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The Psychosis of Schizophrenia: Symptoms and Diagnosis

Updated on April 30, 2011

The Psychosis of Schizophrenia

Our actions make each one of us unique. Going a little deeper into what makes an action to occur, it dawns that every single action is preceded by a thought. Deeper still, it seems that thoughts arise due to physical sensations that stimulate the human body. Well, the human mind can also create sensations in the body through what we imagine, which in turn, may generate thoughts. Now what would happen if our mind were haunted by weird thoughts? Surely, our actions would then become weird and unacceptable to the so-called real world.

This is what happens to the victims of a mental disorder, popularly called schizophrenia, who have a seriously disintegrated thought process. Affecting about one percent of the human population, the thought process of the victims manifests itself as spine chilling paranoid or bizarre delusions and fearful auditory hallucinations. Responding to such delusional thoughts, the action outcome is in the form of disorganized speech and absurd behavior with complete disconnection from the world we live in.

Eugen Bleuler
Eugen Bleuler

Derived from the Greek words, skhizein (to split) and phren (mind), the term ‘schizophrenia’ was coined by Eugen Bleuler in 1908. It was first described by Benedict Morel in 1853 as a mental illness affecting teenagers and young adults.

Shocking Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The onset of symptoms, typical of schizophrenia, occurs in young adults, commonly in the age group of 16-32 years. Late adolescence and early adulthood are peak years for the onset of schizophrenia, as these are the formative years critical to one’s social and vocational development. Thus, what most parents might mistake as teenage problems could actually be the signs of a serious mental disorder, which is why immediate medical help is necessary. Normally, young adults who develop schizophrenia experience non-specific symptoms like social withdrawal and general irritability before the actual symptoms of psychosis begin to show more prominently.

Commonly, schizophrenics experience hallucinations in the form of hearing strange voices. The disordered thought process also gives rise to a host of delusions that have devastating effects on the social lives of schizophrenics. Delusions are fixed wrong beliefs of various types. A bizarre delusion is one that is not only very strange in nature but the chance of its occurrence is almost zero.

Some of the common delusions that most schizophrenics experience include the false belief that some external force or an unknown person is controlling their thoughts and feelings. Called the “Delusion of Control”, victims of such a delusion feel helplessly imprisoned and have absolutely no control whatsoever over their bodily movements. Such unfortunate victims are constantly troubled by the false belief that their thoughts are being heard aloud or someone is tying to insert or remove thoughts from their minds. Most schizophrenics also have a very disturbing delusion that other people can know their thoughts.

Another common delusion that schizophrenics, and even most otherwise normal persons, have is the “Delusion of Infidelity” that makes one strongly believe that one’s spouse or lover is having an affair. On the contrary, some victims may suffer from “Erotomania” that makes them believe that another person is in love with him or her.

The victims of this mental disorder may also have a “Delusion of Guilt”, due to which they hold themselves responsible for a crime they have never committed. They sometimes consider themselves responsible for natural disasters like earthquake or flood. Similarly, such persons may wrongly believe that an environmental event may have a special message for them. Other delusions that ruin the lives of schizophrenics include the belief of being cheated, harassed or attacked by others. This delusion plunges the victim in a state of constant fear from the unknown other.

Schizophrenics may also suffer from chronic depression and anxiety disorder, besides some of them being under the grip of substance abuse. Due to their inability to take good care of themselves, many victims suffer from physical health problems and remain unemployed. A disorder in thinking invariably results in social isolation. In some cases, victims remain mute or motionless in bizarre postures, which is a clear cut sign of a condition called “Catatonia”.

A brain scan of an adolescent with Schizophrenia
A brain scan of an adolescent with Schizophrenia

Diagnosing Schizophrenia

The three diagnostic criteria generally accepted for diagnosing schizophrenia are:

  1. The presence of at least two characteristic symptoms (delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, catatonic behavior).
  2. The presence of social / occupational dysfunction that makes the victim unable to carry out normal work where interactions with family members, friends and colleagues are important.
  3. The above symptoms are present for at least six months.

The symptoms of schizophrenia are quite typical, although psychotic symptoms are also present in other mental disorders, like bipolar disorder, personality disorder, and drug-induced psychosis, while non-bizarre delusions are present in social anxiety disorder. Similarly, the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder are different from the delusions of schizophrenia.


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