How do I know if I have schizophrenia?
There is no blood test, x-ray or
brain scan from which a doctor can say for sure, “Yes, you have
schizophrenia.” So doctors look at people’s symptoms to figure out if they
have schizophrenia. This is a hard illness to diagnose because symptoms may
not show up at the beginning of the illness. Symptoms must be present for at
least six months for a doctor to diagnose schizophrenia.
Remember that medications may help
reduce or eliminate the symptoms of the disease so that improvement is
possible. In addition, some people recover spontaneously from
schizophrenia in due course.
What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?
Doctors have divided the symptoms of
schizophrenia into the following two types.
1. Positive symptoms (Experiences that should not
These are the symptoms that are
there, but should not be, such as hearing voices, believing things that are not
true, making up words. People with schizophrenia who have positive symptoms
are experiencing thoughts and perceptions that are very different than those
experienced by people without schizophrenia.
Here is a list of some of the
positive symptoms that people with schizophrenia may experience.
Sometimes people with
schizophrenia believe things that do not make sense. For example, people with
schizophrenia may believe they are being spied on, or plotted against, or that
they have special powers.
They may see, hear, smell,
taste or feel something that does not exist. For example, people with
schizophrenia may hear voices that say nasty things to them or command them to
People with schizophrenia
may have a hard time organizing their thoughts. Their thinking may be blocked
or jumbled and may not make sense to anyone else. They may feel that their
thoughts are broadcast so that others can hear them on that unseen forces are
temporary with their thoughts.
They may be overactive and restless, angry and violent
their emotions may change very quickly for no apparent reason.
People with schizophrenia may believe they have
great wealth, power or fame. For example, they may believe they can stop
bullets or fly over buildings.
They may think people are out to get them. For
example, they think their family members are trying to hurt them or that
strangers are slipping poison into their food.
People with schizophrenia may become abusive, mean and
uncooperative with their family and friends. This may in part be due to their
false beliefs that people are following them or trying to hurt them.
2. Negative symptoms (Features that are present
and should not be)
These are the symptoms that are not
there but should be, like energy to do things, wanting to be with others, clear
thinking. As a result of these symptoms, people with schizophrenia often
withdraw from the world around them and every-day life.
Here is a list of some of the
negative symptoms that people with schizophrenia may experience.
A lack of emotions
People with schizophrenia may be unable to have or
show emotional feelings. The face may show little emotion and the voice
The person with schizophrenia usually has very few or no
interests and has few personal friends.
Unable to get along with people
People with schizophrenia often avoid eye contact
with others. In talking with others, they are likely to show they are bored
and appear to have no warmth or caring.
They may show no interest in anything going on around them.
They often have no energy to complete simple tasks and are unable to do
anything except eat and sleep.
People with schizophrenia may only feel safe and calm
when alone. They will likely have no interest in the feelings and lives of
others and will avoid the company of others.
3. Cognitive Symptoms
Difficulty thinking in general terms
They may only be able to think about specific things, making
them unable to understand general ideas. For example: “Can you take out the
garbage?,” may only result in a “yes” or “no” answer, and would not lead to the
garbage actually being taken out.
Rigid or fixed thinking
People with schizophrenia can hold very rigid
attitudes and beliefs that may seem unreasonable to those around them.
They may have repeated thoughts that interfere with their ability to function.
Inability to process information
People with schizophrenia may hesitate in speech or action
due to difficulty in processing information. Their body movements may also be
stiff and unnatural. They may work at tasks more slowly then others.
Poor working memory
People with schizophrenia may be unable to retain a
list of instructions and complete the tasks. For example, go to the
office, get envelopes and put them out for the mailman.