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What are the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

Updated on March 20, 2016
Bridget F profile image

Bridget is a Licensed Master Social Worker with experience in mental health, crisis intervention and aging.

Schizophrenia Signs and Symptoms

Positive Symptoms (Psychotic symptoms not seen in healthy people)

  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not really there)
  • Delusions (false beliefs such as the belief that someone is communicating with you through the TV)
  • Lack of emotion
  • Thought disorders or disorganized thinking (unusual ways of thinking or making up words)
  • Movement disorders (repetitive movements) or catatonia (not moving, speaking, or responding to others)

Negative Symptoms (symptoms that involve disruption to normal symptoms and behavior)

  • Lack of pleasure in everyday life
  • Speaking very little
  • Lack of ability to plan or to sustain planned activities
  • Difficulty maintaining personal hygiene

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Problems with decision-making
  • Problems focusing
  • Poor short-term memory


For a diagnosis of schizophrenia, two diagnostic criteria have to be met over much of the time of a period of at least one month, with a significant impact on social or occupational functioning for at least six months. The person has to be suffering from delusions, hallucinations or disorganized speech. A second symptom could be negative symptoms or severely disorganized or catatonic behavior or another positive symptom. (American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing. ISBN 978-0890425558.)


Cloth embroidered by an individual with schizophrenia

What Causes Schizophrenia?

Studies have shown that schizophrenia runs in families. The risk is highest for the identical twin of someone with schizophrenia.

Scientists also think that a brain imbalance leads to schizophrenia. Studies of individuals after death have indicated that there are brain differences in people who have schizophrenia. Scientists found small changes in the distribution or characteristics of brain cells that they think occurred before birth. Some experts think problems during brain development before birth may lead to faulty connections which may not be evident until puberty begins. The brain undergoes major changes during puberty, and these changes could trigger psychotic symptoms.

About 1% of Americans have schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia Treatment

Schizophrenia cannot be cured but the symptoms can be treated. One major treatment involves anti-psychotic drugs such as:

  • Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
  • Haloperidol (Haldol)
  • Perphenazine (Etrafon, Trilafon)
  • Fluphenazine (Prolixin).

Atypical anti-psychotics are also utilized and include:

  • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • Ziprasidone (Geodon)
  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Paliperidone (Invega).

One problem with the long-term use of anti-psychotics is that it can lead to a disorder called Tardive Dyskinesia or TD which involves involuntary muscle movements.

Job training, family education, cognitive behavioral therapy and support groups are other treatments for schizophrenia.

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      It must be a harrowing experience for those who suffer from it and their family.

    • Bridget F profile image
      Author

      Bridget F 3 years ago from USA

      FlourishAnyway- agreed. I have only studied schizophrenia and have worked with one individual who suffered from it, and I cannot imagine what it must be like. Thanks for your comment!

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      My daughter had her first schizophrenic episode at the age of 24. She has had emotional disorders all of her life, including Asperger's Syndrome, anxiety, depression, OCD, and separation anxiety disorder. She has been on medications since the age of 9. Her body seemed to change when she reached the age of 20, and different symptoms became manifested. The delusions and hallucinations had to do with relationships she had previously mixed with television and religious characters. It took several months in the Mental Health unit to get her medications changed and everything working properly. She had a recurrent episode a year later. Her most recent diagnosis is Schizo-Affective Disorder. We are grateful at this point that we have been able to find the right medication combination to keep her as normal as possible, however, there are side affects from the medication that have lead to her needing treatment for other health issues.

    • Bridget F profile image
      Author

      Bridget F 3 years ago from USA

      Wow Denise, that has to be a very difficult situation. I'm sorry to hear that she has gone through so much!!

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