Schizophrenia: An Overview
What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
People with schizophrenia may have a number of symptoms involving changes in ability, behavior, and personality, and they may display different kinds of behavior at different times. When the illness first appears, symptoms usually are sudden and severe.
The most common symptoms of schizophrenia can be grouped into three categories: Positive symptoms, disorganized symptoms, and negative symptoms.
Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia
In this case, the word positive does not mean "good." Rather, it refers to obvious symptoms that are not present in people without schizophrenia. These symptoms, which are sometimes referred to as psychotic symptoms, include:
- Delusions: Delusions are strange beliefs that are not based in reality and that the person refuses to give up, even when presented with factual information. For example, the person suffering from delusions may believe that people can hear his or her thoughts, that he or she is God or the devil, or that people are putting thoughts into his or her head or plotting against them.
- Hallucinations: These involve perceiving sensations that aren't real, such as seeing things that aren't there, hearing voices, smelling strange odors, having a "funny" taste in your mouth, and feeling sensations on your skin even though nothing is touching your body. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination in people with schizophrenia. The voices may comment on the person's behavior, insult the person, or give commands.
- Catatonia (a condition in which the person becomes fixed in a single position for a very long time).
Disorganized symptoms of schizophrenia are a type of positive symptom that reflects the person's inability to think clearly and respond appropriately. Examples of disorganized symptoms include:
- Talking in sentences that do not make sense or using nonsense words, making it difficult for the person to communicate or engage in conversation
- Shifting quickly from one thought to the next
- Moving slowly
- Being unable to make decisions
- Writing excessively but without meaning
- Forgetting or losing things
- Repeating movements or gestures, such as pacing or walking in circles
- Having problems making sense of everyday sights, sounds, and feelings
Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Cognitive symptoms include:
- Poor executive functioning (the ability to understand information and to use it to make decisions)
- Trouble focusing or paying attention
- Difficulty with working memory (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)
Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
In this case, the word negative does not mean "bad," but reflects the absence of certain normal behaviors in people with schizophrenia. Negative symptoms of schizophrenia include:
- Lack of emotion or a very limited range of emotions
- Withdrawal from family, friends, and social activities
- Reduced energy
- Reduced speech
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of pleasure or interest in life
- Poor hygiene and grooming habits