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Positive & Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

by
author image A.M. Tacon
A.M. Tacon is an associate professor of health at Texas Tech University. Her research interests include psychosocial factors in cancer, complementary therapies and stress reduction in individuals with cancer. Dr. Tacon runs mindfulness-based stress reduction programs for women with breast cancer, which is based on various forms of mindfulness meditation.
Positive & Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Split personality. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Overview

Schizophrenia is a chronic and disabling brain disorder that usually manifest between the ages of 13 and 25, with males typically displaying symptoms earlier than females. Individuals experience profound distorted perceptions, and thus are not grounded in reality. Schizophrenia characteristics include a distorted perception of the world, distorted thought and speech, as well as a disturbed sense of self and safety. Schizophrenia is not a split or multiple personality; rather, it is categorized as a type of psychosis, which is a severe and devastating mental illness.

Symptom Overview

Schizophrenia involves a range of diverse and, at times, bizarre symptoms that typically appear as disturbed psychotic manifestations; for example, hearing voices, hallucinations or experiencing sensations not congruent with reality, and holding false beliefs (delusions) that do not match objective reality. There is no primary symptom that specifically indicates schizophrenia, and diagnosis depends on the history of a pattern of behavior involving multiple domains. Symptoms usually are classified as either positive or negative, and may occur at the same time. According to an article published in 2014 by "Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment," up to 26 percent of people with schizophrenia have persistent negative symptoms.

Positive Symptoms

Positive symptoms refer to mental disturbances in the patient’s perception of reality that do not exist objectively. Positive symptoms include delusions or strongly held, yet distorted beliefs (for example, "delusions of grandeur" are when disturbed thought makes patients feel that they are important or famous people). Delusions also may involve beliefs about being followed or even poisoned, as in paranoid delusions. Another delusion example is the belief that someone or something, be it the TV or an alien in space, is sending messages or controlling them. Hallucinations are included as a positive sign where a patient's perception of the senses are disturbed, such as hearing something (auditory hallucination) or the most common hallucination of seeing something that does not exist. Other positive symptoms include manifested disorganization of speech and thought, as well as disorganization of actions (for example, performing behaviors that appear weird or bizarre to others, known as "social disinhibition").

Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms refer to mental abilities which the patient has lost or abilities that the patient can no longer perform. Negative symptoms are more difficult to identify since they are not as overt as positive symptoms. Lack of initiative, drive or goal-orient behaviors may occur, as well as a sense of apathy and the preference of being alone or isolated from others. Additionally, there may be a change in expressing emotions (for example, emotional “blunting” is when the individual displays minimal or severely decreased emotional response to issues in daily life).

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