What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health condition that affects how people think, feel, and act. While there isn’t a single schizophrenia test, signs can point you toward a precise diagnosis. If you experience common symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and disorganized thinking, early treatment is key for your mental health.
Schizophrenia is a serious and chronic mental illness that affects 1 out of every 100 people worldwide. Altered brain structure, changes in neurochemistry, and genetics can all play a role in schizophrenia.
Diagnosis is most common following a psychotic episode between the ages of 16 and 30. Earlier detection is possible. Milder symptoms, such as memory issues and disorganized thinking, can sometimes appear one or two years before the first psychotic episode. The earlier the treatment, the better the outcome.
After diagnosis, schizophrenia symptoms can be managed with medication and therapy. As a chronic medical condition, there can be periods of remission followed by reoccurrence. Reoccurrence can be triggered by environmental stressors such as social stress and substance abuse.
What are the top 10 signs of schizophrenia?
While having one or many of the top 10 signs of schizophrenia might be alarming, it is important to know these signs can have many causes other than schizophrenia. If your symptoms are due to schizophrenia, effective treatments are available to help you.
Hallucinations occur when you sense something that others cannot. Hallucinations can occur with any of the senses (vision, hearing, smell, touch, taste), but auditory hallucinations are most common in people with schizophrenia. An auditory hallucination means hearing voices or sounds that aren’t there. You might hear voices making conversation, commenting on your behavior, or being critical and abusive toward you.
2. Disorganized thinking
Disorganized thinking occurs when your thoughts are disordered and rambling. Your mind moves quickly from one topic to another and doesn’t progress toward any particular goal.
Your speech can reflect disorganized thinking. You might have a hard time organizing your thoughts into words that flow logically in a conversation. Disorganized thinking can cause you to stop talking mid-sentence or quickly jump from topic to topic.
Delusions are false beliefs that you maintain even when presented with evidence showing your beliefs are incorrect. You may believe you are being followed or tormented. You may think that books, television shows, and song lyrics are about you personally. You might worry that other people can read your mind or that thoughts are being placed into your head by an outside force.
4. Memory problems
Schizophrenia can cause trouble with your memory, particularly your episodic memory. Episodic memory is the ability to remember personal and day-to-day experiences, such as the day a significant event took place in your life. You also might have trouble remembering and using information immediately after learning it.
Difficulty sitting still, talking too fast, and becoming overly excited can sometimes be signs of schizophrenia. One of the most common conditions to be diagnosed along with schizophrenia is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
There is an overlap of symptoms between ADHD and the early phases of schizophrenia. These overlapping symptoms include hyperactivity and inattention. While studies are limited, it appears children with ADHD have a higher chance of being diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life.
6. Delusions of grandeur
Delusions of grandeur are false beliefs about your own superiority. These beliefs aren’t expressions of ordinary high self-esteem but are an exaggerated sense of importance and greatness even in the face of evidence to the contrary. You might believe you’re a supernatural being, a celebrity, or that you have special powers. These ideas aren’t fleeting fantasies or hopes; they’re persistent beliefs. About half of people with schizophrenia experience delusions of grandeur.
7. Flat and expressionless appearance
If you have a flat affect, it means your emotions don’t show on your face or in your voice. You appear emotionless. You might also have trouble interpreting the facial expressions of others.
8. Emotional withdrawal
Emotional withdrawal can mean declining invitations to join family or friends in activities, avoiding conversations, or losing interest in the personal lives of those around you. Social isolation and trouble relating to other people can be signs of emotional withdrawal.
9. Taking everything too literally
If you have schizophrenia, you may have trouble understanding figurative language. Metaphors, such as “this office is a prison,” can be challenging for you to interpret accurately. People with schizophrenia often take words too literally. They tend to be concrete, rather than abstract, thinkers.
10. Disorganized or inappropriate behavior
Disorganized behavior can look like childish silliness, speaking nonsense, or extreme agitation. Catatonia is another type of disorganized behavior that occurs less commonly. In a state of catatonia, you might be rigid and motionless, or you might repeat a purposeless movement for an extended period.
What should I do if I suspect schizophrenia?
Help is available. If you believe you or a loved one has some of the signs of schizophrenia, you should speak with your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to a mental health care provider, such as a psychiatrist, who has experience in diagnosing and treating schizophrenia.
Effective treatments include antipsychotic medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, and a variety of community and educational support programs. People with schizophrenia are all unique, so treatment programs are designed to best help each person individually.
It’s important to be aware of the signs of schizophrenia, as early detection and treatment can greatly improve your long-term health. With appropriate treatment, a person with schizophrenia can be successful at school and work, enjoy independence, and engage in meaningful relationships.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
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Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience: "Managing the comorbidity of schizophrenia and ADHD."
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Molecular Psychiatry: "Memory and Cognition in Schizophrenia."
National Institute of Mental Health: "Schizophrenia."
Schizophrenia Bulletin: "Flat Affect in Schizophrenia: Relation to Emotion Processing and Neurocognitive Measures."
Schizophrenia Research: Cognition: “Non-literal understanding and psychosis: Metaphor comprehension in individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.”
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