People with schizophrenia can have intense behavioral symptoms, most often confusion and disorientation, making it difficult for them to distinguish between reality and their delusions or hallucinations. It’s important to note that the symptoms of schizophrenia vary dramatically from person to person, both in pattern and severity. Some might have their symptoms worsen or improve unpredictably, and others might have consistent symptoms.
Schizophrenia symptoms are considered to be either positive or negative, not because they are good or bad, but based on whether or not they mark the presence or absence of symptoms. Positive symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thoughts and speech represent increased activation of certain areas of the brain. The positive symptoms tend to respond well to drug therapy. Negative symptoms, on the other hand, include symptoms that halt normal functioning and don’t respond as well to drug therapy, such as a lack of desire for any social connections and lack of emotional affect.
There are five main types of schizophrenia symptoms: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, and the aforementioned “negative” symptoms.
- Delusions: Broadly, a delusion is a firmly-held belief that a person has despite clear and obvious evidence to the contrary.
- Hallucinations: Hallucinations are sensations experienced as real even though they only exist in the mind. These can involve any of the five senses, but auditory hallucinations (hearing voices or other sounds in your head) are the most common for those with schizophrenia.
- Disorganized speech: Schizophrenia can cause issues with concentrating, which can someone’s speech skills. Disorganized speech may look like someone giving partially or completely unrelated answers to questions, using made-up words or phrases that only have meaning to themselves, repeating words or statements, and/or rhyming words meaninglessly (also referred to as “clang”).
- Disorganized behavior: Typically, people’s activities are goal-oriented, but those suffering with schizophrenia may not have goals connected to their actions. These individuals become unable to take care of themselves, work or interact like they used to with others. Disorganized behavior can be hard to identify, but it typically results in a lack of normal daily functioning, useless and excessive movement, lack of inhibition and impulse control, and behaviors that appear bizarre.
- “Negative” symptoms: Negative symptoms can include lack of emotional expression, lack of enthusiasm, social withdrawal, and lack of awareness of one’s environment.
These symptoms are sometimes categorized in three buckets: psychotic symptoms (altered perceptions, abnormal thinking, and odd behaviors), negative symptoms (mentioned above) and cognitive symptoms (problems in attention, concentration and memory).
Regardless of symptoms, most people with schizophrenia experience them either continuously or intermittently throughout their entire life after onset and are often severely stigmatized by people who do not understand the disorder. Learn more