Discovery Fit & Health
Diagnosing schizophrenia is not a simple process, even for professionals. No single questionnaire, laboratory or imaging examination can make a definite diagnosis of this complex mental illness [source: National Alliance on Mental Illness]. You might be able to tell, however, if someone you know has schizophrenia by determining whether she has some or all of the following symptoms:
- Positive symptoms, also sometimes called "psychotic" symptoms, or exaggerated and distorted types of normal behavior, that include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech and catatonia (lack of movement or purposeless movement)
- Negative symptoms, or absence of normal behaviors, such as being able to express emotions and apathy and difficulty enjoying the usual pleasures of life
- Cognitive symptoms, such as a shorter attention span than others around you, memory problems or difficulties in planning
Obviously, only a trained health care professional can make a diagnosis that is based on the latest scientific knowledge and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM goes into more detail on specific symptoms to help professionals sort through a person's symptoms and determine if they are from schizophrenia or some other cause. Still, it helps for friend and family members to be aware of the common symptoms, particularly if they live with someone who may have schizophrenia.
People with schizophrenia often are very isolated because it's not easy to live with their symptoms, especially if they have delusions and hallucinations. Schizophrenia doesn't tend to cause someone to become violent if he didn't have violent tendencies before, but a person with schizophrenia may have a tendency to turn against friends and family if she abuses drugs or alcohol. People with schizophrenia are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else. One in 10 people with schizophrenia commit suicide, and it's believed that many more attempt to do so [source: NIMH]. Family and friends of people with schizophrenia are encouraged to be supportive but are advised against playing along with the distorted reality of a schizophrenic's world. Family and friends can also help set realistic goals.
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