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What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that makes it hard to:

  • Tell the difference between what is real and not real
  • Think clearly
  • Have normal emotional responses
  • Act normally in social situations
  • Signs and SymptomsA person who is suffering from schizophrenia may present positive and/or negative symptoms. Positive symptoms reflect a distortion or exaggeration of functions that are normally present, whereas negative symptoms reflect a deficiency of a mental function that is normally present.

Positive Symptoms:

  • Hallucinations (e.g. voices, smells, tastes experienced that do not exist)
  • Delusions (i.e. of being persecuted or controlled, or his / her mind being read)
  • Bizarre or disorganised behaviour

Negative Symptoms:

  • Poverty of speech
  • Social withdrawal
  • Emotional blunting (i.e. not displaying any emotion whether positive or negative)
  • Apathy
  • Attention impairment
  • Lack of motivation and drive

What Are The Types of schizophrenia?

There are three major subtypes of schizophrenia, each classified by their most prominent symptom:

  • paranoid schizophrenia
  • disorganized schizophrenia
  • catatonic schizophrenia

Signs and symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia

The defining feature of paranoid schizophrenia is absurd or suspicious ideas and beliefs. These ideas typically revolve around a coherent, organized theme or “story” that remains consistent over time. Delusions of persecution are the most frequent theme, however delusions of grandeur are also common.

People with paranoid schizophrenia show a history of increasing paranoia and difficulties in their relationships. They tend to function better than individuals with other schizophrenic subtypes. In contrast, their thinking and behavior is less disordered and their long-term prognosis is better.

Signs and symptoms of disorganized schizophrenia

Disorganized schizophrenia generally appears at an earlier age than other types of schizophrenia. Its onset is gradual, rather than abrupt, with the person gradually retreating into his or her fantasies.
The distinguishing characteristics of this subtype are disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, and blunted or inappropriate emotions. People with disorganized schizophrenia also have trouble taking care of themselves, and may be unable to perform simple tasks such as bathing or feeding themselves.

The symptoms of disorganized schizophrenia include:

  • Impaired communication skills
  • Incomprehensible or illogical speech
  • Inappropriate reactions (e.g. laughing at a funeral)
  • Emotional indifference
  • Infantile behavior (baby talk, giggling)
  • Peculiar facial expressions and mannerisms

People with disorganized schizophrenia sometimes suffer from hallucinations and delusions, but unlike the paranoid subtype, their fantasies aren’t consistent or organized.

Signs and symptoms of catatonic schizophrenia

The hallmark of catanoic schizophrenia is a disturbance in movement: either a decrease in motor activity, reflecting a stuporous state, or an increase in motor activity, reflecting an excited state.

  • Stuporous motor signs. The stuporous state reflects a dramatic reduction in activity. The person often ceases all voluntary movement and speech, and may be extremely resistant to any change in his or her position, even to the point of holding an awkward, uncomfortable position for hours.
  • Excited motor signs. Sometimes, people with catatonic schizophrenia pass suddenly from a state of stupor to a state of extreme excitement. During this frenzied episode, they may shout, talk rapidly, pace back and forth, or act out in violence—either toward themselves or others.

People with catatonic schizophrenia can be highly suggestible. They may automatically obey commands, imitate the actions of others, or mimic what others say.

What Are The Causes Of Schizophrenia

The causes of schizophrenia are not fully known. However, it appears that schizophrenia usually results from a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors.


Untreated psychosis can cause a considerable amount of suffering, distress and bafflement to the person who has the condition and to those around him. In addition, persons with untreated psychosis are at a higher risk of suicide, aggression and drug abuse. Seeking professional help early is important.


Besides medication, another effective form of treatment is psychotherapy. Psychotherapy helps the person make sense of his illness, can take various forms and can be conducted on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting. Issues that may need to be dealt with include: the person’s feelings about the illness, his / her experience of medication, denying the illness, the impact that the illness has on the person’s self-esteem, interpersonal relations and other aspects of his / her life.