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Schizophrenia symptoms fall into three broad categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.
Psychotic, or "positive," symptoms include:
- Delusions (bizarre thoughts that have no basis in reality)
- Hallucinations (hearing voices, seeing nonexistent things, and experiencing sensations, such as burning, that have no source)
- Disordered thinking (apparent from a person's fragmented, disconnected and sometimes nonsensical speech).
"Negative" symptoms include things like:
- Social withdrawal
- Extreme apathy
- Diminished motivation
- Blunted emotional expression.
These symptoms are harder to recognize as part of the disorder and can be mistaken for laziness or depression.
Cognitive symptoms (or cognitive deficits) are problems with attention, certain types of memory, and the executive functions that allow us to plan and organize. Cognitive deficits can also be difficult to recognize as part of schizophrenia but are the most disabling in terms of leading a normal life.
Schizophrenia is diagnosed in someone with active schizophrenic symptoms (such as a psychotic episode) for at least two weeks, with other symptoms lasting six months.
People who have schizophrenia often require medication to control the most troubling symptoms. Antipsychotic medications help bring biochemical imbalances closer to normal. The newer drugs may also be effective for symptoms such as social withdrawal, extreme apathy, and blunted emotional expression. Other similar drugs are currently being developed.