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What are the First Signs of Schizophrenia?

signs of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that impacts approximately one percent of the United States population. While this mental disorder impacts just shy of four million people, it can severely affect their ability to live healthy, productive lives. 

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), schizophrenia is defined as a “psychotic disorder characterized by disturbances in thinking (cognition), emotional responsiveness, and behavior.” It is categorized under Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders in the DSM. Other psychotic disorders include schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, brief psychotic disorder, and schizophreniform disorder. 

Common First Signs of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a seriously disruptive mental disorder. It is often misunderstood that people who have schizophrenia have always had it. The vast majority of people who develop schizophrenia do so anywhere between their late teens to early 30s. Men are more likely to exhibit symptoms at younger ages than women, however both men and women exhibit similar symptoms. 

Depression

One of the common first signs of schizophrenia is depression, which can be problematic in itself. Depression often causes symptoms such as lack of motivation, social withdrawal, feelings of hopelessness, and problems concentrating. 

Hostility

Hostility is one of the signs of schizophrenia that many people notice first. It can become difficult (if not impossible) to have a conversation with someone who is experiencing this symptom, as they are often highly defensive, display significant suspicion, and even develop severe, inappropriate reactions to criticism. 

Inability to express emotions 

Many people inaccurately think that those with schizophrenia are out of control and always fluctuating between one personality to another. It is quite the opposite, as people with this mental disorder have difficulty expressing emotions, especially at the appropriate times. This means that they may not cry or laugh at the appropriate times, for example. 

Problems sleeping

Sleep problems and disorders are common issues that impact millions of people. But, those with schizophrenia often experience regular oversleeping or insomnia. Being unable to sleep dramatically affects one’s functionality, as can sleeping too much. Lack of proper sleep can aid in the continuation of other symptoms of this mental disorder. 

Strange speaking

Not everyone is great at speaking, even when it comes to just talking with friends. Someone with schizophrenia, however, can start speaking in ways that seem completely abnormal. They may say things that do not make any sense context-wise or they may put together a handful of words that do not express a clear thought. 

Additional first signs of schizophrenia can also include an expressionless gaze, problems concentrating, and significant forgetfulness.

Stages and Signs of Schizophrenia

There are three separate stages of schizophrenia. While some individuals never move past the first stage, the majority of those with this mental disorder do. Without treatment, these symptoms can remain cyclical and worsen over time. 

Phase #1: Prodromal Phase

The prodromal phase of schizophrenia is the first stage that individuals experience with this disorder. At this time, friends and family of someone with schizophrenia may begin noticing that they seem “off.” Common symptoms that occur within the prodromal phase include the following:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of motivation
  • Problems paying attention
  • Isolation
  • Problems with decision-making
  • Ignoring personal hygiene

This phase can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years before the second phase begins (if it does). 

Phase #2: Active Phase

By the time a person begins showing symptoms of the active, or “acute” phase, of schizophrenia, studies show that they have likely been experiencing symptoms of the prodromal stage for about two years. It is normal for those around someone with schizophrenia to not realize that what their loved one has been dealing with is schizophrenia until the active phase starts to set in. That is because the symptoms that accompany this second phase often include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Jumbled speech
  • Confusion
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Rarely making eye contact
  • Excessive movements
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions

This phase can be treated, however if ignored, can result in the symptoms lasting weeks to months. 

Phase #3: Residual Phase

The residual phase of schizophrenia often comes after the active phase has settled down. The symptoms that most individuals experience mirror those of the prodromal stage, such as:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of emotional expression

During this stage, these symptoms plus some symptoms from the active phase of schizophrenia can continue to occur, such as hallucinations, disorganized thoughts, strange speech, and confusion. When appropriately treated, individuals can likely avoid relapsing back into the active phase and triggering this cycle all over again. 

Treatment for Signs of Schizophrenia in Palm Beach, FL

Similar to other mental disorders, schizophrenia can be treated with a combination of medication and therapy. The signs of schizophrenia can be better controlled with antipsychotic medications, allowing for the individual to experience enough relief to benefit from participating in therapy. Common therapies used in the treatment of schizophrenia include group counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, and family therapy. 

At Neuroscience Research Institute, we provide specialized treatment for those grappling with this difficult mental disorder. If you or someone you love needs help, reach out to us right now.