Can Stress and Anxiety Cause Schizophrenia?

Medically Reviewed on 5/2/2022

What is stress?

Stress is your body's way of responding to mental, physical, or emotional pressure and anxiety is your body's way of reacting to stressful situations. While stress is not a direct cause of schizophrenia, it can trigger an episode of schizophrenia in an already vulnerable person.
Stress is your body's way of responding to mental, physical, or emotional pressure and anxiety is your body's way of reacting to stressful situations. While stress is not a direct cause of schizophrenia, it can trigger an episode of schizophrenia in an already vulnerable person.

Although schizophrenia, stress, and anxiety are different mental disorders, it's possible to have them at the same time. Going through psychological stress can cause some symptoms of schizophrenia, especially if you're already prone to schizophrenia. Anxiety can also occur during the initial stages of schizophrenia, and you may be able to spot symptoms of anxiety before a psychotic episode.

Stress is your body’s way of responding to mental, physical, or emotional pressure. This pressure may come from normal life activities or life-changing events like abuse, trauma, and illness. Stress can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Some medical issues that can be caused by stress include:

Symptoms of stress

The symptoms of stress can be divided into cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms.

The cognitive symptoms of stress can include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Pessimism
  • Anxiety
  • Poor judgment
  • Persistent worrying
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling isolated 

The physical symptoms include:

The behavioral symptoms of stress include:

  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Appetite changes
  • Alcohol and drug misuse
  • Neglecting responsibilities

Tips to manage stress

Here are some things you can do to help you handle stress:

  • Exercise
  • Get enough rest
  • Socialize with other people
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Engage multiple senses (smell, touch, etc.)
  • Try relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is your body’s way of reacting to stressful situations. Unlike the usual feeling of being nervous, anxiety may cause additional and persistent feelings of fear or worry. Anxiety is the most common mental health condition.

Some conditions related to anxiety are:

Types of anxiety disorders

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:

Causes of anxiety

Some of these factors may increase your risk of getting an anxiety disorder:

  • Temperamental issues
  • Negative life events
  • A family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions
  • Underlying health conditions

Tips for coping and managing anxiety

Anxiety can spiral out of control if you don't manage it. If your anxiety is negatively impacting your life, you should seek support from a mental health professional. But there are also some things you can do on your own to improve your anxiety, such as:

  • Stress management
  • Meditation
  • In-person or online support groups
  • Learning about the disorder and educating your loved ones about it 

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition that makes it hard for you to handle emotions, think clearly, make decisions, maintain relationships, distinguish between what’s real and unreal, and generally function.  It causes behavioral changes and affects how you think.

Types of schizophrenia

There are different types of schizophrenia. They include:

  • Paranoid schizophrenia. This schizophrenia is characterized by paranoid delusions and hallucinations.
  • Hebephrenic schizophrenia. With this type, you may have speech difficulties, unpredictable behavior, disorganized thinking, and fragmented hallucinations and delusions. You may also socially isolate yourself. Negative symptoms usually develop quickly.
  • Catatonic schizophrenia. This form of schizophrenia is marked by extreme pessimism, excitement, vivid hallucinations, and psychomotor problems.
  • Post-schizophrenic depression. This is a prolonged depressive episode that happens after schizophrenic illness. Negative or positive symptoms may still be present.
  • Residual schizophrenia. Residual schizophrenia is usually diagnosed in the later stages of the condition with continued negative symptoms.
  • Simple schizophrenia. Simple schizophrenia usually lacks psychotic symptoms. Instead, it causes a steady decline in your general performance, making it difficult for you to meet social expectations.
  • Undifferentiated schizophrenia. This is schizophrenia that does not fall under a specific classification of schizophrenia.

Symptoms of schizophrenia

The first signs and symptoms of schizophrenia are usually seen during the early years of adulthood. Before you're diagnosed with schizophrenia, your doctor will make sure that your symptoms of schizophrenia have been present for more than 6 months.

Symptoms are generally grouped into three categories:

  • Positive symptoms. These involve experiencing things that are not present in reality. An example is hallucinations, where you see, hear, and feel things that don’t exist.
  • Negative symptoms. These are symptoms that cause you to lose your connection with reality and your ability to speak, make plans, express emotions, and feel pleasure.
  • Disorganized symptoms. These symptoms cause confused thinking, disordered speech, inability to think, and bizarre movement.

Schizophrenia also has cognitive symptoms that cause issues with memory, concentration, and attention.


Schizophrenia is the most disabling mental illness. See Answer

What causes schizophrenia?

The following factors and events can cause you to develop schizophrenia:

Genetics. Schizophrenia can be passed down through your family. If you have a family history of schizophrenia, you may be more prone to the condition. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you'll get it.

Complications when giving birth. When complications happen during or before childbirth, the child may be more likely to get schizophrenia later in life. If you have schizophrenia, there may have been complications with your birth.

Problems with brain development. If your brain didn't develop as it was supposed to, it may lead you to develop schizophrenia without any other mental health condition. In this case, schizophrenia is linked to issues that occurred when your brain was developing. People with schizophrenia have slight differences in their brain structure.

Brain neurotransmitter abnormalities. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in your brain that allow your brain cells to communicate with each other. Examples of neurotransmitters are serotonin and dopamine. You can develop schizophrenia if your body’s sensitivity to these chemicals changes.

Stressful, life-changing events. While stress is not a direct cause of schizophrenia, it can trigger an episode of schizophrenia in an already vulnerable person. Some stressful events that may trigger schizophrenia are the loss of a loved one, job, or home. Sexual, emotional, or physical abuse could lead to schizophrenia as well.

Drug or substance abuse. Drug abuse and misuse don’t cause schizophrenia directly. However, they can trigger episodes in an already vulnerable individual. Examples of drugs that may trigger symptoms of schizophrenia include cocaine, amphetamines, and cannabis.

If you regularly used cannabis in your teen years, you're more likely to get schizophrenia in your adult years. Cocaine and amphetamines are known causes of psychotic episodes. They can also cause relapses in people recovering from a previous psychotic episode.

Treatment of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia treatment revolves around managing psychosis symptoms and establishing social support. Your doctor may recommend anti-psychotic medication, psycho-education, cognitive behavioral therapy, family interventions, and psychosocial rehabilitation, like life skills training. People with schizophrenia also may need living, housing, and employment support. These types of help are essential for recovery.

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Medically Reviewed on 5/2/2022

American Psychiatric Association: "What Are Anxiety Disorders?," "What Is Schizophrenia?"

Cambridge University Press: "Schizophrenia — an anxiety disorder?"

HelpGuide: "Schizophrenia Symptoms and Coping Tips," "Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes."

The International Classification of Diseases: "Schizophrenia, schizotypal and delusional disorders."

National Alliance on Mental Illness: "Schizophrenia."

National Cancer Institute: "stress."

The National Institute of Mental Health: "Anxiety Disorders."

NHS: "Causes - Schizophrenia."

World Health Organization: "Schizophrenia."