The symptoms of schizophrenia generally fall into two main categories: positive symptoms, which involve the distortion of normal behaviors and functioning, and negative symptoms, which reflect an absence of normal behaviors and functioning. The severity and scope of the symptoms will vary from person to person.
Positive symptoms of schizophrenia often reflect the altered perception experienced by the individual. These are symptoms that are distortions or changes to normal functioning. They include:
- Hallucinations – hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
- Delusions – beliefs that are not supported by objective facts
- Disorganized and unpredictable behavior – problems with routine tasks, inconsistent or childlike behavior, inappropriate responses
- Confused thoughts and speech – illogical thinking, trouble concentrating and keeping track of thoughts, jumbled speech and difficulty with conversations
- Catatonic behavior – may involve odd and exaggerated movements, repetitive movements, a rigid body posture, sometimes punctuated by brief episodes of excitability
Positive symptoms can be very frightening and often cause a great deal of distress to both the individual afflicted with schizophrenia and those around them. Positive symptoms often overshadow negative symptoms because of their overt nature, but they also tend to respond more favorably to medication and other forms of treatment than negative symptoms do.
Negative symptoms present as the absence or minimization of normal behaviors. These may include:
- A lack of expressiveness
- Blank looks
- Lack of eye contact
- Monotone speech
- Emotional unresponsiveness
- A lack of enthusiasm or pleasure
- A lack of will or spontaneity
- Loss of concentration
- Lack of motivation
- Social withdrawal
Negative symptoms can be difficult to notice when positive symptoms are uncontrolled—they often become more evident once the positive symptoms have been treated or have otherwise diminished. Negative symptoms are also very troubling, and they tend to be less responsive to medications and therapies, making it difficult for the individual to live a healthy and productive life.
Further schizophrenia research is needed to help advance science and provide more treatment options for the management of positive and negative symptoms.