Schizophrenia, a debilitating mental illness that effects all races and cultures, is defined by a number of symptoms that are widely categorized into three groups--negative, positive and cognitive symptoms. Schizophrenia is equally prevalent in men and women and occurs rarely in children. It is important to understand the symptoms of schizophrenia to potentially recognize the disease in others.

Positive Symptoms

Positive symptoms are psychotic behaviors that are absent in healthy people and are fairly easy to detect. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking and repetitious movement or catatonia. During a schizophrenic episode, the ill person may see or hear things that are not real or believe they are someone who they are not. They can also have difficulty thinking logically, make up nonsense words or lose a thought completely in mid-sentence.

Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms are somewhat difficult to detect and are often misinterpreted as signs of depression. Common negative symptoms include loss of pleasure in daily life, the inability to complete tasks and speaking little even when forced into interaction. Some people with schizophrenia exhibit flat effect, which is characterized by a lack of facial expression and monotone manner of speech.

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms, much like the negative symptoms, are subtle and difficult to distinguish from symptoms of depression. Common cognitive symptoms include problems with "working" memory, difficulty concentrating or paying attention and being unable to make executive decisions. The person might appear to be “scatter-brained”, suffering senility or muddled in their thinking.

Help is Available

If left untreated, schizophrenia will disrupt every facet of life to the extent that the people suffering from it might not be able to care for themselves. If you suspect someone you know might be suffering from symptoms of schizophrenia, urge them make an appointment for an evaluation with a licensed psychiatrist. Only a licensed professional has the ability to diagnose the disease and can recommend the proper combination of antipsychotic medication and psychotherapy to stabilize and treat the disorder.

There is no cure for schizophrenia, but medical research continues to shed light on the complexities of the disease in hopes of refining treatment and improving the quality of life for those who suffer from it.

Source(s): National Institutes of Health, Salvatore Vuono

Man thinking
Credit: Salvatore Vuono