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There are five types of symptoms characteristic of schizophrenia: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, and the so-called “negative” symptoms. However, the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia vary dramatically from person to person, both in pattern and severity. Not every person with schizophrenia will have all symptoms, and the symptoms of schizophrenia may also change over time.
A delusion is a firmly-held idea that a person has despite clear and obvious evidence that it isn’t true. Delusions are extremely common in schizophrenia, occurring in more than 90% of those who have the disorder. Often, these delusions involve illogical or bizarre ideas or fantasies. Common schizophrenic delusions include:
Hallucinations are sounds or other sensations experienced as real when they exist only in the persons mind. While hallucinations can involve any of the five senses, auditory hallucinations (e.g. hearing voices or some other sound) are most common in schizophrenia. Visual hallucinations are also relatively common. Research suggests that auditory hallucinations occur when people misinterpret their own inner self-talk as coming from an outside source.
Schizophrenic hallucinations are usually meaningful to the person experiencing them. Many times, the voices are those of someone they know. Most commonly, the voices are critical, vulgar, or abusive. Hallucinations also tend to be worse when the person is alone.
Fragmented thinking is characteristic of schizophrenia. Externally, it can be observed in the way a person speaks. People with schizophrenia tend to have trouble concentrating and maintaining a train of thought. They may respond to queries with an unrelated answer, start sentences with one topic and end somewhere completely different, speak incoherently, or say illogical things.
Common signs of disorganized speech in schizophrenia include:
Schizophrenia disrupts goal-directed activity, causing impairments in a person’s ability to take care of him or herself, work, and interact with others. Disorganized behavior appears as:
The so-called “negative” symptoms of schizophrenia refer to the absence of normal behaviors found in healthy individuals. Common negative symptoms of schizophrenia include: