Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Hallucinations are thought to be a result of over–sharpening of the senses and of the brain’s inability to interpret and respond appropriately to incoming messages. A person with schizophrenia may hear voices or see visions that are not there, or experience unusual sensations on or in his or her body. Auditory hallucinations, the most common form, involve hearing voices that are perceived to be inside or outside of the person’s body. Sometimes, the voices are complimentary, reassuring, neutral. Sometimes they are threatening, punitive, frightening, and may command the individual to do things that may be harmful.
Delusions are strange and steadfast beliefs that are held only by the observer and that remain despite obvious evidence to the contrary. For example, red and green traffic signals may be interpreted by someone with schizophrenia as instructions from space aliens. Many people with schizophrenia who suffer from persecution delusions are termed “Paranoid”. They believe that they are being watched, spied upon, or plotted against. A common delusion is that one’s thoughts are being broadcast over the radio or television, or that other people are controlling the ill person’s thoughts. Delusions are resistant to reason. It is of no use to argue that the delusion is not “Real”.
Thought disorder refers to problems in the way that a person with schizophrenia processes and organizes thoughts. For example, the person may be unable to connect thoughts into logical sequences. “Racing thoughts” come and go so rapidly that it is not possible to “Catch them”. Because thinking is disorganized and fragmented, the ill person’s speech is often incoherent and illogical. Thought disorder is frequently accompanied by inappropriate emotional responses: words and moods do not appear in tune with each other. The result may be something like laughing when speaking of somber or frightening events.
Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Lack of motivation or apathy is a lack of energy or interest in life that is often confused with laziness. Since the ill person has very little energy, he or she may not be able to do much more than sleep and pick at meals. Life for the person with schizophrenia can be experienced as devoid of interest.
Blunted feelings refers to a flattening of the emotions. Since facial expressions and hand gestures may be limited or nonexistent, the ill individual seems unable to feel or show any emotion at all. This does not mean that the individual does not feel emotions and is not receptive to kindness and consideration. He or she may be feeling very emotional but cannot express it outwardly.
Depression involves feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and may stem in part from realizing that schizophrenia has changed one’s life, from realizing that the “Special feeling” experienced in the psychotic state is an illusion and that the future looks bleak. Often the person believes that he or she has behaved badly, has destroyed relationships, and is unlovable. Depressed feelings are very painful and may lead to talk of, or attempts at, suicide. Biological changes in the brain may also contribute to depression.