What are Positive Symptoms?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 December 2018
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Positive symptoms are a category of symptoms specific to a mental illness. In most cases, these types of symptoms are experienced by individuals with schizophrenia. People who have schizophrenia suffer from a chronic brain disorder. The disorder can cause abnormal behavior and thinking, of which people without the mental disorder do not experience. Generally, the types of positive symptoms an individual may experience can vary and some people experience just one or multiple symptoms at a time.

Hallucinations are common positive symptoms. When a person hallucinates, he or she hears, feels and sees things that do not exist. Some people also smell invisible things. Hearing voices is one of the most common types of hallucinations. The voices can become so demanding that the person may be led to carry out certain acts, led by the hallucinated voice.

Disorganized behaviors may also be positive symptoms. An individual with disorganized behavior may exhibit unpredictable agitation and act in very abnormal ways in a private or public environment. Sometimes, people with this symptom will act very childlike, even if they are adults. The level of severity of this behavioral abnormality can range from mild to severe. In some cases, the positive symptom can prohibit a person from performing normal daily activities, such as feeding, clothing or bathing him or herself.


Positive symptoms can include delusions as well. Individuals who experience delusions have false beliefs. The beliefs may be wrongfully based on the misinterpretation of reality. For instance, the person may have a false belief that something or someone is trying to control his or her mind. In addition, some people may even misinterpret who they are and be under the delusion that they are someone else.

A thought-process disorder may be an additional symptom. This positive symptom may cause a person to think in a disorganized manner. In most cases, the disorganization will severely impact the way a person talks. As a result, he or she may struggle to form coherent sentences. The person may string words together that do not make sense and may start to talk, then suddenly stop without communicating a complete thought.

Medications are normally used to treat positive symptoms. The symptoms may not entirely go away with medication, but they may lessen symptom severity. Doctors may prescribe different types of therapy and rehabilitation as well. For instance, some patients may be enrolled in individual or family therapy sessions. Individuals with lesser symptoms may enter a vocational rehabilitation program to find compatible employment.



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Post 6

@David09 - That's unfortunate, but I think it's the exception rather than the rule when it comes to prescribing the medication.

I don’t know much about schizophrenia except what I see on television in the movies, and of course I’m sure there’s a lot of misinformation there. I do agree it’s sometimes easier to give medicine than to try to find the real root of the problem.

Post 5

I have a friend who displayed irrational behavior. You could call it attention deficit disorder or schizophrenia symptoms. I really don’t know what he had except he could never hold down a job and was always prone to outbursts and conflicts in relationships. It affected everything he did.

Finally he went to see a psychiatrist who prescribed some medication for a “chemical imbalance” in the brain. I would like to say this solved the problem but it only made it worse.

He started hallucinating and hearing voices. Years later another doctor would confide that the medical profession did him a disservice.

They finally pulled him off the medication and he’s never been on it since. He is a bit better now, but he needs constant therapy.

Post 4

Does anyone know if positive symptoms get progressively worse? My sister has been complaining of voices in her head, but as of right now, she knows that they are just intrusive thoughts.

I'm wondering if I need to be concerned that she will one day lose her grip on reality. If schizophrenia starts out mild and grows into full-fledged insanity, I need to get her some help now.

She is embarrassed to talk to anyone else about her thoughts. Do I need to get her to a therapist quickly, or is schizophrenia an all-at-once disorder?

Post 3

@Oceana – I assume that the facility has your aunt on medication. Is she improving at all? If so, her husband might get to bring her home one day.

My brother is schizophrenic, and though he was very disturbed, the medication controlled his worst positive symptoms. He still has a little trouble talking and forming coherent thoughts, but he is no longer violent.

He attacked a man in a grocery store once because he thought the guy was a hit man hired to kill him. After that, we got him help. Once the medication started working, we brought him back home.

If your aunt is being treated, then her extreme auditory hallucinations likely have gone away. It might be safe for her to come home.

Post 2

My aunt has schizophrenia, and her husband had her committed after she tried to kill him. She said that the voice inside her head told her that her husband must die, or the whole world would be destroyed. It told her that she had been chosen to save the Earth.

This was definitely a positive symptom. The psychiatrist at the facility had no doubt that she was schizophrenic.

Her husband always knew that she had been a little eccentric, but he loved that about her. He could not live in fear once her behavior turned dangerous, though. None of the family begrudged him for sending her away.

Post 1

I feel so bad for schizophrenic people! I work as a nurse at a mental institution, and they are some of the most troubled individuals there.

We have one patient who sees a hooded man with skeleton arms in his room at night. He starts screaming, and I always know what's going on. I have to sedate him, which makes me sad.

There are others who have conversations with themselves. Sometimes I find myself entertained by listening to them, but I immediately feel guilty for this.

One man becomes so violent when he sees things that we have to keep him under constant supervision. He thinks that some of the people there are aliens, and he tries to attack them.

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