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Positive and Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

When someone is diagnosed with schizophrenia, it can be a confusing, scary time for the individual and their loved ones. We want to help you navigate through some of the terms that you may hear throughout your life as someone with schizophrenia. 

Individuals with schizophrenia experience symptoms that include changes in their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. The symptoms can be very different depending on the individual. These symptoms can also shift from time to time. They won’t always be present at the same time for everybody. Many people with schizophrenia go undiagnosed because their symptoms are not recognized by themselves or the people around them.

In most cases, we see the first signs and symptoms appear between the ages of 16 and 30. However, usually, men seem to experience symptoms earlier than women do. Before any obvious symptoms manifest themselves, there may be a gradual change in the person’s personality and behavior. In clinical terms, this is referred to as the prodromal phase. During the most severe stages of this disease, when symptoms are extreme and the individual has severe symptoms, they often cannot discern when certain ideas and perceptions are real and when they aren’t. But as people with schizophrenia age, they usually become less prone to these occurrences.

What Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia Might Look Like

The term “positive symptoms” refers to strongly exaggerated ideas, perceptions, or behaviors that are exhibited by a person with schizophrenia who is unable to tell what is real and what isn’t. In this case, the word “positive” refers to the fact that there is a sign or symptom present rather than absent. Positive symptoms can include:

A Disorganized Thought Process and a Confused Manner of Speaking

Some people with schizophrenia may have difficulty organizing their thoughts and explaining themselves. This may make it difficult for them to follow along and understand what you are trying to tell them. It might appear that they are zoning out or distracted instead of paying attention. Sometimes when their words seem jumbled, they cannot convey precisely what they mean.

Hallucinatory experiences

Schizophrenia can result in hearing, seeing, smelling, or feeling things others do not. The types of hallucinations in schizophrenia include visual, auditory, taste, touch, and smell—in other words, a person often cannot distinguish between hallucinations and reality because to their senses, what they’re experiencing seems real. 

Delusions and irrational suspicions

Most people find these beliefs strange and difficult to accept, and they can usually easily be substantiated as false. A person affected by delusions might think that something or someone is attempting to control their brain through the Internet or TV or that strangers are out to get them. Alternatively, they might believe that they are someone else, such as a famous actor or historical figure, or that they have telepathic abilities.

Disorders of the motor system

Schizophrenia can cause some people to seem very hyperactive. Occasionally, they may repeat the same movement or movements repeatedly. In contrast, sometimes, they will stay completely still for hours at a time, a condition called catatonia by experts. It is important to note that people living with Schizophrenia disease are not typically or necessarily violent in nature, so even though movement tics may appear scary sometimes, they’re usually harmless.

What Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia Might Look Like

The term “negative symptoms” refers to a lack or absence of an important mental function in the areas of critical thinking, behavior, and perception associated with regular behavior. You might notice:

Withdrawal or cold behavior. 

A person might stop planning activities with friends or isolate themselves from their family. Talking with them can be a challenging experience. If you want a response from them, you will have to work extremely hard to obtain it. Psychiatric professionals call this apathy.

Having difficulty communicating. 

It might seem as if they don’t talk much or don’t show any emotions. In medical terms, this is called analogia.

The absence of pleasure in unusual activities or hobbies. 

Sometimes it seems that the person does not enjoy anything as much as they used to. This symptom is also known as anhedonia.

Flattened affect. 

A person with schizophrenia might seem to have difficulty expressing their emotions to others. Whenever they talk, their voice may sound flat, as if they felt nothing when they said it. Occasionally, they may not respond appropriately to conversations or things around them, such as smiling or showing usual facial expressions. Some doctors may refer to this phenomenon as affective flattening.

Getting Help

People who suffer from this condition are more than likely unaware that they have it until they are told by either their doctor or a counselor. It may take a long time to properly diagnose the condition. The symptoms they may notice, such as difficulty thinking straight or feeling so tired that they cannot accomplish regular tasks, they might dismiss as stress and fatigue.

Talk with your doctor or a counselor if you are concerned that you or someone you know shows signs of schizophrenia. Outpatient treatment programs like LAT’s Assertive Community Treatment model of care are an immeasurably valuable resource in the fight against schizophrenia for families and their loved ones. 

Our team’s state-of-the-art rehabilitation techniques, comprehensive training, and in-home family support provide a robust support network to lessen the load on family caregivers and build a pathway to progress for those living with a diagnosis. Contact us for more details on how we can help you or your loved one.