Schizophrenia: Types, Symptoms, & Causes

by Vanya Sharma last updated -

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Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that impacts the manner in which a person behaves, feels, and thinks about the world and their place within it. Let’s take a detailed look at what it is, its types, symptoms, and causes.

What is Schizophrenia?

Over the years, schizophrenia has been mischaracterized in many ways, and due to the mystery behind its inherent cause, many cases of schizophrenia are misdiagnosed as other mental disorders. While schizophrenia is one of the least common mental disorders, it can have severe impacts on a person’s ability to interact socially, function professionally and live a normal life.

Most cases of schizophrenia begin to show symptoms in people between the ages of 15 and 30 but the contributing factors may begin far earlier. Some children are diagnosed with schizophrenia, but this is quite rare, as are late-stage diagnoses in middle-aged people and beyond.

Before any treatment can be sought, it is important to understand the types, symptoms, and potential risk factors for this severe mental disorder.

Types

In the past, medical experts broke schizophrenia into a number of subtypes for ease of diagnosis and treatment. This perspective has changed in recent years, and this mental disorder is now seen as being on a spectrum, similar to autism spectrum disorder. Essentially, people are now diagnosed as having “schizophrenia with hallucinations”, rather than being narrowly classified into one of the following subtypes.

However, those previous subtypes are still useful to understand the different forms that schizophrenia can take and they include paranoid, catatonic, childhood, and disorganized schizophrenia, as well as schizoaffective disorder. Let’s take a look.

Paranoid Schizophrenia

In this variety, patients experience delusions or false beliefs that people may be conspiring or plotting against them, their family, or those close to them. This variety of the disorder is characterized by extremely high-stress levels and an obsessive desire to uncover the plot being hatched against them. Delusions are the main schizophrenic symptom in this subtype.

Catatonic Schizophrenia

This subtype involves the opposite extremes of physical behavior. Symptoms can range from obsessive or repetitive motor movements to complete catatonia, where the patient may completely shut down in terms of speaking, moving or interacting in any way. This type of catatonic symptom is not unique to schizophrenia, which makes it harder to use this symptom for an accurate diagnosis.

Disorganized Schizophrenia

In this type of schizophrenia, patients are unable to properly formulate their thoughts and actions, leading to illogical or incoherent speech and behavior. This can inhibit a person’s ability to behave normally, prepare their own meals, maintain proper hygiene or cleanliness in their home, and complete sensible communication with others.

Childhood Schizophrenia

Although it is quite rare for children to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, it does occur in a small number of cases – less than .1%. An accurate diagnosis of schizophrenia in children requires treatment, or the risk of severe and long-term schizophrenia is much higher.

Schizoaffective Disorder

Considered one of the most severe forms of this disorder, the schizoaffective disorder often includes the entire range of schizophrenic symptoms, including mood disorder symptoms and psychotic symptoms. This will include a combination of hallucinations, delusions, depression, mania, and other mood disorder characteristics.

Symptoms

There are three main categories of schizophrenic symptoms: positive, negative, and cognitive. Let’s take a look at them below.

Negative

Negative schizophrenic symptoms are characterized by a loss of normal behavior or thought patterns, a disinterest in previously enjoyed activities, and a general dulling of the personality. This can manifest in the loss of speech and motor functions, social apathy, lifelessness, lack of attention or social drive, and an inability to complete tasks.

Positive

Positive schizophrenic symptoms are defined as additional thoughts or behaviors outside of the “norm” for an individual. This may include hallucinations, delusions, irrational or racing thoughts, paranoia, and manic behaviors. These types of symptoms may reach levels of harm to others or to oneself.

Cognitive

People showing these types of symptoms may experience an inability to concentrate or complete normal tasks, difficulty following instructions, and disorganized thoughts, which can lead to frustrating social and interpersonal interactions.

Causes

In the past, one of the great debates in mental health circles has been centered on the cause of schizophrenia. It is generally understood to be within the bio-psycho-social model, meaning that it is driven by a combination of psychological, genetic and social factors.

Biological

When it comes to a genetic predisposition to this disorder, there are clear signs that some of the effects are based on genetics. If one of your close family members suffers from schizophrenia, you have a 50% better chance of also suffering from this condition. There are more than a dozen different genes that appear to be linked to schizophrenia, some of which may be epigenetically connected – meaning that some may be modulated on or off – based on the presence of other molecules in the body. However, the biological explanation for schizophrenia is only half the story.

Environmental

Studies have shown that even people with the genes for schizophrenia will not necessarily experience any of the symptoms of this disorder. Environmental and social factors, including stability of home life, physical abuse, substance abuse, social exposure, birth season, infantile infections, prenatal complications, and social class can all have an impact on the severity, type, and manifestation of this mental disorder.

Although it has been difficult to pinpoint an exact cause of schizophrenia, it is believed to be the combinative result of various social, environmental, and biological factors. It is important to get diagnosed if you suspect yourself or someone close to you suffering from this condition. Medical help is available for all kinds of ailments, be it physical or mental.

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About the Author

Vanya Sharma handles the medical expert collaboration for Organic Facts. She is also responsible for the website’s monthly newsletter and website content and contributes to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube regularly. A writer at heart, she joined the website while she was still pursuing her English Literature degree from IGNOU, Delhi, India. Vanya has completed the “Introduction to Food and Health” certificate program from Stanford University, US. She aims to bring unbiased and helpful information to all those seeking to make their health and lifestyle a priority.

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