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Schizophrenia symptoms vary between conditions and patients. Schizophrenia is the collective term for a group of mental disorders in which the patient’s perception of reality is distorted or abnormal. Because the psychotic signs of schizophrenia may be caused by other medical conditions or drugs, schizophrenia may be tricky to diagnose and depends on the assessment of psychiatrists, the patient’s reports, and the observations of loved ones. Schizophrenia symptoms are typically classified as positive symptoms or negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are the schizophrenic behaviors and thoughts not present in healthy individuals and negative symptoms are actions and thought processes that are present in healthy individuals, but lacking in schizophrenic patients.
Positive schizophrenia symptoms include hallucinations, disorganized thought, extreme disorganized behavior, and delusions. A hallucination is a sensory experience of something that did not happen, such as hearing voices or seeing things that don’t exist. Disorganized thought is characterized by a difficulty putting together thoughts and words, gross inability to stay focused, and “word salad,” the incoherent stringing together of meaningless words. A person with disorganized behavior may become irrationally agitated or act inappropriately, such as being childish or laughing in serious settings.
Delusions are a common symptom of schizophrenia that occur when a patient holds beliefs that have been disproved or are out of touch with reality. Patients with delusions of grandeur falsely believe that they are very powerful, famous, or gifted with special abilities. Those with delusions of reference believe that irrelevant things in their surroundings are related to them, like believing that conversations between strangers are about them or that events in another part were designed to convey a special meaning for them. Patients with paranoid delusions, or delusions of persecution, believe that innocuous things are trying to harm them, such as believing that friends are trying to control the schizophrenic person’s mind. Somatic delusions occur when the person falsely believes that something is wrong or has been changed in his body.
Negative schizophrenia symptoms tend to persist even when positive symptoms have temporarily subsided and often appear months or years before the onset of positive symptoms. Negative symptoms include alogia, avolition, loss of emotion, social isolation, and loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. Alogia is an inability to produce speech quickly or fluently and often presents with abnormally short response and halting communication. Avolition is the loss of the ability to make plans or meet goals, exacerbating the difficulty schizophrenic patients have with making friends. The person may also have affective flattening, in which the face does not react, often staring or frowning for long periods of time.
The cause of schizophrenia is still unknown, but schizophrenic symptoms can often be controlled with treatment. People with schizophrenia are frequently unaware of their psychotic symptoms, so it is usually up to friends, family, and coworkers to recognize the disorder and suggest seeing a doctor. If the person does not want medical help and has suicidal thoughts or poses a threat to others, loved ones should call an emergency healthcare network and consider having the person involuntarily committed.
Schizophrenia symptoms typically begin in young adulthood; between the ages of twenty and forty in women and in the teens or twenties in men. The onset of schizophrenia in people over forty or children is uncommon, but can happen. Those with the disorder should seek treatment, as the schizophrenia symptoms often worsen over time and can impede upon the person’s ability to carry out normal activities such as bathing and dressing.