What is schizophrenia?

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

Page last updated: May 2007

The major symptoms of schizophrenia include:

  • Delusions - false beliefs of persecution, guilt or grandeur, or being under outside control. People with schizophrenia may describe plots against them or think they have special gifts and powers. Sometimes they withdraw from people or hide to avoid imagined persecution.
  • Hallucinations - most commonly involve hearing voices. Other less common experiences can include seeing, feeling, tasting or smelling things that to the person are very real, but that are not actually there.
  • Thought disorder - where speech may be difficult to follow with no logical connection. Thoughts and speech may be jumbled and disjointed.
Other symptoms of schizophrenia include:
  • Lack of drive - where the ability to engage in everyday activities, such as washing and cooking, is lost. This lack of drive, motivation and initiative is part of the illness, and is not laziness.
  • Thinking difficulties - a person’s concentration, memory, and ability to plan and organise may be affected. This makes it more difficult to reason, communicate, and complete daily tasks.
  • Blunted expression of emotions - where the ability to express emotion is greatly reduced. This is often accompanied by an inappropriate response to happy or sad occasions.
  • Social withdrawal - this may be caused by a number of factors including the fear that someone is going to harm them, or a fear of interacting with other people because of a loss of social skills.
  • Lack of insight - because some experiences, such as delusions and hallucinations, are so real, it is common for people with schizophrenia to be unaware that they are ill. This can be very distressing for family and carers. Lack of awareness can be a reason that people with schizophrenia refuse to accept treatment that could be helpful. The unwanted side-effects of some medications can also contribute to treatment refusal.