What Are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia changes how you think, feel, and act. It might affect you differently from someone else. The symptoms can come and go, too. No one has all of them all of the time.

They usually start between ages 16 and 30. Men often get them earlier than women. Often times there is a gradual worsening before symptoms start. This is sometimes called the prodrome phase.

When the disease is in full swing and symptoms are severe, the person with schizophrenia can't tell what's real and what's not. This happens less often as they get older.

People with the condition usually aren't aware that they have it until a doctor or counselor tells them. They won't even realize that something is seriously wrong. If they do happen to notice symptoms, like not being able to think straight, they might chalk it up to things like stress or being tired.

If you're concerned that you or someone you know is showing signs of schizophrenia, talk to a doctor or counselor.

Things That May Start to Happen (“Positive” Symptoms)

The changes you see are "add-ons" to normal behavior. Doctors may call these “positive" symptoms, but that doesn’t mean that they’re good.

Hallucinations . They might hear, see, smell, or feel things no one else does. Most often they'll hear voices in their heads. These might tell them what to do, warn them of danger, or say mean things to them. The voices might talk to each other.

Delusions. These are beliefs that seem strange to most people and are easy to prove wrong. The person affected might think someone is trying to control their brain through TVs or that the FBI is out to get them. They might believe they're someone else, like a famous actor or the president, or that they have superpowers.

Confused thoughts and speech. People with schizophrenia can have a hard time organizing their thoughts. They might not be able to follow along when you talk to them. Instead, it might seem like they're zoning out or distracted. When they talk, their words can come out jumbled and not make sense.

Trouble concentrating. For example, someone might lose track of what's going on in a TV show as they're watching.

Different movements. Some people with schizophrenia can seem jumpy. Sometimes they'll make the same movements over and over again. But sometimes they might be perfectly still for hours at a stretch, which experts call being catatonic. Contrary to popular belief, people with the disease usually aren't violent.


Things That Stop Happening (“Negative” Symptoms)

Someone with schizophrenia may lose interest in some things or not be able to do them anymore. One common example is a lack of interest in grooming and hygiene.These symptoms can be hard to spot, especially in teens, because even healthy teens can have big emotional swings between highs and lows.

Depression has some of the same symptoms, too.

Emotionless. A person with schizophrenia might seem like they have a terrible case of the blahs. They might not talk much or show any feelings. And when they talk, their voice can sound flat, like they have no emotions. Doctors call this a "flat affect."

Withdrawal. Someone who has the condition might stop making plans with you or become a hermit. Talking with them can feel like pulling teeth: If you want an answer, you have to really work to pry it out of them.

Struggling with the basics of daily life. They may stop bathing or taking care of themselves.

No follow-through. People with schizophrenia have trouble staying on schedule or finishing what they start. Sometimes they can't get started at all.

Thinking Problems (“Cognitive” Symptoms)

These are about how well your brain learns, stores, and uses information.

Someone with schizophrenia might have a hard time with their working memory. For example, they may not be able to keep track of different kinds of facts at the same time, like a phone number plus instructions.

Along with having trouble paying attention, it can be hard for them to organize their thoughts and make decisions.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on August 17, 2017



American Psychiatric Association: "Schizophrenia."

National Institute of Mental Health: "Schizophrenia."

William T. Carpenter, MD, professor of psychiatry and pharmacy, University of Maryland School of Medicine; Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, Baltimore, MD.

National Health Service (UK): "Schizophrenia - Symptoms."

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation: "Frequently Asked Questions about Schizophrenia."

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