Schizophrenia is a serious brain disorder that can affect your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Symptoms of schizophrenia may be severe or even disabling, but many of the symptoms can be controlled over time with proper treatment.
Signs and Symptoms
Schizophrenia symptoms vary in type and severity, and can change over time.
They usually first appear in a person’s late teens through early thirties.
People with schizophrenia may display psychotic behaviors, which can be particularly troubling for friends and family. Doctors call these behaviors “positive” symptoms.
Positive symptoms of schizophrenia include:
Hallucinations: This is when a person sees, hears, smells, or feels things that aren’t really there.
Hearing voices is the most common type of hallucination in people with schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia also may feel invisible fingers touching their bodies when no one is nearby.
Delusions: These are beliefs — often bizarre — that are illogical or untrue.
People with schizophrenia may have paranoid delusions, believing that others are trying to harm, spy on, or plot against them.
Disorganized thinking and speaking: People with schizophrenia may have trouble organizing their thoughts in a logical pattern. They may talk in a jumbled way that’s difficult to understand.
Unusual body movements: People with schizophrenia may make agitated or repetitive movements.
Other schizophrenia symptoms — sometimes referred to as “negative” symptoms — can include:
- Speaking little, even when forced to interact
- Lack of emotional expression when talking (face may not move, voice may be dull and monotonous)
- Lack of pleasure in everyday activities
- Difficulty focusing or paying attention
- Difficulty using information to make decisions
They may also enter a state in which they don’t move at all, don’t respond to others, and seem to be in a trance. This coma-like daze is called catatonia.
There’s no single, definitive test for schizophrenia.
Your doctor will diagnose schizophrenia by ruling out other medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
This process will most likely include:
Psychological evaluation: A doctor or mental health worker will ask you a range of questions about your thoughts, moods, delusions, hallucinations, and substance use.
Medical tests: A health worker may draw your blood for tests that can help rule out other conditions.
These tests will also screen for any alcohol or drugs in your system that may be contributing to your symptoms.
Your doctor may also recommend imaging studies of your head, such as a CT scan or an MRI.
It’s unlikely that your doctor will be able to diagnose schizophrenia after just one visit.
A diagnosis of schizophrenia requires that some symptoms persist for six months or longer, with two or more of the symptoms occurring most of the time over a one-month period.