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Symptoms of Schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia can have many different types of symptoms. Symptoms usually start during the teen years or early adulthood. They may appear suddenly or may develop gradually. When symptoms develop gradually, they may be confused with other conditions that have similar symptoms, such as depression or anxiety disorders.

Positive symptoms

"Positive" does not mean "good." Positive symptoms are things "added" or "new" to your personality or how you experience life because of schizophrenia. You may:

  • Have hallucinations. Most people with schizophrenia usually hear noises or voices that are not there. Some people with the illness also may see, taste, touch, or smell things that are not there.

  • Have delusions. These are ideas that are not true. For example, you may believe that you are receiving special messages from the radio or TV; or that the police or demons want to harm you or cause problems for you.

  • Not be able to keep your thoughts straight and not make sense to others when you talk. For example, when someone asks you a question, you may give an answer that is not related to the question or is only indirectly related; or your spoken words may not be organized into logical sentences.

  • Act oddly. You may have difficulty completing tasks without help or you may become very excited or angry with other people. It may be hard for other people to understand or follow your ideas.

  • Show emotions that don't fit the situation. For example, you may smile when talking about sad topics or laugh at the wrong time.

Positive symptoms may appear suddenly or slowly over time. They can be severe and can cause a psychotic episode. This means you can't tell the difference between what is real and what is not. A psychotic episode can be very intense and scary, and you may need to go to the hospital.

Negative symptoms

"Negative" does not mean "bad." Negative symptoms are things that are "lost" from your personality or how you experience life because of schizophrenia. You may:

  • Find that you are not able to say much. You may only give one word or very brief answers to questions.

  • Find it hard to show your emotions. You may not smile or frown, make eye contact, or use other facial cues that show how you feel.

  • Find little or no pleasure in life. You may not enjoy things you once enjoyed, such as playing sports or video games or visiting with friends.

  • Not be interested in succeeding or meeting goals. Many people with schizophrenia find it difficult to stay motivated to complete tasks and accomplish goals that were once important to them.

  • Not take care of yourself. You may not bother to wash, do laundry, eat on a regular basis, or clean your living space.

Negative symptoms may appear before positive symptoms. They may be hard to recognize as schizophrenia, because they may seem normal in a teen or may be similar to symptoms of other mental health problems, such as depression or substance abuse.

Affective symptoms

Affective or “mood” symptoms refer to problems with how you feel. You may:

  • Find that you feel sad or depressed. You may feel that life is not worth living or you may feel helpless or hopeless.

  • Find that you feel anxious. You may feel nervous for no apparent reason or feel nervous when you are with other people.

  • Find that you feel irritable or overly excited. You may notice that your thoughts are moving too fast for you to follow or that people comment that you seem hyperactive.

Cognitive symptoms

Cognitive symptoms refer to problems with how you think. They may include trouble with attention, memory loss, and problem-solving. You may:

  • Have a hard time focusing or paying attention. You may find it hard to follow directions.

  • Have a hard time remembering things. You may forget the names of people or plans for future activities.

  • Have a hard time solving problems. You may have trouble making decisions. You may not understand how to use information well and feel confused.

Cognitive symptoms often are not obvious to you or others. They may precede the onset of the other symptoms of schizophrenia.


Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 3/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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