Early Symptoms of Schizophrenia
by Anna Dyer
Schizophrenia, literally meaning "split-mind," is a term used to describe a series of brain disorders that disrupt the perception of reality, causing delusions and hallucinations. Despite its name, schizophrenia is quite different than split personality disorder; it disrupts the balance between thoughts and emotions. Schizophrenics tend to live in their own minds, separating themselves from the activities and people surrounding them.
Onset of Symptoms
A chronic, lifelong condition, the warning signs of schizophrenia present themselves earlier in men than in women. For men, symptoms most often begin during the late teen years through the early 20s, while for women symptoms tend to emerge during their mid-20s to early 30s. While extremely rare, cases of schizophrenia beginning during adolescence and after the age of 45 have been reported.
One early sign of schizophrenia is a reduction of behavioral and emotional states, which are referred to as "negative symptoms." Negative symptoms include speaking and interacting less with others, using a monotone voice and few facial expressions, lack of desire to initiate or participate in activities, neglect of personal hygiene and a general lack of joy in life. These negative symptoms are commonly mistaken for laziness, depression or lack of drive.
Schizophrenics experience strange thoughts and chaotic thinking. They may struggle to think logically and experience difficulty maintaining a thought process. They often forget what they were going to say in mid-thought or may even begin to make up new words.
General lack of coordination and clumsiness are also early warning signs of schizophrenia. Some behavior may become disruptive to normal life, and might include the repetition of specific movements or even involuntary mannerisms and movements, or tics.
Hallucinations are the experiences of hearing, seeing, feeling or smelling something that isn't real; however, the experience is very real to a schizophrenic. Hallucinations can vary in type and severity. One of the most common forms are voices that warn, demand, criticize or simply talk to a schizophrenic.
A delusion is an illogical belief with no basis in reality, yet it is unchangeable in a schizophrenic's mind despite proof that the belief cannot be true. Delusions can be bizarre, and often include belief that someone or something external is or is trying to control the patient's mind, grandiose delusions of fame or fortune, and various degrees of paranoia.
Cognitive symptoms are often recognized later, as they are subtle and may require neuropsychological tests for detection. They might include difficulty making decisions due to lack of ability to both interpret and take in information, difficulty concentrating, poor memory, and difficulty learning and using information. Cognitive symptoms are often the most subtle, but cause the most distress.