Schizophrenia commonly affects young adults. In males it starts in the early to mid-20s and in females in the late 20s. It is not common in children for those older than 45. Schizophrenia involves a range of symptoms of thinking, behavior or emotions leading to impaired ability to function. The symptoms of schizophrenia are usually classified into one of two categories – positive or negative.
They represent a change in behavior. It involves a range of problems with thinking (cognitive), behavior or emotions.
- Delusions – These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. They can begin suddenly, or may develop over weeks or months. The person affected might think someone is trying to control their brains. They may believe they are being chased, followed, watched, plotted against or poisoned, often by a family member or friend. They may get convinced that another person is in love with them. Other thoughts may be – exceptional ability or fame, a major catastrophe is about to occur or body is not functioning properly or being a special person. Delusions occur in as many as 4 out of 5 people with schizophrenia.
- Hallucinations – These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. But for them these are real. Hallucinations can be in any of the senses – vision, hearing, smell, taste or touch, but hearing voices is the most common hallucination. Some people describe the voices they hear as friendly and pleasant, but more often they are rude, critical, abusive or annoying. Voices of people plotting against them are very common.
- Disorganized thinking (speech) – Disorganized thinking is reflected in disorganized speech. Effective communication is almost impossible and answers to questions may not be there or be partially or completely unrelated. Some people find it hard to concentrate and will drift from one idea to another. Speech may include putting together meaningless words that can’t be understood, sometimes known as word salad.
- Disorganized behavior – Behavior is not focused. Task performance becomes impossible. Behavior may range from behavior with no sense to violent agitation. There can be ignoring or resistance to instructions. There can be abnormal body posture or movement.
- There is reduced ability or lack of ability to function normally. Commonly seen are – not making eye contact, no or less facial expressions, no or less body movement, speaking monotone, reduced ability to plan or carry out activities, decreased talking, neglect of personal hygiene and social withdrawal
- Losing interest and motivation in life and activities, including relationships and sex.
- Lack of concentration in conversation or activities.
- Isolation, not wanting to go out of house, lack of interest in work or recreation.
- Apathy to people and life.