Symptoms of schizophrenia

November 12, 2012

Symptoms of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia patients are very difficult to treat and tend to have very difficult lives due to the suffering caused by this condition.

Schizophrenia is a long-term mental disorder that usually strikes in late adolescence or early adulthood, but can strike at any time in life. Schizophrenia symptoms vary from individual to individual. Schizophrenia typically involves a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion and behavior which in turn may lead to faulty perceptions and inappropriate actions, feelings and thoughts. Some patients withdraw from reality into fantasy and delusion with an increasing sense of mental fragmentation.

At the start

The onset of schizophrenia is very often not immediately recognized. Whilst the individual may appear to becoming increasingly angry and suspicious of those around them, they may also be confused, anxious and upset and begin to exhibit extreme behavioral changes; yet will not accept that they need any help and may refuse to visit their doctor.

Because schizophrenia is a slowly developing illness diagnosis can be difficult – and may even be wrongly assumed to something else entirely. Schizophrenia symptoms often appear during adolescence when many teenagers are naturally withdrawn, unresponsive and have wildly erratic sleeping patterns – it is easy to see why the onset of schizophrenia may be dismissed as a teenage phase.

The first acute episode of schizophrenia symptoms is often very difficult for all concerned – both the individual and their family and friends.

Symptoms

Schizophrenia and its’ symptoms vary widely from individual to individual, for those patients who manage to receive early diagnosis and treatment there is generally a much better prognosis.

The classic schizophrenia symptoms are changes in the thinking and behavior of an individual and are usually described as positive or negative.

  • Positive symptoms – include hallucinations or delusions and generally represent changes in behavior or thoughts. Patients may frequently suffer episodes of acute schizophrenia when these positive symptoms are severe, but, they may then have long periods with none of these symptoms.

  • Negative symptoms – tend to affect function – an individual with schizophrenia may appear lifeless, emotionless, listless and even apathetic.

Positive symptoms

  • Hallucinations – most commonly hallucinations cause the patient to hear voices, although they can involve any and all of the senses. Studies show that for the individual hearing the voices it is a very real experience, as if the brain is mistaking thoughts for voices. The voices may appear, to the sufferer, as if they are coming from one location or many; they may form a narrative or a discussion; they may give instructions or hold a conversation; they may be friendly or rude and abusive.

  • Delusions – this is a belief based on a wrong view, but one which is held with absolute conviction, to the extent that the delusion affects the behavior of the individual. Occasionally a delusion will develop alongside a hallucination almost by way of explanation.

  • Thought disorder – patients with schizophrenia symptoms often describe having ‘misty’ or ‘hazy’ thoughts; they experience difficulty in concentrating and following a conversation or television programme; their thoughts and speech may become confused and disjointed making communication difficult.

  • Behavior and thought changes – as schizophrenia symptoms worsen it may seem that the individual becomes increasingly disorganized in their thoughts and behavior; they may develop an eccentric or unusual dress sense and behave in a way deemed inappropriate by those around them. Some patients are convinced that their thoughts are not their own.

Negative symptoms

Long before any acute schizophrenia symptoms a patient may already be showing negative symptoms of the disease. The patient will generally become more and more withdrawn and begin to neglect their appearance and their personal hygiene. Negative symptoms may easily be mistaken for a number of other things, including laziness and rudeness, but may include -

  • Loss of interest in activities and in life in general

  • Loss of motivation

  • Lack of concentration

  • Apathy and listlessness

  • Becoming more reclusive and showing erratic sleeping patterns

  • Feeling of social awkwardness, reluctance to join in conversations.

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