Schizophrenia Signs & Symptoms

Schizophrenia can be hard to spot. Learn about the warning signs & symptoms to watch for.

Understanding Schizophrenia

Learn about schizophrenia

Believed by many to be one of the most chronically debilitating of all mental health disorders, schizophrenia is an illness that causes sufferers to experience gross misinterpretations of the world around them. When a person is suffering from schizophrenia, he or she will experience an inability to express feelings in an appropriate manner, struggle with thinking clearly, and have extreme difficulty discerning what is real and what is not real. The presence of this mental illness can cause significant upheaval in all areas of a person’s life. One’s academic or occupational life can become impaired, one’s social life can deteriorate, and one’s ability to adhere to daily responsibilities and tasks can become drastically hindered. The disturbances that arise as a result of the presence of schizophrenia can be monumental, yet there are treatment options available that can help sufferers learn to successfully manage their symptoms and receive medications to help alleviate their distressing concerns.

Statistics

Schizophrenia statistics

Schizophrenia is said to affect an estimated 1% of the United States population, accounting for approximately 3.2 million people. This mental illness is believed to affect males and females in equal numbers and the average age of symptom onset typically occurs between the ages of 16 and 30.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for schizophrenia

There exists a combination of genetic factors, environmental circumstances, and other various risk factors that are said to play a role in the development of schizophrenia. Such factors are described briefly in the following:

Genetic: The onset of schizophrenia is believed to have a strong genetic link as it is widely known to run in families. People who have first-degree relatives who have suffered from schizophrenia are at a much higher risk for developing symptoms of this disorder at some point in their lives than are those without the same type of genetic background.

Environmental: Research has indicated that there are certain environmental factors that, when present or when experienced, can cause an individual to be more susceptible to eventually developing schizophrenia. Of such factors, the most commonly cited include things that occur during pregnancy or during the birthing process. For example, experiencing malnutrition while in utero, being exposed to viruses prenatally, or the presence of complications occurring during the birthing process are all believed to potentially elicit the future onset of schizophrenia symptoms.

Risk Factors:

  • Having a father who is of advanced age
  • Prenatal malnutrition
  • Prenatal exposure to certain viruses
  • Personal history of schizotypal or paranoid personality disorder
  • Family history of schizophrenia, psychosis, or other mental health conditions
  • Taking mind-altering substances
  • Presence of an autoimmune disease

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia

The symptoms that are displayed by people who are suffering from schizophrenia will vary greatly from person to person in both type and severity. Schizophrenia symptoms are classified into three groups, including positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms. Brief descriptions and examples of each are included in the following:

Positive symptoms: These symptoms are classified by psychotic behaviors that people who are not suffering from schizophrenia do not struggle with. When positive symptoms are being experienced, a person has typically lost touch with reality. Examples of positive symptoms may include:

  • Disorganized behaviors
  • Disorganized speech
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations

Negative symptoms: These symptoms are characterized by emotional and behavioral capabilities that an individual ceases to be able to experience or execute. The morbidity that is associated with the presence of schizophrenia is said to be substantially accounted for by the presence of these deficits. Examples of negative symptoms may include:

  • Decreased ability to experience pleasure (anhedonia)
  • Decreased motivation to engage in purposeful activities (avolition)
  • Diminished ability to speak appropriately (alogia)
  • Lacking the ability or motivation to appropriately care for personal hygiene
  • Catatonic behaviors
  • Diminished expressions of emotion, which can include:
  • Reduced or nonexistent facial expressions
  • Reduction in eye contact
  • Reduction in intonation of speech
  • Reduced movements of the head, face, and hands that are typically used when conveying emotional expression during conversation

Cognitive symptoms: These symptoms tend to present in a subtle manner and therefore are not always immediately identified as being indicative that someone is suffering from schizophrenia. Examples of cognitive symptoms can include:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Memory disturbances
  • Impaired executive functioning abilities

Effects

Effects of schizophrenia

Not receiving appropriate treatment for the presence of schizophrenia can lead to the development of a number of adverse consequences on an individual’s life. Such consequences can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Familial strife
  • Academic failure
  • Job loss / chronic unemployment
  • Financial struggles
  • Homelessness
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Engaging in self-injurious behaviors
  • Excessive, debilitating anxiety
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Substance abuse / addiction
  • Onset of suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

Schizophrenia and co-occurring disorders

Suffering from schizophrenia often leaves individuals susceptible to experiencing symptoms synonymous with other mental health conditions. Conversely, untreated symptoms of other mental illnesses can potentially leave individuals vulnerable to developing schizophrenia if there is a family history of psychosis. Furthermore, schizotypal disorder and paranoid personality disorder have been known to precede the onset of schizophrenia. Examples of other disorders and conditions that have been known to occur alongside, or develop as a result of, schizophrenia can include:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Panic disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Depressive disorders

I went into Harbor Oaks at the lowest and most difficult time of my schizophrenia and they treated me with great care. I am continuing my medication and my psychotherapy with them.

– Former Patient