Signs & Symptoms

Schizophrenia is one of the most baffling, troubling, and potentially dangerous of the mental disorders because it seems so unbelievable. When a person has schizophrenia (psychosis), his brain is not processing information in the usual way, making it impossible for him to control his thinking or behavior. In the most severe stage, a person with schizophrenia has difficulty telling the difference between fantasy and reality and has thoughts of hurting himself or someone else. The main symptoms include:

  • Positive symptoms including delusions, which are ideas which may seem real but are not based in reality. For example, someone may think she is being singled out by the government to join an elite military force or is convinced the answers to a television game show are secretly being sent to her through the cable wires. Hallucinations, another positive symptom, occur when a person sees, hears, or feels things that are not there. Hallucinations can seem so real to people with schizophrenia that they act in bizarre ways and do things that look strange to those around them.
  • Negative symptoms refer to the absence of normal function. For example, teens may become distant, withdrawn, uninvolved with life, want to be alone, and have no energy for people or activities.
  • Disorganized speech is evident in people with schizophrenia who often talk in a rapid but disjointed way. They either do not make sense or change topics so frequently that they are difficult to understand.
  • Disorganized or catatonic behavior, such as suddenly becoming violent or walking around confused, or sitting and staring as if immobilized, may reflect a person's disordered thinking.