is the residual phase.

Once the symptoms have settled down, you may feel listless and withdrawn, have trouble concentrating, and feel detached from reality. These symptoms sound very similar to the prodromal phase because they are, but there are some differences. The main difference is that they appear after the active phase and are often accompanied by fatigue.

After the residual phase passes, you will usually go back to the ‘normal’ version of yourself that you and your loved ones recognize. The residual phase can last hours, days, or even weeks, but it does eventually end.

Frequency of Schizophrenia Episodes

Some people may experience symptoms of schizophrenia multiple times throughout their lifetime, with their episodes occurring frequently. Others may experience significant gaps between episodes–sometimes years. Unfortunately, you can’t control when the symptoms of schizophrenia will appear. The illness manifests differently in everyone.

The more cycles of schizophrenia you undergo, the more difficult it can be to function normally. Coming down from the active stage over and over allows residual symptoms to take hold of you, making a return to your everyday life more challenging.

Contact Jackson House For Help

If you or someone you know suffers from schizophrenia or another serious mental health condition, reach out to Jackson House. Our team is well-prepared to help you or your loved one navigate the various stages of schizophrenia.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

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If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.