The symptoms of schizophrenia vary from one individual to another, but can be classified into two main categories:7

Positive symptoms are characterised by changes in behaviour or thoughts, for example:

  • Hallucinations
    Hearing, seeing or feeling something that is not there. Hallucinations can affect any of the five senses: sound, sight, touch, taste and smell. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination in schizophrenia.
  • Delusions
    Beliefs which are not likely to change when presented with conflicting evidence, and which can lead to difficulty in separating real from unreal experiences.
  • Disorganised thinking
    Making random associations due to a difficulty in organising thoughts.
  • Agitation
    Increased tension and becoming more easily irritable.

Negative symptoms are characterised by a loss of functioning you would usually expect to see in a fully healthy person, for example:

  • Lack of drive or initiative
    Spending a lot of time in bed without motivation to do anything. Personal appearance and the inclination take care of oneself may be affected.
  • Social withdrawal / depression
    Spending a lot of time alone with no desire to see other people.
  • Apathy
    Feelings of emptiness and a lack of drive to follow through on plans.
  • Lack of emotional response
    Lacking normal signs of emotion. Not feeling happy or sad. Reduced facial expressions.

Most people with schizophrenia experience several psychotic episodes (times when positive symptoms are having a more pronounced impact) during their lifetime.8,9 During these times you may find many areas of your life are affected, including your relationships, work or education, family life and your ability to communicate.7

Between psychotic episodes you may be able to lead a relatively normal life, with your symptoms not really affecting your daily life. However, due to the chronic and recurring nature of symptoms, you may require long-term treatment to help you manage the condition, an important part of which is normally the use of medication.4,10 This approach to treatment is typical for many chronic conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, whereby long-term and well-managed medication is required to keep the condition under control.

If your symptoms of schizophrenia worsen or return after a period when you were feeling better, this is known as a relapse. During a relapse, people often find that their symptoms are at a similar level experienced during the initial episode of schizophrenia.11 People who stop taking their medication are more likely to experience a relapse, often within a few weeks of the last dose.11 However, relapses can usually be controlled with the reintroduction and successful management of medication.11

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