Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC
Schizophrenia isn’t talked about enough. It affects over 20 million people worldwide and is often linked to other mental disorders, such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety. Much like the others, there’s no known cure for schizophrenia, but there are ways to treat it once diagnosed.
Many people won’t find the help they need. They may fail to recognize the symptoms of schizophrenia or to understand how those symptoms are affecting their life, or treatment may be out of their price range, or unavailable in their location. Either way, you’re left with individuals fighting for happiness and fulfillment daily.
There are plenty of symptoms to consider with this brain disorder, and they’re often categorized into one of three categories -- positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and disorganized symptoms. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of confusion between the three.
At Mind Diagnostics, we’re dedicated to helping everyone find the help they need. Below, we’re going to deep dive into the positive symptoms of schizophrenia and how they differ from the negative and disorganized ones.
So, what do positive symptoms refer to?
On the surface, it might seem like positive symptoms have a positive effect on the individual’s life. In reality, positive symptoms of schizophrenia refer to those present in the individual, as opposed to symptoms absent from the victim (which are referred to as negative symptoms of schizophrenia).
For example, two of the most common positive symptoms include hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations refer to seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or tasting something that isn’t real. On the other hand, delusions refer to false beliefs that go against the normal way of thought.
For comparison, some of the most common negative symptoms include the loss of motivation, inability to speak, decreased thought, lack of pleasure, and loss of expression. Positive symptoms add behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, while negative symptoms take them away.
Both positive and negative symptoms are ‘negative’ when referring to how they impact an individual’s life. That’s where a majority of the confusion between positive and negative symptoms stems from.
There are also disorganized symptoms, which refer to disorganized behavior, speech, thoughts, emotions, or body language. For example, the individual might wander around aimlessly, mumble to themselves, or talk incoherently during a conversation.
Whether you’re experiencing positive, negative, or disorganized symptoms, reaching out for help can have a profound impact on your life. The WHO estimates that nearly 69% of people living with schizophrenia currently aren’t receiving the care they need and deserve.
Do We Know What Causes Schizophrenia?
Research is ongoing when it comes to schizophrenia, and we are far from knowing everything we need to know about it. With that being said, it’s good to know that we have the world’s finest researchers studying this subject every single day, and we’ll one day get to where we need to be.
While there doesn’t seem to be one single cause of schizophrenia, researchers have primarily focused their efforts on three main risk factors -- environmental influences, genetics, and brain chemistry. Those suffering from schizophrenia could fall into one category or multiple categories.
Environmental influences include experiencing stressful events growing up, early substance abuse, and even physical, emotional, or sexualabuse. Genetics is also known to play a role in schizophrenia and does run in some families, but it’s not guaranteed. For example, a twin is more likely to have schizophrenia if their twin has it too.
As far as the brain goes, many researchers have linked schizophrenia to improper brain development and are one of the major reasons it’s considered a mental or brain disorder. When the brain’s structure doesn’t develop correctly, there’s a high chance it won’t function correctly either.
In addition to that, researchers have looked at brain activity to find what causes schizophrenia. They noticed a change in neurotransmitter activity, which are the small chemicals that trigger our thoughts, actions, feelings, and everything else we do. Some of the most common are dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, GABA, and adrenaline.
It’s important to note that these risk factors only increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and won’t serve as direct causes of the disorder. You should still seek immediate help from a professional if you or a loved one are experiencing (or think you’re experiencing) schizophrenia.
Are There Different Types of Schizophrenia?
In past, schizophrenia was grouped into different categories or subtypes based on the presentation of symptoms that a patient had. This sort of typing resulted in inaccurate diagnosis and has since been changed by the American Psychiatric Association.
In the past, these subtypes were catatonic, disorganized, paranoid, residual, and undifferentiated. The subtypes were based on the presentation of symptoms. The symptoms that are presented in a patient are still used to diagnose schizophrenia, but the diagnosis is
How Is Schizophrenia Diagnosed & Treated?
Much like any other mental illness, the diagnosis's main goal is to first rule out any other issues that might be underlying or contributing to schizophrenia. Mental health professionals also try to rule out any other medical conditions, substance abuse, and/or medication that might be triggering symptoms. Treating an underlying problem may clear the symptoms up, and save time in helping to alleviate the problems a person is experiencing.
As they rule out other conditions and zero in on schizophrenia, the healthcare professional often does a full physical exam, issues tests and screenings (such as MRI or CT), performs a full psychiatric exam, and eventually refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association.
The DSM-5 lists the official criteria when diagnosing mental illnesses, including schizophrenia. According to the criteria, individuals must first experience either delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech. Without one of those three, it’s not considered schizophrenia.
Once one or multiple of those are satisfied, the individual must experience one of the following for longer than one month -- disorganized behavior, negative symptoms, impairment in everyday life, or if any of the symptoms are chronic (6 months or more).
If a healthcare professional diagnoses the symptoms as schizophrenia, they’ll start to search for the best treatment possible. Keep in mind, this is different for everyone. It will typically include medication to manage symptoms and psychotherapy.
Medication is largely targeted towards the brain function and hormones inside the body. Psychotherapy includes any type of talk therapy that the therapist believes will best support the client’s goals and management of symptoms.
Are You Or A Loved One Struggling With Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia can have a lasting effect on someone’s life if not treated properly, and like most mental illnesses, it only gets worse the longer it goes without detection. Whether you start noticing the symptoms in yourself or observe them in someone you love, don’t hesitate to take action.
At Mind Diagnostics, we understand how difficult detection is, especially when the symptoms become ‘normal,’ and you experience them every day.
With our online schizophrenia screening test, you can finally receive the clarification you need when sitting at home, wondering where these abnormal thoughts and behaviors are coming from. While the test doesn’t replace evaluation from a psychiatrist or therapist, it can help you discern next steps and to determine what symptoms you may have that are of concern.
If you’re interested in learning more about all the different feelings and behaviors, we experience daily, head over to Mind Diagnostics. We have a wide variety of mental health screening tests, including a schizophrenia test designed to point you in the right direction when looking for help. We can’t wait to help you find peace and joy!