Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC
Did you know that over 20 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia? Although most people feel alone in their battle with schizophrenia, it’s a mental illness many people suffer from every single day. Truth be told, you’re not alone in this fight.
When most people think of schizophrenia, they think of someone struggling with hallucinations and delusions. While it does describe a large part of schizophrenia, it doesn’t necessarily give the full definition because it only explains the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
Believe it or not, there are also disorganized and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Each symptom causes a different level of distress and frustration in the individual’s life, and they each need to be dealt with in different ways. Either way, early detection is crucial and it’s also helpful to understand schizophrenia’s different symptoms.
So, what are the negative symptoms of schizophrenia?
Negative schizophrenic symptoms don’t receive as much attention as the positive symptoms, but they’re just as damaging to someone’s life. They’re called negative symptoms because the word negative refers to symptoms that are absent from the individual.
Negative symptoms are those that take away certain abilities, processes, or functions in the body or mind. When negative symptoms start presenting themselves, it generally leads to social isolation and an overall loss of quality of life. It’s hard to find happiness, hard to achieve success, and fulfillment in life is limited.
Negative symptoms are commonly referred to as the prodromal period of schizophrenia. This means they aren’t always present when the person starts experiencing schizophrenia, but they gradually appear over time and can worsen over time.
Let’s take a look at the list of negative symptoms of schizophrenia: loss of motivation, poor hygiene, difficulty sleeping, changes in body language and sleeping patterns, lack of eye contact and emotional expression, decreased interest in life, and a struggling libido, loss of focus, memory, information processing, learning, and poor decision-making.
HOW DO THEY DIFFER FROM OTHER SYMPTOMS?
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia make matters worse for the individual, but they aren’t the only symptoms used to diagnose schizophrenia. In fact, they’re often viewed as ‘outcomes’ or ‘complications’ of schizophrenia, especially since they could be a result of another condition.
That’s where positive symptoms and disorganized symptoms start to play a major role in diagnosing schizophrenia — more specifically, the positive symptoms.
We know you’re likely asking yourself, “Aren’t all symptoms negative?” When discussing schizophrenia, all symptoms are considered ‘negative’ and have a negative effect on the individual’s life.
With that being said, positive symptoms don’t refer to symptoms that have a positive effect on the individual’s life. Instead, positive symptoms are present in the individual — opposed to negative symptoms, which are absent in the individual.
As you can see, the difference between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ symptoms isn’t how they affect the individual, but in the way they’re experienced by the individual. Symptoms that shouldn’t be there are considered positive, while symptoms that are missing are considered negative.
The two most common positive symptoms are hallucinations and delusions. They’re considered positive because they refer to the individual seeing, hearing, believing, touching, smelling, or tasting something that isn’t there. The hallucinations and delusions generally lead to a loss of quality of life, where the negative symptoms start to play their role.
To summarize, positive symptoms add emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and more to the individual’s life. Negative symptoms, on the other hand, take away from the individual.
Aside from positive and negative symptoms, there are also disorganized symptoms. These simply refer to disorganized speech, thoughts, behaviors, and body movements. Those experiencing these types of symptoms are often confused and might do things without understanding why.
WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OR RISKS WITH SCHIZOPHRENIA?
On the surface, schizophrenia is an extremely dangerous and harmful brain disorder. The symptoms cause high levels of distress and lead to a diminished quality of life. When left untreated, the symptoms continue to worsen over time.
While the symptoms directly affect the individual’s life, it doesn’t even begin to describe the dangers they experience as a result of the symptoms.
For example, many people living with schizophrenia live with anxiety, depression, paranoia, and obsessive-compulsive disorders that make it difficult to focus and enjoy life. They’re also more inclined to isolate themselves socially, abuse alcohol, drugs, or nicotine, and struggle with their work performance.
In more severe cases, people living with schizophrenia might search for ways of permanently ending the emotional, mental, and social pain. That’s why these individuals are at a high risk of suicide, suicide attempts, and suicidal thoughts — whether or not they act on the thought.
As their life continues to worsen, health issues continue to rise, and their financial situation continues to suffer. Not only that, but other people start treating them differently due to their symptoms and behavior, as opposed to being there for them and helping them get the attention they need and deserve.
HOW DO PROFESSIONALS DIAGNOSE SCHIZOPHRENIA?
Diagnosing schizophrenia isn’t always an easy task, especially considering all the different symptoms individuals experience with this disorder. To make it a little easier for mental health professionals, schizophrenia is categorized into one of five different subtypes — paranoia, disorganized, catatonic, residual, and undifferentiated.
Paranoia schizophrenia is when the individual experiences hallucinations, delusions, or other positive symptoms closely associated with the disorder. Anyone suffering from disorganized symptoms is diagnosed with disorganized schizophrenia.
Catatonic schizophrenia is unique because it involves irregular, abnormal, or unusual body movements including the individual being frozen in one position. These individuals also experience negative symptoms.
Since some people fall into more than one subtype, mental health professionals might diagnose them with undifferentiated schizophrenia. This subtype is also reserved for individuals not falling into any of the above subtypes.
To properly diagnose the individual, mental health professionals are tasked with performing a full physical exam, a psychiatric exam, and additional tests or screenings (MRI or CT scan) to further investigate certain symptoms.
When diagnosing the individual, healthcare professionals utilize the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) — published and released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013. It’s one of the many ways we ensure diagnoses are accurate and prompt. That way, the individual can start receiving the help they need.
CAN INDIVIDUALS RECOVER FROM SCHIZOPHRENIA?
Being diagnosed with schizophrenia is a nerve-wracking experience for anyone to go through — and it’s often only the beginning of the battle. The good news is there are a wide variety of ways to treat schizophrenia, reduce the symptoms, and begin building a happier and healthier life for you and your family.
While there’s no direct, one-size-fits-all cure for schizophrenia, scientists and researchers are always working hard to find one. Over time, they’ve come across several different risk factors, which helped them discover multiple treatments — such as medication and psychotherapy.
Medication is normally targeting brain function since that’s where a majority of the disorder originates. The brain is responsible for many things inside the body (most things, actually). Individuals can find relief from symptoms by balancing out neurotransmitter activity and hormone releases.
Psychotherapy is one of the most effective forms of treatment, but only when the individual wants it. Those who don’t want help are hard to treat because they’re reluctant to do anything their mental health professional asks.
With that being said, psychotherapy (talk therapy) generally offers some form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It helps the individual manage their emotions, find the root cause of their behaviors, and start making the necessary life changes to lead a happier life.
In addition to the professional help schizophrenics receive, they’re also tasked with making the necessary changes outside of their visits. This includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly (even for 30 minutes a day), maintaining healthy relationships with others, getting enough sleep every night, and taking the time to understand your symptoms, triggers, and relief points.
HELP IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!
People who live with schizophrenia often revert to isolation because they feel detached from the rest of the world. They have difficulty understanding what’s real and what’s fake. It’s a troubling way to live your life and one that nearly 20 million people suffer from worldwide.
With that being said, we need to start viewing schizophrenia for what it is — a mental illness that needs to be treated. That means we should treat the person with love and respect because they deserve a quality life just like everyone else.
That’s where Mind Diagnostics comes in. We understand many people don’t understand what schizophrenia is, and there’s believed to be a large number of people that don’t even know they’re suffering from it.
To ensure everyone has the necessary tools and resources when finding the help they need, we’ve created a comprehensive schizophrenia test that determines whether or not you’re at risk of developing the disorder. It’s available online, and we even created an app for it!
It doesn’t take long to complete the questionnaire, and the results could help someone prevent their symptoms from getting any worse.
We also have online mental health tests for other mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, aggression, ADHD, OCD, and more — so don’t hesitate to test your mental health with Mind Diagnostics today!