Schizophrenia - signs and symptoms

Schizophrenia is a challenging disorder, which affects the way a person thinks, acts, and perceives the world.

A person suffering from schizophrenia may hear or see things that don’t exist, these are described as hallucinations. They may believe that there is someone who is watching them (paranoia) and that someone will try to hurt them (delusions of persecution). 

Facts
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects 1% of the population. The age of onset is typically in the late teens or early adulthood. Schizophrenia may occur in children although this is less common. Studies have also shown that slightly more men are diagnosed with schizophrenia than women, although women tend to be diagnosed later in life than men.

The symptoms of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia usually manifests with symptoms such as delusions, disorganized behaviors, hallucinations, unintelligible speech, and negative symptoms. However, there are wide variations between individuals, both with the type of symptoms and the severity.

Delusions
These are fixed and false thoughts that are believed to be real, even though there is evidence to the contrary. Delusions occur commonly in schizophrenia, and medical research has found that more than 90% of people with this disease have experienced delusions.
Examples of delusions include:
Delusions of grandeur
Delusions of reference
Delusions of persecution
Delusions of control

Disorganized behaviour
Patients may neglect their personal hygiene, being reluctant to engage in productive activities. They may struggle to maintain their education or employment, distancing themselves from their loved ones and adopting a reclusive lifestyle.

Hallucinations
These are perceptions in the absence of stimuli, where patients see or hear things that other people don’t. Although hallucinations associated with schizophrenia can affect any of the five senses, auditory hallucinations are the most common. Many patients report that these hallucinations are offensive and derogatory in nature, affecting their perception of reality.

Unintelligible speech
People with schizophrenia often experience concentration issues that can seriously affect how they handle and express their thoughts. They may respond to questions with illogical words and ideas, which is a reflection of their underlying disorder of thinking.

Negative symptoms
These are experienced as social withdrawal, lack of enthusiasm for everyday life, lack of speech and even emotional isolation. This can often make patients detach from reality and live in a world that fits their perceived and believed reality.

To conclude, people suffering from schizophrenia are often stigmatised and portrayed as dangerous. There is good evidence that the risk to others are over-rated. The risk to self due to neglect and suicidal thoughts are more significant. Although schizophrenia cannot be cured, it is a treatable condition.

Guirish Radja