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Recognising the signs of schizophrenia

Like many mental disorders, schizophrenia is difficult to identify and many people have preconceived ideas about the signs and symptoms of this illness.

Recognising schizophrenia
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Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects thought processes and emotional responses. It is often up to friends and family to recognise the signs and encourage an initial medical assessment.

Here’s an update from Doctissimo about the symptoms of this highly-studied but still poorly-understood mental illness...

The signs and symptoms of schizophrenia

Symptoms can be very diverse, with the main ones including:

  • Difficulty with thought processes: Thoughts are disorganised, incoherent, and inappropriate, accelerated or slowed down... The sufferer is unable to prioritise information and summarise what he or she means.
  • Delusions: Delusional thoughts make the sufferer believe things which are not true. This can take various forms: belief that (s)he is the reincarnation of a famous person, talking to aliens, feeling victim of a conspiracy... It’s extremely difficult to convince a schizophrenic that these ideas are not real.
  • Hallucinations: Mainly auditory hallucinations (hearing voices or sounds which do not exist). This type of hallucination affects two thirds of schizophrenics. The sufferer can also have false perceptions on a sensory level (the impression of being touched when no one is there, for example), or visual, smell- or taste-related perceptions.
  • Negative emotions: The sufferer often closes in on him or herself, with a general loss of interest, lack of willingness and/or drop in motivation observed. He or she can also experience emotions at inappropriate times (laughing for no reason or during a dramatic situation, for example).
  • Behavioural disorders: A schizophrenic may have moments of acute agitation or, on the contrary, fall into states of stupor. He or she can often have exaggerated attitudes or gestures. In acute attacks, mild aggression or violence can be an issue, although this remains a rare occurrence. Self-harming can also be an issue, as can the risk of suicidal tendencies.

Not all schizophrenics experience all these symptoms and their intensity varies according to the sufferer, thus the use of the plural term ‘schizophrenias’.

Common misconceptions about schizophrenia

Many misconceptions exist about schizophrenia, such as:

  • People often believe that schizophrenics suffer from double personality disorders. Yet, this is not generally the case.
  • People often think that schizophrenics are violent and can become dangerous towards their friends and family. But problems of aggressiveness occur rarely and only during acute schizophrenic attacks.

It is also important not to forget that schizophrenia is an illness that requires medical treatment and that a patient’s willpower or changes to environment alone are not enough to resolve the problem.

Posted 17.03.2011

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