How Schizophrenia Works

By: Jane McGrath

Schizophrenia Symptoms and Types

FPG Intl./Getty Images

Schizophrenia usually develops in men between their late teens and early twenties, whereas in women, it commonly develops between the mid-twenties and early thirties. Symptoms of schizophrenia may develop gradually (over years), or quickly (over a few weeks). The symptoms are usually classified as positive or negative. However, the purpose of these names isn't to indicate that symptoms are good or bad. Rather, positive symptoms merely refer to those that portray distorted or exaggerated forms of normal activity. For instance, positive symptoms include:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech
  • Purposeless movement activity or lack of activity (known as catatonic behavior)

On the other hand, negative symptoms refer to those that show a lack of normal behaviors. Examples of negative symptoms are:


  • Failing to express or feel emotion
  • Failing to take pleasure in life
  • Having an attitude of general apathy

Some categorize certain negative symptoms as cognitive, or dealing with attention and memory. Cognitive symptoms include:

  • Short attention span
  • Lack of memory skills
  • Inability to plan or organize

Other symptoms include a disruption of work, relationships and personal hygiene. For someone to be diagnosed with schizophrenia according to the widely accepted authority, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), a certain number of symptoms must show up, and the condition must last for at least six months.

Schizophrenia can take several forms, and these are broken into the following categories:

  • Paranoid: Characterized by delusions and hallucinations. Often, people with paranoid schizophrenia believe they are being victimized by others.
  • Disorganized: Consists of disorganized thinking and behavior that may be incoherent to others and a failure to express emotions.
  • Catatonic: People with catatonic schizophrenia may move around or talk excessively and unexplainably, or may become still and uncommunicative.
  • Undifferentiated: This type of schizophrenia is a catch-all category for someone with a mix of symptoms that don't quite fit in any of the other categories.
  • Residual: If someone has a history of schizophrenia and experiences an extended period of time with negative but no positive symptoms, they can be said to have residual schizophrenia. [source: WebMD]

A few conditions are very similar to schizophrenia. Schizophreniform, for instance, can include positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, but only lasts from one to six months. Another similar condition is schizoaffective disorder. Those with schizoaffective disorder suffer from both symptoms of schizophrenia and a mood disorder (such as depression).

Many of the symptoms of schizophrenia can have drastic effects on a patient's life in daily activities, work, social life and relationships. On the next page, we'll discuss some of the common issues that patients face as well as options for how to interact with a schizophrenic person.

­Delusions refer to false beliefs, and hallucinations refer to false sensations. Some typical delusions include paranoid beliefs about being victimized by others, or believing oneself to be a famous historical figure (such as Napoleon or Jesus Christ). Hallucinations can come in the form of visions, smells, sounds, feelings or even taste. Most commonly, schizophrenics believe they hear voices. These voices often comment on the person's behavior or give the person orders [source: Cleveland Clinic].