Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Jul 8, 2016

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

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The majority of studies and information written on Schizophrenia are done with people under the age of 40 in mind. However, almost a fourth of the people diagnosed with Schizophrenia had developed it later in life. That number, however, drops dramatically to 4% that develop the disorder after the age of 60.

Additionally, figures show that the biologic differences in women make older females more susceptible to the emergence of late-onset schizophrenia than men. Despite late-onset schizophrenia’s rarity, patients who are diagnosed tend to respond very well to treatment. Due to the symptom list’s similarity to many other late age health problems, medical professionals admit many cases have probably gone undiagnosed in the past.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

  • Removing oneself from social situations
  • Suspicion and defensiveness to the point of hostility
  • Inexpressiveness, difficulty or no expression of joy or sadness
  • Inappropriate laughter or crying
  • Unusual sleeping patterns
  • Irrational statements or even nonsensical use of language or made up words
  • Exceeding sensitivity to criticism

Primary Symptoms 

  • Delusions: holding something to be true despite clear evidence of it being incorrect (extremely common, appears in 90% of people who suffer from schizophrenia).
  • Hallucinations: can be a hallucination of any of the senses, but is most commonly auditory hallucinations in the case of schizophrenia. Those suffering from auditory hallucinations tend to hear them more when the person is alone.
  • Disorganized Speech: not staying on topic, using made up words or phrases, unnatural repetition, and meaningless rhyming phrases.
  • Disorganized behavior: schizophrenia is very counterintuitive to goal striving behavior inhibiting the person from completing everyday tasks.  Sometimes causing unexplainable emotional outbursts and lack of control over impulses.
  • “Negative Systems”: change or loss of normal behaviors such as expressing emotion, showing interest, and cohesive conversation (monotone, unrelated replies)

Other conditions that appear similar to schizophrenia are substance abuse, medical conditions that inhibit brain functions, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. Be mindful of other possible causes before coming to the conclusion of schizophrenia. 

Distinguishable Symptoms 

  • Auditory Hallucinations. They will hear voices that aren’t there, a running commentary, normally of thoughts inside their head, they experience as a third party. The voices are often rude and insulting.
  • Bizarre Delusions. The delusions connected with schizophrenia will be more complex and far-fetched than those brought on by Alzheimer’s or dementia.
  • History. If they have a history of psychosis, it highly increases the probability of Schizophrenia.
  • Mistaking caregivers. Memory impairment is less common in the case of Schizophrenia than with other degenerative brain complications.
  • Suicidal Ideations. Much more common in geriatric schizophrenia than other mental disorders.
  • Mild to no decline. Dementia or Alzheimer’s tend to show more of a steady decline over time, while Schizophrenia shows rather unchanging mental health.

How to Counteract Symptoms

  • Positive Symptoms should be combatted with antipsychotics and caregiver education on how to handle episodes.
  • Negative Symptoms can also be regulated through antipsychotics and caregiver education.
  • Cognitive Symptoms can be improved by using Cognitive remediation therapy (CRT or CET) that works to improve neurocognitive abilities and social abilities.
  • Social Deficits - Cognitive remediation therapy and social skills training can help.
  • Depression - anti-depression medications
  • Caregiver stress can be alleviated through support groups and psychotherapy.  Your health is also important to help schizophrenics with their treatment


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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I care for a senior with schizophrenia?

Caring for an elderly person with schizophrenia can be tough. Try to involve them in structured activities, interpersonal interaction, and routines. Do not directly challenge their false beliefs. Try giving them tasks or homework assignments to help build and retain skills to provide them a sense of empowerment.

Pharmacological agents and psychological therapy will be needed to aid mental health and counteract symptoms.

Elderly with schizophrenia may need more help with daily living (looking after themselves, transportation, taking care of their home, etc.). You may not necessarily be able to reach for a full recovery for the patient, but treating some of the symptoms and making life more meaningful to the patient is possible.

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What causes late-life schizophrenia? Have they always had it?

Though it doesn’t happen that often, schizophrenia can develop later in life. According to a study published by Stanford, whether late or early-life, schizophrenia is thought to have root in maladjustment in early childhood and other biological factors.

However, late-onset schizophrenia patients will experience more visual, tactile and olfactory hallucinations when compared with their early-onset counterparts. Late-onset schizophrenia hallucinations are often much more abusive, as they are hearing offensive hallucinations of insults in a running commentary with themselves. If you or a loved one has developed schizophrenia later in life, take comfort in knowing there are care options available

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