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Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is such a complex illness that diagnosis can be delayed due to the confusing array of behaviors that characterize the condition. However, because it is an illness that mostly strikes in the late teens and early twenties, it is important to be informed of the symptoms of this erratic and disturbing illness.

People who suffer from schizophrenia do not all display the same types of symptoms. Not only do they vary from person to person, but they differ for the same person over time. Often correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment can be delayed for this reason. In some cases, symptoms come on suddenly and are quite acutely. For these people, medical intervention usually comes swiftly as the person is clearly ill. Such early intervention in these cases makes for the best long term prognosis for the condition.

However, the onset of the illness may take a slow and insidious form. Being harder to recognize as a disturbance of the mind and not just a “teenage phase,” this type of onset pattern is usually the hardest to treat, as diagnosis is delayed and lack of early intervention may result in the person being ostracized by peers for exhibiting inappropriate behaviors.

Common symptoms of schizophrenia include:

Delusions
These involve bizarre beliefs not shared by those the sufferer associates with and are unrelated to reality.

Hallucinations
Involve sensory distortions such as hearing voices that aren’t real, hearing the words of dead people known to the sufferer, or smelling unusual and nonexistent odors.

Disorganized speech patterns
These include inability to keep to the one topic, going off on irrelevant tangents during a conversation, using unintelligible words that make perfect sense to the sufferer but not others.

Behavioral aberrations
Including pacing, agitation, catatonic immobility (where the sufferer remains perfectly rigid for long periods of time), wearing inappropriate clothing for both weather and social conditions, and ignoring personal hygiene.

Withdrawal
This includes a lack of emotional response to one’s environment; flat, robotic speech with little change in facial expression; delayed response in conversation, and loss of enjoyment in normal pleasurable activities such as sex, socializing, and eating.

In addition, there are various types of schizophrenia:

Paranoid type is characterized by delusions of grandeur (believing one is Napoleon) or a sense of persecution (“everyone is involved in elaborate plot to get me.”) Hallucinations are common, particularly in the form of voices. This type of schizophrenia is marked by higher levels of functioning between episodes.

Disorganized type schizophrenia includes disorganized speech and behavior patterns, and a degree of emotional immaturity. This type is usually chronic in nature with few if any remissions.

Catatonic type schizophrenia includes periods of involuntary immobility alternating with agitation, and a tendency to imitate the bodily mannerisms of others. This type is comparatively rare.

Residual type schizophrenia is characterized by the presence of at least one schizophrenic episode but the sufferer no longer displays acute symptoms, although the typical flat effect, social withdrawal, and bizarre thoughts are still apparent.

Undifferentiated type schizophrenia is used to describe several types of characteristic behaviors that are not effectively described by any of the above categories.

Clearly schizophrenia is a serious and life-changing illness which to date has defied attempts at a permanent cure. Increasingly sophisticated drug regimes coupled with better education and earlier intervention have improved life quality and life span for sufferers of this tragic condition.


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