The symptoms of schizophrenia often appear to be strange to others when they observe them. If your loved ones happen to experience schizophrenic symptoms, they hardly have the insight that their behaviours are weird. This absence of insight often results in a greater degree of frustration for the dear and near ones.
In many cases the symptoms of this disorder develop quite slowly, and the patient is not even aware of that he/she has it for quite a long time. But, with other people the symptoms of schizophrenia can start suddenly and develop fast. It is not necessary that, all symptoms will be present in every individual with schizophrenia. Sometimes, they may even change in the long run.
The symptoms of schizophrenia differ significantly not only from individual to individual, but also among the symptoms found in a teenager, and those found in an adult. When compared with schizophrenic symptoms in adults, teenagers are less likely to experience delusions; but are more likely to experience visual hallucinations. Though both men and women are equally affected by this condition, Most commonly men between the ages of 15 to 25, and women between the ages of 25 to 35 are the usual victims.
Schizophrenia: The word schizophrenia is derived from the Greek word skhizein, which means to split; and the Greek word Phren, which means mind. In fact, the term Schizophrenie was created by Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist in the year of 1910. Well, you should remember that, schizophrenia does not mean a split personality, or multiple personality disorder; and that you should not confuse with these two different terms. In fact, this is a common misconception amongst the public about schizophrenia. Rather, because of the clinical manifestations of the disorder, the term schizophrenia actually means a splitting of mental functions. In fact, schizophrenia is quite different and also much more common than multiple personality disorder.
The symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into four classes:
1. Positive symptoms or psychotic symptoms:
These symptoms include those, which are usually not experienced by individuals without schizophrenia. These include delusions, disorganized thinking and speech; and manifestations of hallucinations may it be visual, auditory, gustatory(related to taste), olfactory(related to smell),, or tactile.
2. Negative symptoms:
These refer to the loss or absence of normal qualities or abilities which are present in healthy individuals without schizophrenia. These include;
a. Withdrawal from social activities
b. A feeling of suspicion or aggression
c. Negligence of personal hygiene
d. Vacant and inexpressive gaze , and absence of eye contact
e. Inability to express feelings such as joy or sorrow
f. Untimely laughter or crying
g. Peculiar or illogical statements
i. Inability to concentrate
j. An intense response to criticism
k. Eccentric use of words while speaking, such as giving short, irrelevant answers to questions and using monotonic speech, etc.
3. Cognitive symptoms:
These may be positive or negative symptoms, within the thought processes of an individual. Such symptoms of schizophrenia, such as lack of concentration, loss of memory, inability to plan in advance, and also to systematize himself or herself are classical examples of cognitive symptoms.
4. Emotional symptoms:
These are usually negative symptoms within the individual’s feelings. For example, inexpressive emotions.
Early warning symptoms of schizophrenia: In some individuals, symptoms of schizophrenia appear abruptly without any warning. But in most cases, this disorder has a slow onset, with slight warning signs and a gradual degradation in performance long before, almost 30 months before the occurrence of the first severe episode. This is often referred to as, prodromal phase. You might have noticed that something was wrong with your friend or your loved one, who is schizophrenic. Often in this prodromal phase, people with schizophrenia seem to be eccentric, unenthusiastic, impassive, secluded and withdrawn. They remain isolated, start ignoring their appearance, say weird things, and behave indifferently to life. Often their performances at work or school decline.
Delusion: A delusion is a firm and illogical fantasy, which an individual has despite clear and obvious evidence that it is false. Delusions are very common symptoms of schizophrenia, and occurs in more than 90% of individuals with this disorder.
A few common schizophrenic delusions: These include:
a. Delusions of persecution – These are bizarre Beliefs that others are plotting out some conspiracy against him or her. For example, a vague thought, “Mr. X is trying to poison me with radioactive substances distributed through my tap water”.
b. Delusions of reference: This involves a bizarre belief of a neutral environmental event to have a unique and personal meaning. For example, a person with schizophrenia might believe that, a person on the TV is sending a message meant particularly for them.
c. Delusions of grandeur – A bizarre belief that one is a famous or a superb personality, such as Albert Einstein or Madame Curie. Sometimes, this type of delusions may also involve the belief of having unusual powers which no one else has; like for example, the ability to fly.
d. Delusions of control – A false belief of one’s thoughts or actions being controlled by some external , strange forces. Common examples are broadcasting , of thoughts that is, “My personal thoughts are being conveyed to others”.
e. Thought of insertion, that is, “Someone is implanting thoughts into my head”.
f. Thought of withdrawal, that is, “The CBI is stealing my thoughts from me”.
Hallucinations: Imaginary sensations experienced as real ones are referred to as hallucinations; and are usually experienced by the schizophrenic patient, when he/she is fully awake, and is not under the impact of alcohol or any drug abuse. Hallucinations can involve any of the five senses, but hearing sounds are much more common than visual, tactile, tasting, or smelling things which are not there. The voices are usually critical, offensive, or insulting; and often tend to be aggressive when the individual is alone. An example of tactile hallucination is a sensation of bugs crawling on the skin.
Disordered thinking and behaviour: A characteristic manifestation of schizophrenia is fragmented thinking, which is reflected in the way the patient speaks. Illogically, the person may jump from one topic to another, with no relationship between one thought and the next. Other symptoms of schizophrenia include, bizarre and purposeless behaviours; and deficit of inhibition and impulse control.