Schizophrenia

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Just as people can tell one constellation of stars from another by their relative groupings (their shape and position), mental health professionals similarly can tell schizophrenia from other disorders based on the relative grouping of characteristic symptoms. Schizophrenia is characterized by two families of symptoms, termed "positive" and "negative". Positive symptoms are symptoms which are in excess of normal behavior. They are further categorized into two dimensions. The "psychotic" dimension includes hallucinations and delusions, and the "disorganized" dimension includes disorganized speech and behavior. Negative symptoms, on the other hand, involve a deficit of behavior compared to normal functioning. Examples of negative symptoms include limited emotional expression, limited thought and speech, and lack of motivation.

Symptoms are not permanent things. Instead, they tend to change over time. A minimum number of symptoms (positive and/or negative) must be present before the diagnosis of schizophrenia can be made, however. It is quite possible that a person may show some symptoms, but not enough of them to merit the formal diagnosis of schizophrenia for long periods of time. The maximum number of symptoms for the diagnosis will be present during the active phase (or "psychotic break") portion of the disorder. When enough symptoms are present and persist for one month (or a shorter time period if medication has been administered) with some symptoms persisting for up to six months, a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be made. Once a formal diagnosis of schizophrenia has been made, however, it can continue to be made later on, even if some symptoms necessary for the diagnosis are no longer apparent. See the section below on Formal DSM Recognized Diagnoses for specific criteria necessary for the diagnosis of Schizophrenia.

 




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