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Understanding Schizophrenia

imagesAccording to Gloom (2014), “schizophrenia is a devastating mental illness that affects approximately 1% of the adult population in the United States.”   Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which people find it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences. A person may think illogically and may have abnormal emotional responses. Schizophrenia may result in hallucinations, delusions or disoriented thinking and behavior (these are known as positive symptoms), and social withdrawal, anhedonia, blunting emotion (these are known as negative symptoms).  It occurs in equal rates among men and women. In men, symptoms usually begin early to mid 20’s. In women, symptoms usually begin in the late 20’s. The illness develops slowly and may not be noticeable at first.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms last for 6 months or more. Psychotic symptoms develop such as :

  • flat affect
  • catatonic behavior
  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • disordered thinking

There are 5 types of schizophrenia and symptoms can be different:

  1. Catatonic Type– According to, “Catatonic schizophrenia is a type (or subtype) of schizophrenia that includes extremes of behavior. At one end of the extreme the patient cannot speak, move or respond – there is a dramatic reduction in activity where virtually all movement stops, as in a catatonic stupor. At the other end of the extreme they are overexcited or hyperactive, sometimes mimicking sounds (echolalia) or movements (echopraxia) around them – often referred to as catatonic excitement.” Individuals with catatonic type schizophrenia, may exhibit symptoms of agitation, rigid muscles, stupor, decreased sensitivity to pain. Catatonic schizophrenia is rarer today because treatments have improved. They are better able to manage their symptoms.
  2. Paranoid Type: This is the most common type of schizophrenia. The individual may have delusions that a person is plotting against them or their family. They may have hallucinations and believe that they are powerful or influential.
  3. Disorganized Type: It is characterized by illogical thoughts and behavior. It is a severe type because the person cannot perform daily activities or take care of personal hygiene. A person may exhibit symptoms of child-like regressive behavior, delusions, flat affect, incoherence, repetitive behavior or inappropriate laughter.
  4. Undifferentiated Type: May include symptoms of more than one type of schizophrenia. Symptoms are not enough to define it as another type of schizophrenia.
  5. Residual Type: This is considered to be the least severe and least debilitating of all types. This type may be characterized as having waxing and waning phases, where the symptoms increase in intensity (waxing) and then slowly decline in intensity (waning).  The person must have experienced positive symptoms at some point. They may go years without experiencing any psychotic symptoms.

What is the cause for schizophrenia?

It is not known what causes schizophrenia, but genetics and environment may contribute to the development of the disorder. There are no medical tests for schizophrenia. The course of the illness, the duration of the illness, developmental background, genetics and family history may suggest a diagnosis, but it does not confirm it.


Symptoms improve with medication. It is important to find the right medication that controls symptoms without causing side effects. People with schizophrenia may need supported housing, work rehabilitation, or other community support programs. Structured places to live are offered to people with the most severe forms of the disorder.


Understanding Schizophrenia

Helen Nieves

Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.

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APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2015). Understanding Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
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