“Schizophrenia” is one of those words that conjures up fear in the imagination, but most people don’t really know what it means or how to recognize it. In simple terms, schizophrenia is a condition in which the patient perceives reality abnormally. This mental illness which affects 21 million people worldwide - but unfortunately, only half of these individuals receive the treatment they need. Ending the stigma against this illness, and helping communities learn to recognize the signs of it, is one of the ways we’re working to help address this statistic.
“Positive” and “Negative” Symptoms
While the word “positive” is often associated with good fortune, it takes on a different meaning when discussing schizophrenia. In this case, “positive” symptoms are things that start happening to the patient in addition to “normal” behaviors. These symptoms may be easier to notice than negative symptoms. Examples of positive symptoms include:
- The patient experiences hallucinations, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. A common manifestation is hearing voices that tell the patient what to do or even talk to each other.
- The patient suffers delusions, believing things that aren’t true and are often easy to prove false.
- They have confused thoughts and speech, seeming distracted and mixing up their words.
- They often have trouble concentrating.
- They can exhibit unusual movements - appearing jumpy or repeating gestures - or they could remain still for hours at a time.
“Negative” symptoms, on the other hand, involve normal behaviors that stop happening. Many are internal and much harder to recognize, though some negative symptoms can be perceived by others. Examples include:
- The patient may seem emotionless, dampening their normal feelings and reactions.
- They withdraw from normal social interactions, stop making plans, and shut themselves away. Even getting them to talk can be a struggle.
- They stop bathing and taking care of themselves. They struggle with everyday personal tasks.
- They have trouble staying on schedule and following through on things.
Finally, while not a positive or negative symptom, suicidal thoughts are common among those with schizophrenia. In particular, young single white men are at the greatest risk for suicide among those who suffer from this condition.
Recognizing Schizophrenia in a Loved One
It is often up to family members to recognize the signs of schizophrenia, because the patient may not be aware of them or may not think they stem from a treatable condition. If you think someone you know and care about may have this condition, you should talk to them, offer them support, and encourage them to seek help.
Symptoms in teenagers may be harder to recognize because many resemble normal development behaviors. For example, they may withdraw from their friends, experience a drop in grades, have trouble sleeping, or exhibit irritability and a lack of motivation. Teens are also less likely than adults to have delusions and more likely to suffer from visual hallucinations.
If your loved one poses a danger to themselves or others, or they can’t take care of themselves, you may need to call 911. Emergency responders will take them to be evaluated by a mental health professional or to emergency hospitalization, as necessary.
If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms, there is help available. The staff at Dickinson Center, Inc. can help you deal with any of these disorders. Please contact us today with your questions, and let us help you address your concerns!