Positive symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking and problems with movement.
A person with schizophrenia who experiences hallucinations hears, feels, sees, smells or tastes something unreal that seems real to them. Hearing voices is one of the common schizophrenic hallucinations. Research backs up the realness of the voices people with schizophrenia describe. Studies show that in those with schizophrenia, the brain assumes the voices are authentic. Some voices might be friendly and polite, while others can be rude and bothersome.
It’s not unusual for people with schizophrenia to experience delusions or events a person believes are real despite proof that they didn’t happen or don’t exist. Some delusions arise from hearing voices. For example, an individual may be convinced the voices they hear are people following or watching them. Others may think a news anchor or other television personality is talking to them or about them. Exaggerated feelings of self-importance and thinking they have unique religious connections or powers are other delusions people with schizophrenia may experience.
Disorganized Thinking and Speech
Individuals with schizophrenia may have a hard time gathering their thoughts. As a result, when they speak, the communication may be random and not make sense. Cognitive symptoms also include difficulty following a conversation or appearing distracted when others talk. This is what makes talking with them difficult. Finding out how to communicate with someone with schizophrenia is a necessary to be able to help them.
Some people with schizophrenia may exhibit abnormal motor behavior where they seem unable to control their movements and may appear restless or jumpy. At other times they might appear lethargic and sit for long periods without moving. They may also repeat the same actions.
Tests for Schizophrenia
The brain of someone with schizophrenia is different from an individual without it. A series of brain tests that compare the brains of individuals suspected of having schizophrenia with an image of a brain unaffected by the condition can help determine if someone has schizophrenia, showing the need for treatment.
There are scales like the Scale for the Assessment of Positive Symptoms (SAPS), which measures positive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking. The Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS) measures negative symptoms like decreased motivation, trouble expressing emotions and lack of pleasure.
Other tests for schizophrenia include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, use a strong magnetic field and radio waves to make 2D or 3D images to explore brain structures
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans that view these structures from multiple angles using a series of X-ray images
- Electroencephalograms (EEG) test the brain’s electrical activity using electrodes attached to the scalp
In addition to the tests mentioned above, diagnosis involves a physical exam that helps the clinician rule out other issues that could be causing the symptoms. A psychiatric evaluation can identify risk factors and comorbid conditions such as substance use or other mental health disorders. It’s crucial to interview the patient to determine if they may have violent tendencies or are at risk for suicide.
Treatment for schizophrenia is lifelong and usually involves medication, therapy and community support. When a person with schizophrenia has difficulty with symptoms despite medications, they may require hospitalization for a doctor to evaluate their situation and adjust their medications. Being in the inpatient setting enables the treatment team to observe the patient to determine if medication adjustments will be effective.
Alta Loma — A Team Approach
A team of clinicians works with the patient to ensure the treatment encompasses all areas of need, including assessment and evaluation, medication and therapy. Family members may participate in counseling or therapy where they can learn about the condition and what to expect when a loved one has been recently diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Once the individual completes inpatient treatment, a case manager or social worker will help them set up aftercare, which includes regular medication management and therapy appointments. Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness. However, when they respond to treatment and become stable, some people with schizophrenia may be able to work or participate in programs that focus on community living skills to help them live independently or in a supportive housing environment.