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Symptoms & Signs of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder that alters the thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Most people associate the condition with one of its classic symptoms: psychosis. Psychosis is a severe form of impaired thoughts and emotions that causes a loss of reality. This is just one of the problems that can occur in people dealing with schizophrenia. The disorder can trigger three broad categories of symptoms, known as:

  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Cognitive

Positive Schizophrenia Symptoms

It seems strange to call any symptoms of schizophrenia “positive.” This medical term means that the problems don’t appear in people in good mental health. All indications of psychosis fall within this category, including:

  • Hallucinations. Hallucinations stem from changes in brain chemistry and brain function. People with schizophrenia tend to have auditory hallucinations. These manifest as second-person or third-person voices. However, they may also have visual, olfactory (smell) or tactile (touch) hallucinations.
  • Delusions. A delusion is something an individual views as true or accurate but is actually false. This type of belief features irrational or bizarre thought processes that only make sense to the affected person. People with schizophrenia tend to have paranoid delusions that center around someone trying to hurt or control them. They may also develop a broad range of other delusional beliefs.
  • Disorganized Thinking/Speech. People with schizophrenia can experience unusual gaps in their thought processes. This makes it difficult to keep thoughts functional and well-organized. Disorganized thinking typically leads to disorganized patterns of speech.
  • Unusual Motor Behavior. This refers to unpredictable or age-inappropriate physical behaviors that have no clear goal. Common examples include unusual body postures, aimless movement and a total lack of body responsiveness.

Negative Schizophrenia Symptoms

Schizophrenia in women and men can also lead to an absence of typical behaviors and emotions. Doctors refer to symptoms that indicate this absence as “negative” symptoms.

  • Emotional Flatness. Symptoms in this category point to a reduced ability to express emotion. They include a lack of vocal or physical emphasis when speaking and a lack of changing facial expressions.
  • Anhedonia. Anhedonia is a reduced or lost ability to feel pleasure. This includes when they are engaging in previously favored activities.
  • Disrupted Patterns of Activity. People with schizophrenia often lose the ability to start participation in new activities. Affected individuals may also lose the ability to complete in activities they’ve already started.
  • Reduced Participation in Speech. Affected individuals may significantly reduce their spoken interactions with others.

Cognitive Schizophrenia Symptoms

Cognition is process of thinking, knowledge and understanding. Schizophrenia can produce disruptions in this process that range from minor to severe.

  • Diminished Executive Function. Executive function is the name for a group of higher-level mental skills. These include the ability to control impulsive behavior and the ability to make sound judgments. In affected individuals, these skills can decline significantly over time.
  • Disruptions in Working Memory. Working memory is a form of short-term memory that all people rely on to remember things long enough to use them for immediate purposes. People with schizophrenia often experience problems with this form of memory. They often lose some of their normal orientation to reality.
  • Attention Difficulties. Schizophrenia can trigger a decline in the ability to focus or maintain attention.

When Do Doctors Diagnose the Condition?

A diagnosis requires at least two of the following five problems:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Disorganized thinking/speech
  • Unusual motor behavior
  • Any one of the four negative symptoms

These problems must persist for at least six months and cause a serious impact for at least one month.

If you or someone you know is living with schizophrenia, Promises Treatment Center can help. Contact our highly trained staff today at 888-478-1456.

Resources

National Institute of Mental Health: Schizophrenia
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml

National Alliance on Mental Illness: Schizophrenia
http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Schizophrenia

U.S. National Library of Medicine – MedlinePlus: Schizophrenia
https://medlineplus.gov/schizophrenia.html

Posted on September 23, 2016 and modified on April 25, 2019

Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC

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