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What Are the Warning Signs of Schizophrenia?

Men with schizophrenia usually begin to show symptoms of the illness in late adolescence or early adulthood; for women, the onset of schizophrenia warning signs is generally later, in their late 20s or early 30s. Schizophrenia statistics from the World Health Organization indicate that at any time as many as half of schizophrenics are not receiving proper care.

Movies and television shows tend to portray schizophrenics as those not participating in an effective treatment plan and who are in an advanced stage of the illness, but in reality, this serious brain disorder has a wide range of both marked and more subtle warning signs, many of which can be treated with counseling and consistent, ongoing drug therapy.

Schizophrenia Symptoms

One symptom set of schizophrenia closely resembles that of depression. These symptoms, called negative symptoms, can be hard to identify correctly in younger sufferers as warning signs of schizophrenia because they also so closely resemble typical signs of teenage angst:

  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Lack of facial expression
  • Struggling with verbal self-expression — stopping in the middle of a sentence and appearing to mentally trail off, speaking in a monotone voice

A schizophrenic with negative symptoms may also exhibit repeated and/or agitated body motions.

Schizophrenia in teenagers may be more visible by behavioral changes, such as a sudden decrease in performance at school, insomnia, and social withdrawal or a change to a new group of friends. However, these are also symptoms of other health problems like depression or drug abuse.

Did You Know?

Although it’s true that, without proper treatment, a very small number of schizophrenics can become violent, the majority are more of a danger to themselves than to others: there is a considerably higher-than-average rate of suicide among people living with schizophrenia.

A second type of schizophrenia symptoms, cognitive symptoms, also consists of behaviors that are not at all exclusive to people with schizophrenia. These symptoms involve difficulties with mental processes that require focus and follow-through, such as:

  • Paying attention
  • Being organized
  • Remembering things
  • Synthesizing a plan and executing it
  • Using information to make decisions

Schizophrenia symptoms in the third category are the ones usually emphasized in fictional representations of schizophrenics because they are the most noticeable, distinct and dramatic. Schizophrenia causes the sufferer to have difficulty interacting in normal ways with the world around them because it alters the way they perceive and interpret reality. These distorted perceptions lead to what are referred to as psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia:

  • Hallucinations: seeing (and possibly interacting with) things that aren’t there
  • Delusions: distorted or paranoid beliefs, such as that their thoughts can be heard and/or controlled by other people, aliens, or the government; hearing voices that aren’t there

The sooner a schizophrenia diagnosis is made, the more effective treatment will be, so if you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, it’s very important to see a doctor as soon as possible for a formal assessment. Even if schizophrenia is not to blame, other conditions that share some of these symptoms, such as depression, are also best diagnosed early.

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