woman with three versions of herself showing signs of schizophrenia

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious but treatable psychological disorder that affects a person across every aspect of their lives. How a person thinks, feels, and behaves are all impaired by schizophrenia. When a person has schizophrenia, their ability to interpret reality is affected, causing disorganized behavior, delusions, and psychosis.

Schizophrenia is unfortunately not rare and affects about 1% of American adults. It’s a dangerous disorder with a high risk of suicide, with a US national rate of 5%, about four times higher than other mental health disorders. People with untreated schizophrenia also have much shorter lifetimes than the average neurotypical population.

Understanding Schizophrenia

The exact causes of schizophrenia remain unknown, although research has made a great deal of progress in teasing the puzzle of schizophrenia apart. It’s believed that schizophrenia is in large part due to a combination of genetic factors and stresses a person may experience during their early years.

Early warning signs of schizophrenia

Most people develop the early warning signs and symptoms of schizophrenia between their mid-to-late teens and their 30s. For many people with schizophrenia, the onset of puberty heralds the onset of schizophrenia.

Men tend to develop schizophrenia earlier in life than women, although the incidence is the same.

The early warning signs of schizophrenia include:

  •   A significant drop in job performance or grades
  •   Unusual withdrawal from others or an increase in secretive behaviors
  •   Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyed by that person
  •   A loss of previously valued social relationships, including a loss of friends
  •   Problems communicating (disordered speech)
  •   Suspiciousness of other people and increased distrust or paranoia
  •   Decreased attention to one’s hygiene or appearance
  •   The onset of hallucinations and/or delusions

It’s the presence of delusions and hallucinations that mark the onset of psychosis and schizophrenia. At that point, it’s time to seek professional help.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia has two sets of symptoms: positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms of schizophrenia involve behaviors a person performs in addition to one’s typical behaviors.

Delusions

Delusions are firmly held beliefs that have no basis in fact and lack any evidence to support them. It’s not only that a delusional person believes things that have no factual backing, but delusions are also plainly, obviously false. Delusions are very common and occur in about 90 percent of those with schizophrenia. 

These are two of the most typical types of schizophrenic delusions:

  • Delusions of persecution. This is the most common type of delusion in individuals with schizophrenia. It’s the belief that someone or something, often an unspecified “they” are planning or attempting to harm or harass the sufferer.  
  • Delusions of control. People may think their thoughts are being sent to other people, being read by other people, or that others are inserting thoughts or images into their consciousness.

Hallucinations

Hallucinations involve hearing or seeing things that aren’t objectively real—they exist only in the mind. Although many of our senses may be subject to hallucinations, auditory and visual hallucinations are by far the most common in schizophrenia. Schizophrenic auditory hallucinations tend to be abusive, critical, or hostile to the person experiencing them. They may also encourage or command a person to harm themselves or others.

Disorganized thinking (speech)

Schizophrenia interferes with a person’s ability to maintain a train of thought, which carries over into how a person speaks. An individual with schizophrenia may have speech that is rambling, incoherent, tangential to any topic, or incomprehensible.

Some examples of disorganized speech include:

  • Clanging. Schizophrenic clanging is a repetition of rhyming words (“Lots of cots, bots, nots”) without any connection or relationship to a conversational topic.
  • Loose associations. A person with loose associations can only remain tangentially connected to an idea and will shift rapidly from topic to topic without any transition or connection between them.
  • Neologisms. People with schizophrenia may make up new words that are nonsense and lack meaning.

Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behavior

Disordered behavior refers to the following conditions:

  • Problems with grooming, even with simple self-care tasks like showering or combing one’s hair.
  • Difficulty communicating effectively, such as an inability to use words correctly and in the right order
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Emotional responses that are inappropriate to the situation or a lack of ability to feel or express emotions
  • Psychomotor retardation. A person with abnormal motor behavior may move jerkily or have a very restricted range of movement. They may assume an uncomfortable, statue-like pose and stay there for hours—or days.        

Negative symptoms

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia include behaviors or cognitive processes that are typically present in most people but missing in those with schizophrenia.

They include an impaired ability to perform the activities of daily living, like taking care of one’s personal hygiene, a greatly reduced range of emotions—or even at times the loss of emotions, like the ability to feel pleasure, called anhedonia. People may also lose interest in associating with others and withdraw completely.

When to Seek Treatment

The earlier a person gets treatment for schizophrenia, the more positive the outcomes are. If a person reports hallucinations or develops delusional thinking, seek help immediately. Only a physician, particularly a psychiatrist, can make a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The treatment of schizophrenia typically involves medication and psychotherapy.

Contact Absolute Awakenings for Help

Treatment for schizophrenia can give a person their life back.  If you are looking for a multi-phased, quality continuum of clinical care, Absolute Awakenings Treatment Center is here to help. To learn more, give us a call today. We look forward to speaking with you soon and getting you started on your journey of recovery as quickly as possible.

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