When you think of “schizophrenia”, what comes to mind? Some people may think that having multiple or split personalities makes them schizophrenic (which is incorrect). Others may not even know what schizophrenia is. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM-5) defines schizophrenia as a mental disorder consisting of a constellation of symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, and abnormal behaviours. No single symptom alone is characteristic of the disorder, and people exhibit different symptoms. Please do not self-diagnose and seek professional help if you are worried about your health. With that, let’s discuss 6 signs of schizophrenia.
Delusions are beliefs that do not change even when there is clear, conflicting evidence present. Do you know of someone who believes they will be harmed by an individual or group even though without evidence? This is an example of a persecutory delusion. What about someone who believes that they are the richest person in the world? Grandiose delusions are exactly that. Others types of delusions are referential delusions (e.g., “the trees are telling me something!”), nihilistic delusions (e.g., “the world is ending!”), and somatic delusions (e.g., “there is something wrong with my body, even when my doctor disagreed!”) Schizophrenic patients have either delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech.
Hallucinations are experiences that happen when there is no external stimulus. Have you heard of voices that seem so real that occur outside of your own thoughts? These are auditory hallucinations, which are the most common in schizophrenia. Hallucinations can also be visual, which is the case if you see something that is not actually there. Hallucinations can be a normal part of religious experiences and having hallucinations (without any other symptoms) does not mean that you have schizophrenia.
3. Disorganized speech
People with schizophrenia may have disorganized speech. We can identify this when we see someone constantly switching from one topic to another, especially when there is no obvious connection between the topics. We say they have disorganized speech because sometimes it can be so incomprehensible that others cannot understand what is going on. Another case of disorganized speech is tangentiality, which is when someone just goes off in tangents.
4. Abnormal movements (motor behaviours)
Catatonic behaviour is a marked decrease in environmental reactivity. Let’s imagine someone sitting on a chair with their hands up in a rigid, bizarre position. This picture is an example of someone with catatonic behaviour (more specifically, this is called posturing and stupor). The opposite can also occur: someone can move so much without a clear goal, which is called catatonic excitement. Sometimes, people also echo their speech, have difficulties speaking, or stare repeatedly. Catatonia, like hallucinations, can be a symptom of other mental disorders like bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder with catatonia.
5. Decreased emotional expression
When we speak, it’s typical that we display facial expressions that show how we feel. A sign of schizophrenia is a lack of emotional expression that is typically expected. For example, someone may sound very monotone (like a robot) and appear very stiff when they stand (compared to a relaxed position that we usually expect). Do you know of someone who shows diminished emotional expression?
A negative symptom is something that we would expect a person to have, but is absent (hence the term, negative). Decreased emotional expression is an example of a negative symptom. Other negative symptoms that are signs of schizophrenia include avolition (e.g., if someone has little to no motivation to do anything), alogia (e.g., less speech output), and asociality (e.g., if someone shows no interest in social interactions).
6. Memory problems
Memory problems are a sign of schizophrenia. One type of memory is declarative memory, the ability the remember past events and facts. Another type of memory is working memory – the ability to hold a thought in mind in the present. If I told you to tell me about your 12th birthday, you would use your declarative memory. In contrast, if I told you to remember the number 12 right now, you would use your working memory. Researchers found deficits in both declarative memory and working memory in people with schizophrenia (Meholam-Gately et al., 2009).
So, do you now understand the 6 signs of schizophrenia? Do you know of someone who may exhibit some negative symptoms of schizophrenia? If so, we encourage you to consult other credible resources and seek professional help from a psychiatrist or other health professionals. Always put your health and wellness first.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.
Mesholam-Gately, R. I., Giuliano, A. J., Goff, K. P., Faraone, S. V., & Seidman, L. J. (2009). Neurocognition in first-episode schizophrenia: a meta-analytic review. Neuropsychology, 23(3), 315.