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January 5, 2012

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The world health organization calls schizophrenia one of the top ten most debilitating diseases. What are the symptoms that lead to being diagnosed with this disease? Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental illness that affects about one-percent of the American population. The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three broad categories: positive, negative, and cognitive. As the name implies, cognitive symptoms involve problems with a person's thought processes. A real difficulty understanding and using information is a common cognitive symptom of schizophrenia. Trouble paying attention and focusing and problems with memory are other cognitive signs of the disease. These cognitive symptoms are often thought to be the most debilitating of schizophrenia as they make it difficult to perform everyday functions, like holding down a job. Positive symptoms are those that are in addition to normal experiences and that people without schizophrenia will rarely experience. Negative symptoms are those that involve a degree of loss of experience. Positive symptoms include delusions, auditory hallucinations, and thought disorder, which often manifest as communication difficulties, like garbled language or abrupt pauses in an affected person's speech. Movement disorders are another common symptom in the positive schizophrenic category. Movement disorders range from agitated, repetitive body movements to an almost catatonic, or immobile, unresponsive state. Negative symptoms refer to certain characteristics that are not present in schizophrenic persons but are normally found in healthy persons, that is, symptoms that reflect the loss or absence of normal traits or abilities. Common negative symptoms include: flat or blunted affect and emotion, made apparent through flat facial expressions and a monotone voice; poverty of speech, know as alogia, which refers to a person having a lack of language with which to express themselves; anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure; and asociality or the lack of desire to form relationships, made most obvious by withdrawal from social activities. Lack of motivation or avolition, is also a common negative symptom. Research suggests that negative symptoms contribute more to poor quality of life, functional disability, and the burden on others than do positive symptoms. These negative symptoms are often nonspecific, and can be hard to recognize as clear signs of schizophrenia. Affective symptoms relate to emotion, and include depression and mood swings. Most people with schizophrenia have symptoms in all or most of these categories. They usually appear in men in their late teens or early 20s and in women in their 20s, or even early 30s. Although this condition is not curable, treatment can help many sufferers lead independent lives. For this reason, it's important to talk to a doctor if you're worried that someone you love suffers from schizophrenia.

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Last Updated:
December 20, 2012