Ask the experts
My uncle has schizophrenia, and I know it runs in families. I've read that schizophrenia starts in young adulthood. I'm 15 now and I'm terrified I may develop the disorder. What are the early signs and symptoms of schizophrenia?
Prior to the development of the full-blown disorder, people who go on to develop schizophrenia often exhibit more subtle and/or less specific symptoms, also called prodromal symptoms. Some characteristics of prodromal schizophrenia are thought to include slowness in activity and thought, lower cognitive functioning, including memory loss, disorientation and mental confusion; abnormal speech, including circumstantial, vague, or stereotyped speech. Individuals suffering from the prodromal symptoms of schizophrenia may exhibit odd ideas that have not reached the level of being delusions, like feeling detached from themselves, having beliefs that an ordinary event has special and personal meaning, or a belief that their thoughts aren't their own. People with prodromal schizophrenia also tend to have mood problems, like general discontent, inappropriate emotional responses, fear, mistrust, hostility, anger, aggression, excitability, agitation and inability to feel pleasure in activities they used to enjoy; social isolation, self-centeredness that borders on narcissism, and other problems socializing.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), symptoms of schizophrenia include the following:
Positive, more overtly psychotic symptoms
- Delusions are beliefs that have no basis in reality. Types of delusions include erotic, grandiose (for example, religious or false belief or superiority), jealous, persecutory, physical (somatic), mixed, and nonspecific.
- Hallucinations: hearing (for example, hearing voices), seeing, feeling (for example, feeling like bugs are crawling on the skin), smelling, or tasting things that have no basis in reality
- Disorganized speech: incoherent or often grossly off topic (derailed) speech
- Disorganized behaviors
Negative symptoms, potentially less overtly psychotic
- Inhibition of facial expressions and/or a lack of emotional responsiveness
- Catatonic behaviors: difficulty moving, resistance to moving, hyperactivity, repetitive or otherwise abnormal movements, and/or nonsense word repetition or of what others say or do
- Self-neglect, poor grooming, and lack of good hygiene
- Lack of speech
- Apathy/lack of motivation
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