Symptoms of Schizophrenia: Myths, Facts, and Implications

Learn more about the symptoms of schizophrenia, how it is diagnosed, and the available treatment options in this article.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental health issue. It affects how you think, feel, and behave. It is a type of psychosis. This means your mind loses touch with reality. The most prominent symptoms of schizophrenia are hallucinations and delusions.

Individuals with schizophrenia may see or hear things that aren’t there or believe things that aren’t true. They may also have disorganized thoughts or odd behaviors. Schizophrenia typically occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood.

The exact cause of this disorder is unknown. However, genetic, chemical, and environmental factors are believed to play a role in its development. Symptoms of schizophrenia can overlap with other disorders, so it is crucial to speak to a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis.

Mature caucasian medical doctor sitting

Prevalence and Impact of Schizophrenia

Roughly 1 in 300 people worldwide have schizophrenia. It affects both men and women equally. It usually begins in young adulthood. Schizophrenia can make it hard for individuals to work, study, or do everyday tasks. It can also impact how a person experiences reality.

The symptoms of schizophrenia don’t just affect the individual; they also impact their family and friends. It can be challenging for loved ones to understand schizophrenic behavior, especially when it’s out of character.

Those with schizophrenia may also experience other negative impacts due to the disorder. These factors include a higher risk of physical illness, suicide, and social stigma.1

Onset and Development of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia usually emerges in late adolescence or early adulthood, although it can manifest at any stage of life. Understanding the onset and development of schizophrenia can be challenging to understand.

Although the exact causes of this disorder are unknown, it is important to know its early signs and risk factors. Early detection of schizophrenia is crucial for individuals to receive adequate treatment.

Here are some factors of schizophrenia to keep in mind:

Early Warning Signs and Prodromal Phase

Before the clear symptoms of schizophrenia appear, there might be early signs that something is off. A person might have a hard time thinking clearly or concentrating. 

They might also feel strange and not like themselves. This early phase is called the prodromal phase and can last for days or years.2

First Episode Psychosis

The first episode of psychosis is when the symptoms of schizophrenia become clear for the first time. This might include hallucinations, delusions, or unusual behavior. This episode is often a predominant sign that someone might have schizophrenia.

Chronic Schizophrenia

If someone has had schizophrenia for six months or longer, they have what’s known as active or chronic schizophrenia. This usually means that the symptoms are severe and ongoing. 

It can be challenging to manage daily life with chronic schizophrenia. Treatment is needed to help manage the symptoms and reduce the long-term effects.

Types of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a complex mental disorder. There are several types of schizophrenia, each characterized by a distinct set of symptoms. 

Understanding the various types of this disorder is essential for accurate diagnosis, tailored treatment plans, and improved management of schizophrenia.

Here are the different types of schizophrenia:

Paranoid Schizophrenia

Hallucinations and delusions are common in paranoid schizophrenia. However, an individual’s cognitive abilities and emotions remain intact. Someone with paranoid schizophrenia may have paranoid delusions, where they believe they’re being persecuted or conspired against.

Disorganized Schizophrenia

With disorganized schizophrenia, someone may have disorganized speech, behavior, and emotion. They may struggle to carry out daily tasks, making their speech difficult to understand.

Catatonic Schizophrenia

This type of schizophrenia is characterized by periods of immobility or excessive and strange movement. A person with this schizophrenia might also become unresponsive or repeat words and phrases.

Residual Schizophrenia

Residual schizophrenia is marked by reduced symptoms, often after treatment. Someone may no longer have hallucinations or delusions but still have difficulty with speech, motivation, and emotion.

Undifferentiated Schizophrenia

This type is diagnosed when you have symptoms of schizophrenia that don’t fall into one of the other categories. It could include any combination of symptoms of other kinds of schizophrenia.

Common Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is characterized by a range of common symptoms that significantly impact a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. These symptoms can vary in intensity and duration, making each individual’s experience unique.

Understanding the symptoms of schizophrenia in-depth is crucial for early recognition and initiation of treatment, leading to better outcomes for those with schizophrenia.

The symptoms of schizophrenia are often categorized into three types:

Positive Symptoms

Positive symptoms refer to the presence of unusual thoughts, behaviors, or perceptions that people without schizophrenia typically do not experience.

Here are some examples of positive symptoms:

  • Hallucinations: Involve experiencing sensory events without any input from the surrounding environment. If someone has hallucinations, they might hear, see, feel, smell, or even taste things that others do not.
  • Delusions: Involve having beliefs that are not based on reality. Those with schizophrenia might believe they are being followed or plotted against or have exceptional abilities or fame.
  • Thought Disorders: Also known as disorganized thinking, some might have difficulty organizing or connecting their thoughts logically. Their speech might be hard to follow or seem nonsensical to others.
  • Movement Disorders: This refers to unusual body movements. In severe cases, it might appear as though an individual is frozen, a condition known as catatonia.3

Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms refer to the absence or reduced ability to initiate actions, express emotions, or interact with others.

Here are some examples of negative symptoms of schizophrenia:

  • Flat Affect: This involves reducing the range and intensity of emotional expression. Individuals with schizophrenia might speak monotone, have reduced facial expressions, or seem indifferent to the world around them.
  • Anhedonia: The decreased ability to experience pleasure from activities that a person once found enjoyable.
  • Avolition: A reduction in the motivation or ability to initiate and persist in goal-directed behavior. This could mean a person might need more desire or motivation to start or finish tasks.
  • Alogia: Alogia is the reduction in the amount or content of speech. Someone with schizophrenia might speak very little or provide less detail when they do speak.

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms are subtle in some people and more severe in others. They involve problems with memory and aspects of thinking.

Here are some examples of cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia:

  • Impaired Memory: Particularly working memory affects one’s ability to use the information immediately after learning it.
  • Executive Dysfunction: This symptom affects the ability to understand and use information to make decisions. Someone with executive dysfunction might have trouble responding to environmental changes and planning for the future.
  • Attention and Concentration Difficulties: This can make it difficult for someone to focus on tasks, causing them to be easily distracted and affecting their ability to learn new information.

Co-Occurrence of Schizophrenia with Other Disorders

It’s not uncommon for schizophrenia to occur alongside other mental health disorders. Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia often experience symptoms with other mental health conditions. This can complicate diagnosis and treatment and make the symptoms of schizophrenia more severe.

Additionally, the combination of schizophrenia with other disorders may result in increased symptom severity and poor treatment response. 

Understanding the interaction between schizophrenia and other conditions is important for comprehensive assessments.

Here are some disorders that may overlap with schizophrenia:

Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorders are common among people with schizophrenia, and the relationship between the two disorders is complex. Some substances can induce psychosis, which can resemble the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Alcohol, hallucinogens, amphetamines, and cannabis can all lead to psychotic symptoms if used heavily. This is distinct from schizophrenia itself but sometimes leads to a later diagnosis.4

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, can also occur alongside schizophrenia. When mood disorders and symptoms of schizophrenia co-occur, it’s often referred to as schizoaffective disorder.5

Anxiety Disorders and Schizophrenia

Some studies suggest that 65% of people with schizophrenia also have an anxiety disorder.6Anxiety can worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia and make it more challenging to cope with daily life.

Personality Disorders

Some symptoms of schizophrenia overlap with certain personality disorders. This is particularly true for schizotypal personality disorder, which has similar symptoms to schizophrenia.7

Factors Influencing the Development of Schizophrenia

Many factors can influence the development of schizophrenia. Although genetic predisposition plays a significant role in schizophrenia, it is not the only way the disorder is caused.

Understanding these factors can improve prevention strategies, improve early detection, and implement effective interventions for individuals with schizophrenia.

Here are the factors that influence the development of schizophrenia:

Genetic Predisposition

Genetics plays a substantial role in the development of schizophrenia. If a person has a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with schizophrenia, their risk is significantly higher than someone without this familial link. 

However, no single gene is responsible; multiple genes contribute to the increased risk.

Environmental Factors

Complications during pregnancy or birth, such as malnutrition, infections, or oxygen deprivation, can increase susceptibility to developing schizophrenia later in life.

Difficult experiences during childhood can also have a significant impact. Things like trauma or high-stress levels might increase the chances of experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia.

Where and how individuals live can influence their mental health. For example, living in a city with a lot of noise and stress, or feeling alone and isolated, might make it difficult for someone to manage symptoms of schizophrenia.

Brain Structure and Function

Some studies suggest that the brains of people with schizophrenia might look slightly different than those without it.8

Our brains consist of neurotransmitters that help brain cells communicate with each other. Sometimes these messengers can be out of balance in people with schizophrenia. This imbalance can change how the brain works and leads to symptoms of schizophrenia.

Treatment for Schizophrenia

Unfortunately, there is no cure for schizophrenia. However, treatments are available to help manage the symptoms and reduce relapses. Treatment typically consists of a combination of medication and psychosocial therapy.

Additionally, ongoing support and education for individuals with schizophrenia and their families can be crucial in managing the disorder. Through treatment, people with schizophrenia can live a better quality of life.

Some treatment opportunities to mitigate the symptoms of schizophrenia will be detailed below.

Antipsychotic Medications

Antipsychotic medications are used to help manage the symptoms of schizophrenia. These drugs work by altering the balance of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, helping to reduce hallucinations and delusions.

Common antipsychotic medications that might be used to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia can Include:

  • Risperidone: This medication works by acting on certain chemicals in the brain. It can help reduce symptoms like hallucinations or delusions.
  • Olanzapine: Olanzapine acts on the brain to help manage both the thought and mood symptoms of schizophrenia. So, it can help with things like delusions and feelings of depression or anxiety.
  • Aripiprazole: This treatment can help by adjusting the activity of certain brain chemicals. It can help manage various symptoms of schizophrenia, from thought symptoms like delusions to mood symptoms like mania or depression.

Every medication is different, and what works best will depend on your unique symptoms of schizophrenia and your body’s response to the drug.

Side Effects and Considerations

All medications can have side effects, and antipsychotics are no exception. One might experience drowsiness, dizziness, or changes in their appetite. In some cases, individuals might also notice changes in their movement, like a tremor or stiffness.

It is important to talk with a doctor about any side effects and make sure medication doses are correct. It can take several weeks for the medication to take full effect.

Psychotherapy and Psychosocial Interventions

Psychotherapy and psychosocial interventions are integral to schizophrenia treatment. These therapeutic approaches address this disorder’s psychological, social, and functional aspects.

By providing a supportive and structured environment, these interventions can assist individuals in many ways. Psychotherapy and psychosocial interventions in schizophrenia treatment can promote holistic care and empower individuals in their recovery journey.

Here are some examples of therapeutic interventions that can aid in the symptoms of schizophrenia:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of talk therapy that can help manage symptoms of schizophrenia. CBT is all about learning how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors interact with each other.

In CBT, a patient will work with a therapist to identify thought patterns that might be causing problems. For example, you might learn to recognize when you’re starting to have a delusion.

Once these patterns are recognized, individuals can learn new ways of thinking to help manage their symptoms of schizophrenia. CBT doesn’t get rid of symptoms entirely. But it can make them easier to handle.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is another form of support for those dealing with symptoms of schizophrenia. In family therapy, families come together to learn about schizophrenia, talk about experiences with the disorder, and learn ways to support each other.

Family therapy can help reduce the stress that often comes along with the symptoms of schizophrenia. It can also help families understand what an individual is experiencing and learn ways to better communicate.

Group Therapy

In group therapy, a patient will meet with people going through similar experiences. This can be a safe place to share feelings, challenges, and successes

Group therapy can be a powerful way to feel less alone with symptoms of schizophrenia. An individual can learn from others’ experiences, get practical advice, and give and receive support.

Social Skills Training

Social skills training can be a practical way to manage some of the everyday challenges that come with symptoms of schizophrenia. This might include learning to drive conversations, handle social situations, or handle daily tasks like cooking or shopping.

Learning these skills can help an individual feel more confident and independent. It can also make it easier to build and maintain relationships, which can greatly impact the quality of life when dealing with symptoms of schizophrenia.

Debunking Myths about Schizophrenia

Debunking the myths surrounding schizophrenia is vital to understand the disorder. Schizophrenia is often surrounded by misconceptions and stereotypes that contribute to discrimination.

By dispelling these myths, we can create a more inclusive society that offers understanding and support to individuals affected by schizophrenia and their families.

Here are some myths about schizophrenia:

Myth: Schizophrenia is the same as Multiple Personality Disorder

Schizophrenia is a major mental disorder that causes changes in thinking, perception, emotion, and behavior.

Multiple Personality Disorder (also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder) is a rare condition where different personalities take control of someone’s behavior. While both involve disturbances in personality, they are not the same thing.

Myth: People with Schizophrenia are Violent and Dangerous

Movies and TV sometimes represent people with symptoms of schizophrenia as violent or dangerous. But in real life, this is not usually true. People with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence than to cause it.

Myth: Schizophrenia is Caused by Bad Parenting or Personal Weakness

Schizophrenia isn’t a consequence of poor parenting or a personal flaw. Instead, it’s a medical condition influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental elements. It’s not a choice or a result of someone’s actions.

Myth: Schizophrenia is a "Life Sentence"

Some people believe that a diagnosis of schizophrenia means a life utterly dominated by the condition. This isn’t accurate. 

Schizophrenia is a serious condition, but its symptoms can be managed with appropriate treatment. Individuals with schizophrenia, like anyone else, can have periods of symptom relief and work towards personal goals.

Myth: People with Schizophrenia are Incapable of Meaningful Relationships

Symptoms of schizophrenia can pose challenges, but they do not make someone incapable of friendship, love, or family ties. 

With understanding, compassion, and proper management of symptoms, individuals with schizophrenia can and do engage in meaningful relationships with others.

symptoms of schizophrenia

Choice House: Helping Individuals with Schizophrenia and Co-Occurring Disorders

Choice House is located in Boulder County, Colorado, a vibrant and scenic location. It serves as a rehabilitation center and a recovery community for those dealing with addiction issues.

But it’s not just a place for recovery; it’s a place for personal growth and discovery. It provides a space where individuals, including those experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, can heal and work towards a healthier, more meaningful life.

Treatment Philosophy and Approach

Choice House’s treatment philosophy is rooted in connection and community. The most powerful gift anyone can receive during their recovery process is a personal bond with others.

Choice House takes a holistic approach to treatment, addressing the symptoms, root causes, and associated challenges. We believe in empowering you with new, healthy skills that foster growth and a strong foundation necessary for your path toward freedom, personal growth, and lasting sobriety.

Services and Support Provided

Choice House offers a comprehensive array of services to support individuals dealing with symptoms of schizophrenia and co-occurring disorders. Our expert team tailors these services to meet each individual’s unique needs, treating every person as a whole rather than just focusing on their symptoms.

Patients will also receive comprehensive support from experienced professionals specializing in schizophrenia and co-occurring disorders. This includes specialized medical and psychiatric care, individualized therapy, family counseling, support groups, and creative activities for personal growth.

Various levels of care, ranging from medical detox to sober living and aftercare, are available to align with different stages of the recovery journey. It’s all about providing what you need to foster the best possible outcomes when you need it.

Take Control of Your Life

Call Choice House Colorado and learn how to manage and treat symptoms of schizophrenia today