Schizophrenia is a type of mental health condition that can change how you think and act, as well as how you feel.
The symptoms can be severe enough to disrupt daily life, performance in school and work, and relationships. It’s estimated that one-third of people treated for schizophrenia still struggle with their symptoms.
Schizophrenia symptoms may be further broken down into three types:
Negative symptoms result in the absence of what might be considered “normal” functions, like motivation, speech, and thinking skills. Positive ones are attributed to symptoms that are present but shouldn’t be, like delusions and hallucinations.
Cognitive symptoms affect brain functions like concentration, memory, and attention. These symptoms may impact your ability to navigate and complete your daily routine.
To diagnose schizophrenia, a mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, will conduct an exam along with tests to rule out other possible neurological or mental health conditions.
The examining psychiatrist may also need to speak with friends, family members, or other physicians for corroborative information that can help to assess the quality and duration of symptoms.
Typically, your symptoms will occur for 6 months or longer to be considered schizophrenia.
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia are typically seen through decreased motivation and social withdrawal. These symptoms may also be sometimes misdiagnosed as those related to clinical depression.
Below, you’ll find some of the most common negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
Lack of pleasure (anhedonia)
Often associated with clinical depression, a lack of pleasure in things you once enjoyed can also be a symptom of schizophrenia. This may include socializing, favorite hobbies, activities, and more.
It’s also important to note the possibility of having both depression and schizophrenia at the same time. According to a 2017 review, it’s estimated that about 40 percent of people with schizophrenia may experience depression.
If depression exists in patients with schizophrenia, a more careful evaluation of symptom duration may help to clarify whether it could be schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or a psychotic depression.
Trouble with speech (alogia)
Schizophrenia may cause a type of speech difficulty called alogia. It’s thought that trouble with speech in schizophrenia is attributed to difficulties with putting thoughts together.
You might notice a loved one not making much logical sense with their words. This can be confusing if you’ve known them for a long time and it’s not in line with their usual behavior.
A person with affective flattening, may appear stoic or expressionless in their facial appearance. Their voice may sound “flat” or “blunted”. This symptom is sometimes mischaracterized as apathy.
Trouble with daily tasks (avolition)
While you might experience a lack of motivation from time to time, schizophrenia may cause a more extreme form called avolition. It can make everyday tasks, like getting dressed and brushing your teeth, very difficult to accomplish.
Decreased desire to socialize
Another possible symptom seen in clinical depression, a desire to withdraw from others is another symptom that can occur in schizophrenia. You may also lack a desire to have a conversation with your friends and loved ones.
Positive symptoms of schizophrenia are ones that are atypically present, as they can disrupt a person’s grasp of reality. Some mental health professionals also collectively refer to these symptoms as psychosis. Positive symptoms are experienced on a more “active” basis.
Consider the most common positive symptoms of schizophrenia:
Hallucinations refers to sensory experiences that may seem like they’re really happening, but they don’t actually occur in real life.
In schizophrenia, hallucinations may be further broken down into the following types:
- auditory (the most common), in which you hear voices
- visual, which can cause you to vividly see people or items
- tastes or smells, including good or bad ones
- physical or tactile sensations
Delusions refer to thinking or fixation around false beliefs. These may seem unreasonable — and easy to prove wrong — to others. But, like hallucinations, they are very real to the person experiencing them.
Types of delusions may include:
- paranoid/persecutory, which can cause you to believe others want to harm you or follow you
- grandiose, where you might believe you are rich, famous, or extremely talented
- referential, in which there’s a belief that public art or communications are directed towards you
- delusional jealousy/erotomanic, which can cause you to think a famous person is in love with you, or are convinced that your current partner is cheating on you
- religious, in which you might believe you have connections with a deity or a demon
- somatic, where you have delusions about your own body pertaining to an unlikely illness, or missing part
Schizophrenia may cause a state of catatonia, in which you lie unusually still for long periods of time. On the flipside, you might also feel unusually jumpy, and perhaps engage in different movements repeatedly.
Schizophrenia may also affect daily cognition skills, possibly leading to difficulties with memory, attention, and concentration. People with schizophrenia may also have a harder time completing everyday tasks.
Concentration difficulties combined with struggles to put thoughts together can also lead to disorganized speech. Cognitive changes can make it difficult to make decisions, and can affect short-term memory.
Another potential cognitive issue seen in schizophrenia is a lack of insight (anosognosia), which can make a person unaware that they have this condition.
Like other types of mental health conditions, schizophrenia doesn’t cause many physical symptoms. But you might notice that your loved one appears more still, jumpy, or expressionless than usual.
Also, if your loved one is struggling with everyday tasks, they might appear more disheveled or unkempt than what’s considered normal for them.
It’s a misconception that people with schizophrenia are violent. In fact, research shows that individuals with this condition are more likely to be victims of violence. At the same time, the chances of violence or self-harm are greater if the condition isn’t treated.
Symptoms of schizophrenia tend to appear during your 20s or 30s, but they may occur as early as your teens or early adulthood — especially in males. Teenagers may exhibit earlier symptoms as a precursor to schizophrenia, like:
- struggles with school
- problems with motivation
- difficulty with relationships
- issues with making decisions/poor judgment
Keep in mind that such symptoms aren’t exclusive to schizophrenia, and these may be common adolescent behaviors. For teens with schizophrenia, the above issues become apparent over the course of a year or two. A person who has always had the struggles listed above may have other issues.
At the same time, it’s important to be aware that subtle changes in mood, social function, and thought processes may occur in schizophrenia before more obvious positive symptoms develop.
If you have concerns about your teen’s mental health, it’s important to talk with them and to reach out to their doctor or therapist.
Managing schizophrenia is a lifelong process that requires a combination of medications and therapies to help minimize the effects that some symptoms may have on your everyday life. Social skills and life-management skills classes can also help you develop more independence and confidence.
It’s also important to have a support system. This may include family or loved ones, friends, or people you might meet in group therapy. You can also talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about any new or worsening symptoms.
Finally, it’s important to take care of yourself. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and relaxation techniques can all promote well-being and decrease stress.
Schizophrenia has no cure, so long-term treatment is important to help improve quality of life and to prevent complications. Symptoms may be classified as positive or negative, though this mental health disorder can lead to cognitive effects that impact your daily life.
Regardless of what types of symptoms you’re currently experiencing, it’s helpful to keep track of them for yourself or a loved one so you can share them with your doctor.
Also, while it’s important to know the symptoms of schizophrenia, you should never diagnose yourself or others — only a mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis so you or your loved one can obtain appropriate treatment.