The 3 Categories of Schizophrenia Symptoms

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Crystal Skenandore, LPC, Outpatient Therapist.  Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic mental health disorder that changes a person’s thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Usually, symptoms first appear in early adulthood. They must be present for at least six months in order for a diagnosis to be made. When the disease is present, it is characterized by episodes where individuals are unable to determine what is real and what isn't. Related: What Are Mental Health Days? 

Schizophrenia Symptoms

There are three main categories of symptoms for schizophrenia including positive, negative, and disorganized symptoms. Sometimes symptoms appear suddenly, and sometimes behavioral changes caused by schizophrenia may develop slowly, and even seem to appear "out of the blue." In addition, symptoms are difficult to identify early on. Note that a child or adolescent displaying these behaviors is not aware that their behavior poses a problem.  No one's experience of schizophrenia is the same. However, it's important to take note of these symptoms if you're concerned that you or someone in your life has schizophrenia. If symptoms persist, contact a mental health professional as soon as possible.
1. Positive Symptoms
Positive symptoms are considered abnormally present symptoms. That is to say, they are experiences that add to an individual's life. These are highly excessive actions and perceptions. Positive symptoms include: 
  • Delusions. These are threats, ideas, or situations that might seem real but are not based on reality. For instance, believing that someone is following them even though they haven't left their house all day. 
  • Hallucinations. This includes hearing, seeing, or feeling things that aren't there. For example, seeing animals or people that aren't there, or hearing voices. 
  • Paranoia
  • Severe anxiety
  • Confused thinking
  • Difficulty distinguishing between dreams and reality
For more information on schizophrenia causes and treatment, visit the schizophrenia specialty page.  
2. Negative Symptoms
Negative symptoms are those that are abnormally absent. In other words, they are symptoms that take away from the individual's life. They include:  
  • Disconnection/lack of pleasure. For example, having no emotional expression when speaking with others or having a "blank stare." 
  • Absence of correct emotional responses. For instance, laughing during an inappropriate time.
  • Withdrawl or isolating oneself 
  • Inability to speak
  • Trouble staying on schedule/following through
3. Disorganized Symptoms 
Disorganized speech and disorganized or catatonic behavior symptoms are characterized by:
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Disordered and confused speech. For example, using words or sentences that don't fit together, finding it difficult to stay on topic, inventing words, etc.
  • Abnormal motor behavior (movement disorders)
  • Struggle with basic self-care and responsibilities. For instance, failure to brush their teeth, take a shower, etc.
  • Extreme irritability or moodiness


With treatment, most symptoms of schizophrenia improve drastically. Crystal Skenandore, Outpatient Therapist at Nystrom & Associates, outlines treatment options.  
While medications are the first-line treatment for schizophrenia, many patients continue to experience difficulty with social and occupational functioning. Programs such as Adult Rehabilitation Mental Health Services (ARMHS) can help build and strengthen skills needed to maintain employment and relationships. These treatments combined with a strong social support system can help set the patient up for success in maintaining their progress and living more independently.
In other words, medications do help – however, additional therapy to learn practical skills is typically needed as well. Individuals will also learn to implement coping skills to deal with difficult emotions and behaviors. Therefore, it's crucial to receive personalized treatment that will best help manage symptoms and improve their quality of life.  Related: How to Build and Maintain Healthy Coping Skills  

A Word From Nystrom & Associates 

Most importantly, help for schizophrenia is available. Our care team at Nystrom & Associates knows treatment coordination is invaluable. Additionally, we offer many services that work together to develop the best treatment plan for every individual. If you or someone you know is struggling needs help to move forward, we’re here to help.   If you’d like to request an appointment, please contact our coordinators today or call 1-844-NYSTROM.   Related: Ways to Move Forward When You Feel Stuck 

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