Print

Library >> Browse Articles >> Mental Health and Behavior

+3

Schizophrenia: Overview and Symptoms

Schizophrenia: Overview and Symptoms

Above are the parts of the brain that are abnormal in Schizophrenia patients (source: www.nih.gov).

National Institute of Mental Health

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that has been recognized throughout recorded history . It affects about 1 percent of Americans.

People with schizophrenia may hear voices other people don’t hear or they may believe that others are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. These experiences are terrifying and can cause fearfulness, withdrawal, or extreme agitation. People with schizophrenia may not make sense when they talk, may sit for hours without moving or talking much, or may seem perfectly fine until they talk about what they are really thinking. Because many people with schizophrenia have difficulty holding a job or caring for themselves, the burden on their families and society is significant as well.

Available treatments can relieve many of the disorder’s symptoms, but most people who have schizophrenia must cope with some residual symptoms as long as they live. Nevertheless, this is a time of hope for people with schizophrenia and their families. Many people with the disorder now lead rewarding and meaningful lives in their communities. Researchers are developing more effective medications and using new research tools to understand the causes of schizophrenia and to find ways to prevent and treat it.

This brochure presents information on the symptoms of schizophrenia, when the symptoms appear, how the disease develops, current treatments, support for patients and their loved ones, and new directions in research.


What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?


The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three broad categories:

Positive symptoms are unusual thoughts or perceptions, including hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder, and disorders of movement.

Negative symptoms represent a loss or a decrease in the ability to initiate plans, speak, express emotion, or find pleasure in everyday life. These symptoms are harder to recognize as part of the disorder and can be mistaken for laziness or depression.

Cognitive symptoms (or cognitive deficits) are problems with attention, certain types of memory, and the executive functions that allow us to plan and organize. Cognitive deficits can also be difficult to recognize as part of the disorder but are the most disabling in terms of leading a normal life.


Positive symptoms


Positive symptoms are easy-to-spot behaviors not seen in healthy people and usually involve a loss of contact with reality. They include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder, and disorders of movement. Positive symptoms can come and go. Sometimes they are severe and at other times hardly noticeable, depending on whether the individual is receiving treatment.

Hallucinations. A hallucination is something a person sees, hears, smells, or feels that no one else can see, hear, smell, or feel. “Voices” are the most common type of hallucination in schizophrenia. Many people with the disorder hear voices that may comment on their behavior, order them to do things, warn them of impending danger, or talk to each other (usually about the patient). They may hear these voices for a long time before family and friends notice that something is wrong. Other types of hallucinations include seeing people or objects that are not there, smelling odors that no one else detects (although this can also be a symptom of certain brain tumors), and feeling things like invisible fingers touching their bodies when no one is near.

Delusions. Delusions are false personal beliefs that are not part of the person’s culture and do not change, even when other people present proof that the beliefs are not true or logical. People with schizophrenia can have delusions that are quite bizarre, such as believing that neighbors can control their behavior with magnetic waves, people on television are directing special messages to them, or radio stations are broadcasting their thoughts aloud to others. They may also have delusions of grandeur and think they are famous historical figures. People with paranoid schizophrenia can believe that others are deliberately cheating, harassing, poisoning, spying upon, or plotting against them or the people they care about. These beliefs are called delusions of persecution.

Thought Disorder. People with schizophrenia often have unusual thought processes. One dramatic form is disorganized thinking, in which the person has difficulty organizing his or her thoughts or connecting them logically. Speech may be garbled or hard to understand. Another form is “thought blocking,” in which the person stops abruptly in the middle of a thought. When asked why, the person may say that it felt as if the thought had been taken out of his or her head. Finally, the individual might make up unintelligible words, or “neologisms.”

Disorders of Movement. People with schizophrenia can be clumsy and uncoordinated. They may also exhibit involuntary movements and may grimace or exhibit unusual mannerisms. They may repeat certain motions over and over or, in extreme cases, may become catatonic. Catatonia is a state of immobility and unresponsiveness. It was more common when treatment for schizophrenia was not available; fortunately, it is now rare.


Negative symptoms


The term “negative symptoms” refers to reductions in normal emotional and behavioral states. These include the following:

  1. flat affect (immobile facial expression, monotonous voice),
  2. lack of pleasure in everyday life,
  3. diminished ability to initiate and sustain planned activity, and
  4. speaking infrequently, even when forced to interact.

People with schizophrenia often neglect basic hygiene and need help with everyday activities. Because it is not as obvious that negative symptoms are part of a psychiatric illness, people with schizophrenia are often perceived as lazy and unwilling to better their lives.


Cognitive symptoms


Cognitive symptoms are subtle and are often detected only when neuropsychological tests are performed.

They include the following:

  1. poor “executive functioning” (the ability to absorb and interpret information and make decisions based on that information),
  2. inability to sustain attention, and
  3. problems with “working memory” (the ability to keep recently learned information in mind and use it right away)

Cognitive impairments often interfere with the patient’s ability to lead a normal life and earn a living. They can cause great emotional distress.


+3
  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Duffy

    over 5 years ago

    2 comments

    Schizophrenia

  • Demetrice_029

    cuttie

    almost 7 years ago

    1042 comments

    Did you read about the University student in Newyork. He was Schizophrenic. He was off his meds, because of operation, he couldn't hold anything down. He suffered from Paranoidial Schizophrenia. He thought someone was about to kill him. So he came to school with a mask on and a riffle in his back pack. The mask was for the person he thought was about to kill him, and the riffle was for protection.
    Schizophrenia has many different types to it.

  • Demetrice_029

    cuttie

    almost 7 years ago

    1042 comments

    My psychology teacher said if one person in the family has it, another person in the family member will get it. I hear if you don't show signs in early childhood, you are pretty safe. My brother has it, he showed paranoidial signs in his early childhood, he got dianosed when he was 18 years old. Yes it is in the genes, my mother is a carrier. She has two dual dianosis.

  • Jen_max50

    jen012580

    almost 7 years ago

    10 comments

    Interesting article as my mom has been diagnosed with this many many years ago now and i never really understood at all what it was. I was in 6th grade when she was diagnosed as far as I know so never really researched it much at all. They say it is in the genes but not sure how easily passed from one generation to another it is and such.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    almost 7 years ago

    Does anyone know how much genetics play into Schizophrenia? My friend's brother has it and I can tell she is worried that it is in her genes and that her kids might eventually be diagnosed.

  • Img_0817_max50

    Marieke

    almost 7 years ago

    66 comments

    i'm doing my psych rotation now.. I have patient's with this, scary...

  • Demetrice_029

    cuttie

    almost 7 years ago

    1042 comments

    I think this is a good nursing article. Nurses need to get a better understanding of the difference of many psychiatric disorders in order to propertly treat and to be able to recognize, and take care of various psychiatric patients. Nurses need to be able to recognize the signs and symptms regardless if the patient is physically ill, as well as mental ill.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    almost 7 years ago

    Good article for the lay person. Not such a great nursing article.

NursingLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a nursing or healthcare degree program. Use NursingLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

Get Info

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.