Schizophrenia shares many symptoms with other mental illnesses. A doctor must determine if the apparent condition truly is schizophrenia. A look at the different symptoms may provide some insight. Always talk to your doctor if you have any concerns or if you think you or a loved one may have schizophrenia.
Hallucinations and delusions are standard symptoms of schizophrenic disorders. Most people with schizophrenia will hear voices that no one else hears. They may believe the voices are trying to control or spy on them. A strong belief in conspiracy theories is a common signifier of possible delusions.
Acute schizophrenia is distinguished by episodes. Other forms tend to be more chronic. People with acute schizophrenia can suffer severe behavioral symptoms. These include confusion and disorientation. The episodes will come and go unpredictably. It may be difficult for them to know the difference between reality and fantasy.
Other symptoms include unhealthy social or work-related relationships. The person may grow disabled in self-care. When symptoms first appear in adolescence the patient will have great difficulty with long-term independence. They may be unable to dress and groom properly. Another sign of schizophrenia is the “flattened affect.” This is an emotionless and robotic behavior when interacting with others.
Physical symptoms may include behaviors associated with catatonia. People with schizophrenia may appear immobilized or in a stupor. The patient may posture and grimace. These symptoms may occur in reaction to “voices” or as standalone symptoms. Verbal symptoms may include stopping in mid-sentence only to resume speaking on a different tangent. There may be uncomfortably long silences between sentences. Or the patient may speak nonsense. This is sometimes call “word salad,” where random words are strung together in no logical order.
Many people believe that schizophrenia makes people violent. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with schizophrenia aren’t usually violent. However, substances abuse may increase the chance that a person will become violent. While the risk of violence is small in people with schizophrenia, suicide is a risk. About 10 percent of people with schizophrenia die by suicide.
Schizophrenic symptoms are considered as either positive or negative. Positive symptoms respond well to drug therapy. Hallucinations and delusions are among the positive symptoms. Disordered thoughts and speech are also considered positive.
With negative symptoms a patient may be unable to feel pleasure. They may lack the desire for any social connections. The person may show no emotions. Negative symptoms don’t respond as well to drug therapy.