It is now known that symptoms of schizophrenia are distinguished by three categories.
The categories are extensive, making the diagnosis of schizophrenia more difficult. This is because some symptoms are also the symptoms of other conditions and are often mistaken.
Of the three categories – positive symptoms of schizophrenia, negative symptoms of schizophrenia and cognitive symptoms, two are harder to diagnose – negative symptoms and cognitive symptoms.
A Diagnosis of Schizophrenia is often Difficult
The onset of schizophrenia is often slow and can develop over months or years.
Although some people may have numerous symptoms, others have only a few.
Different types of schizophrenia are responsible for a variety of symptoms, some of which include irritability, concentration problems and difficulty sleeping.
Since they can be considered symptoms of many other problems, diagnosing schizophrenia can be difficult.
“I was afraid to go out. I thought people could read my mind, and I had to avoid thinking of things that were dangerous for me if they knew, or things that were embarrassing. It was suddenly exhausting to take the bus or train, for there were many people there who could then hear my inner thoughts. If there was one who looked at me I thought, oh no, he heard something, he knows something about me. So I started counting internally. I counted to one hundred and then I started again. All the way on the bus or train.” ~ Mary
One type that is particularly hard to diagnose is residual schizophrenia.
Symptoms may be present and the person may continue to have hallucinations, feelings of paranoia and still ‘hear things’.
Although the symptoms are still present, they are not as intense. Behavior may continue to be odd or speech can continue to be disorganized, although in a milder form.
With residual schizophrenia, hallucinations and delusions can still be present, but they are not as vivid as they were previously.
In order to be diagnosed with residual schizophrenia, positive symptoms must have been present for at least 6 months.
This type of schizophrenia occurs in the transition from full-blown schizophrenia and a remission in symptoms.
The symptoms can be experienced for years and there is a danger of developing another type as these symptoms subside.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia and Depression are Similar
Information on schizophrenia is available in a number of places and signs of schizophrenia are part of this information.
Educating people about the symptoms will allow them to seek help for loved ones and friends whom they may have believed were just suffering from depression.
While depression is a problem that can have serious consequences when it is not treated, schizophrenia occurs more often in people who have suffered from depression than people who have not.
Depression symptoms can actually be experienced as many as four years before schizophrenia is diagnosed.
This is NOT to say that everyone who experiences depression will develop schizophrenia, because this is certainly not true.
As with many disorders that are related to mental health, many people have heard about schizophrenia, depression and other problems, but they do not know a lot about them.
Early Signs of Schizophrenia
Although most cases of schizophrenia occur in early adulthood, they can appear later in life.
Schizophrenia in children is rare and the symptoms are somewhat different. The earlier schizophrenia develops directly affects the severity of symptoms.
The early signs and symptoms of schizophrenia in children include a delay in language development, beginning to crawl or walk at a late age and rocking or flapping of the arms.
These symptoms are also present in children with autism and this must be considered before a diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia is made.
If schizophrenia is diagnosed, there will be other symptoms that appear as the child gets older. These symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, poor performance in school, withdrawing from social situations, a lack of emotion or an emotional response that is not appropriate for the situation, jumbled or disjointed speech, strange eating habits and becoming agitated as well as a decrease in taking care of themselves.
The symptoms of schizophrenia in children are generally gradual and hard to distinguish as actual signs of this disorder.
Sometimes they are considered to be ‘just a phase’ rather than symptoms of schizophrenia.
With progression of the disorder, the symptoms will become more pronounced and full-blown episodes of hallucinations, delusions and disorganization of thoughts.
Schizophrenia typically affects only 1 in 40,000 children. This is fairly low when compared to the number of adults affected by the disorder, which is 1 in 100.
The average age that symptoms begin is also different for men and women. The average age is 18 for men and 25 for women.
Early signs of schizophrenia in adults include:
• Constant feelings of being watched
• Seeing things or hearing things that do not exist
• Apathy when it comes to things that are important
• Being unable to concentrate or sleep
• A decline in performing work-related or school-related activities
• Personality changes
• A decline in personal hygiene
• A withdrawal from social activities
• Strange behavior
• Responding in an irrational or angry manner to family and friends
• Abnormal preoccupation with the occult and/or religion
Late onset schizophrenia is when the first symptoms of the disorder appear after age 40 and very-late onset is after age 60.
There are common similarities in the positive symptoms of early and late onset schizophrenia.
Thought disorder and negative symptoms are atypical in very-late onset schizophrenia.
There are three categories associated with symptoms of schizophrenia. Positive, negative and cognitive symptoms are explained below.
The Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia
People used to suffer from what was called a ‘ nervous breakdown.’ This is not a scientific term nor is it a medical term. It has been used to describe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Many times the person who was believed to have suffered a nervous breakdown actually had symptoms of schizophrenia. They often display the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
Delusions are one of the positive symptoms and can include delusions of persecution, which is actually the most common.
People with these delusions believe that they are being spied on or plotted against by others. They may believe their food is being poisoned.
Symptoms can include delusions of control or the belief their thoughts are being controlled by their neighbors or others. In addition to this, some believe that their thoughts are being broadcast to others.
Delusions of reference are another common type and this includes believing that the television is talking to them or others are sending them thoughts.
When delusions of grandeur are experienced people may believe they are endowed with special gifts.
This can be dangerous because believing that they can fly is one delusion that is quite common.
The common thread among the delusions is the person continues to believe these things are true even when they are shown proof that they are not.
Hallucinations are a symptom experienced by those with schizophrenia with one of the most obvious being auditory hallucinations.
People who have auditory hallucinations hear voices or other sounds that may tell them to do certain things or give warnings that danger is imminent.
Other types of hallucinations include tactile, which makes the person feel tingling or burning sensations or even feelings of electric-shock.
Olfactory hallucinations are when odors, such as smoke, are believed to be present; however, no one else smells them.
Somatic hallucinations are a symptom that makes the person feel as if something is moving inside their body.
Gustatory hallucinations are an illusion that food or drink tastes strange.
Visual hallucination symptoms are associated with the sight, producing visions of people or other objects and the way color is perceived.
Symptoms of schizophrenia involving delusions and hallucinations can occur at the same time. A person who is suffering from delusions of persecution may also experience gustatory hallucinations.
Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia are another category that can be accompanied by positive symptoms of schizophrenia or they may appear alone.
“I worked in a bar, and it was one of my co-workers who came one day and said that he thought I was a bit strange. He actually thought that I should go to a psychologist.
At that time I also started to become very sad, I cried a lot, even at work, and had to take several breaks where I just went completely black.
I didn’t want to be here anymore, it was just too hard. There were few pleasures in terms of how much it was just hard all the time. And when you get up in the morning, and just to get out of bed and take a shower will be a huge task, at some point it becomes just too much.” ~ Mary
The symptoms are distinguished by the absence of typical behavior or normal functions. A person diagnosed with schizophrenia can display a few or many of these symptoms.
• Losing interest in the activities they used to enjoy
• A lack of emotion
• Withdrawing from social situations
• Personal hygiene is no longer a concern
• The ability to plan or participate in activities is greatly reduced
• A lack of motivation when it comes to meeting goals or being successful
• A loss of interest in maintaining the home
Cognitive symptoms involve the thought process and include:
• Difficulty understanding information
• Difficulty remembering things
• Concentration is affected
• Thinking is slower and disorganized
• Thoughts are difficult to express
• Difficulty putting together feelings, thoughts and behavior
Thought disorders are often symptoms of schizophrenia that can include derailment and loose associations.
These are the two most common and they make communication with the person experiencing the symptoms most difficult. They will go from one subject to another rapidly.
This makes it difficult to understand what they are saying because their conversation is often disjointed and rambling, but they believe they are making perfect sense.
Another symptom is using words that are made up or neologisms. The words only mean something to the person who is speaking them. Perseveration is the repetition of words or sentences.
Clang refers to rhyming words in sentences that make no sense.
In addition to disorganized speech, schizophrenia impairs behavior. People are unable to care for themselves. They might behave in a manner that is unpredictable or display inappropriate responses to situations. For example, they may laugh or smile when the situation calls for a serious response. You also often find display a lack of inhibitions where they are unable to control impulses.
Research is constantly ongoing in the mental health field and schizophrenia is one of the areas of study that has fascinated scientists for many years.
Recent breakthroughs by researchers at Columbia University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill indicate abnormalities can be detected in the brains of newborns that are linked to schizophrenia. Using MRIs and ultrasounds, the researchers conducted studies on the brain development of infants of mothers who had schizophrenia.
The studies indicated larger brains and larger lateral ventricles in male infants with mothers who had schizophrenia than infants with mothers who did not.
This information could prove to be very valuable when it comes to risk assessment and developing ways of lowering this risk.
Female infants did not have larger brains or larger lateral ventricles. Doctors already know that schizophrenia is more common in males than females, thus the findings support facts already known.
Early detection could lead to preventing this disorder among children who are at high risk of developing schizophrenia. Typically, symptoms of schizophrenia do not appear until the teens and it is more common among children with first-degree relatives (parents, brothers, sisters and offspring) who have the disorder. The risk is increased to 1 in 10.
Schizophrenia news includes a few more interesting finds when it comes to early diagnosis and treatment of this disorder.
Those who display positive symptoms of schizophrenia often hear voices that they believe are real. In fact, the voices are so real that they frequently do not hear the voices of others who are really speaking to them. These auditory hallucinations are quite common.
The latest research shows that activity in the part of the brain that is activated when hearing conversation – neurons in the rear, upper region of the left temporal lobe – stops.
Rather than an increase in this activity, they actually shut down. The research showed that people who have these symptoms of schizophrenia can benefit from an electronic application which teaches them to shift their focus to the real voices.
Headphones that expose patients to different sounds in each ear allow them to practice hearing one sound while blocking the other. Whereas testing has been done on relatively few patients, initial results indicate that the focus on the outside sounds versus inner voices is significant.
The key lies in teaching patients how to block out inner voices and concentrate on the voices coming from outside.
Although at the present there is not a cure for schizophrenia, recovery is possible. The possibility of an improvement in the lives of those living with schizophrenia is quite probable when they receive the right treatment.
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