Symptoms of schizophrenia
Schizophrenics may believe that other people are reading their minds, may hear voices that other people do not, and believe that other people are making plans to harm the schizophrenic. Expressed thoughts may be incoherent, and may show difficulties regarding their attention and memory. People diagnosed as schizophrenic may remain motionless for long periods of time without much movement or speaking.
Men typically experience symptoms that begin in their late teens to their early 20s, while women begin to manifest symptoms from their mid-20s to their early 30s. However, schizophrenia affects both women and men in equal rates, and across world ethnicities.
Schizophrenic symptoms manifest differently for different people, and can change over time. Symptoms of schizophrenia can be easy to identify, or may be confused with other types of normal behaviors. It's important to note that specialized doctors can recognize symptoms better than the general public and symptoms are less perceptible to the layman than a doctor. Schizophrenic symptoms are referred to according to the following classifications:
1. Cognitive symptoms - Cognitive symptoms make it difficult to organize life. A person experiencing cognitive symptoms may have problems with memory, attention problems, logical thinking, decision making, and coherent speech.
2. Negative symptoms - Negative symptoms display themselves as having the inability, or difficulty, with speaking, expressing emotions, acting on decisions, and finding pleasure in life.
3. Positive symptoms - Positive symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, distorted beliefs, and problems relating to movement. A schizophrenic may feel that they are being touched when no one is touching them, or may talk to a non-existent person. Other examples include believing that the television is sending messages, and may believe that others are trying to hurt them. Positive symptoms can be classified into the following categories:
a) Delusions - Unusual and odd beliefs are held, even though the person is confronted with evidence to the contrary. Perhaps they believe they are a famous historical figure.
b) Disorders of movement - Unusual behavior manifests and a person exhibiting these symptoms could be considered awkward or lacking coordination. Also include motionless and unresponsive behavior.
c) Hallucinations - Hallucinations may affect all five senses: taste, touch, sight, hearing, or smell. During a hallucination, a person may perceive things that others do not.
d) Thought disorders - This category of symptom includes thought processes that are unusual compared to the general public. Schizophrenics can experience great difficulty in organizing thoughts while communicating orally or in writing.
Schizophrenics are at significantly higher risk than the general population for suicide. The first signs of schizophrenia may be benign and difficult to identify. Behaviors such as a drop in grades, changing friends, disruption of normal sleep patterns, etc. are often behaviors that other, non-schizophrenic people experience in their teens and 20's and it may be difficult to diagnose schizophrenia immediately. But how do you know when to ask for help?
When to seek medical help
Convincing a schizophrenic to seek medical help may be met with resistance. This is because a schizophrenic believes in his/her perceptions of reality and it may be futile to convince him/her otherwise. However, encouraging a possible schziophrenic in a positive and supportive way may prove useful in order to convince the person to see a mental health professional. Consider seeking medical advice for your friend or family member if extremely bizarre thoughts or behaviors are witnessed; your friend or family member firmly believes that their hallucinations or beliefs are real, despite strong evidence to the contrary; and if he/she is acting dangerously towards himself/herself or others.
The first step toward treating this severe and chronic mental disorder is to seek diagnosis. Schizophrenic people can live healthy, productive lives with the help of medication and counseling. To learn more about how to diagnose different types of schizophrenia, read the Diangosing Schizophrenia section for more information.
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