Some People Make A Full Recovery From Schizophrenia

By: Rachael Rettner
Published: June 02, 2015 07:44pm ET on LiveScience.

Mathematician John Nash, who died May 23 in a car accident, was known for his decades-long battle with schizophrenia — a struggle famously depicted in the 2001 Oscar-winning film “A Beautiful Mind.” Nash had apparently recovered from the disease later in life, which he said was done without medication.

But how often do people recover from schizophrenia, and how does such a destructive disease disappear?

Nash developed symptoms of schizophrenia in the late 1950s, when he was around age 30, after he made groundbreaking contributions to the field of mathematics, including the extension of game theory, or the math of decision making. He began to exhibit bizarre behavior and experience paranoia and delusions, according to The New York Times. Over the next several decades, he was hospitalized several times, and was on and off anti-psychotic medications.

But in the 1980s, when Nash was in his 50s, his condition began to improve. In an email to a colleague in the mid-1990s, Nash said, “I emerged from irrational thinking, ultimately, without medicine other than the natural hormonal changes of aging,” according to The New York Times. Nash and his wife Alicia died, at ages 86 and 82, respectively, in a crash on the New Jersey Turnpike while en route home from a trip on which Nash had received a prestigious award for his work.

Studies done in the 1930s, before medications for schizophrenia were available, found that about 20 percent of patients recovered on their own, while 80 percent did not, said Dr. Gilda Moreno, a clinical psychologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. More recent studies have found that, with treatment, up to 60 percent of schizophrenia patients can achieve remission, which researchers define as having minimal symptoms for at least —> Read More