Schizophrenia has three types of symptoms: negative, positive, and cognitive. Positive symptoms indicate novel or exaggerated experiences such as hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia.
Positive symptoms include exaggerated reactions that make it difficult to function. Negative symptoms are those that indicate a lack of functioning, while cognitive symptoms are those that affect your thinking processes.
Positive symptoms are usually the addition of something outside of what a person without schizophrenia would experience. For example, if you live with schizophrenia, you may see or hear things that are not there.
Because of the nature of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, many people are unaware of their diagnosis or have difficulty understanding it. However, treatment options are available, and you can manage symptoms effectively with a health care team and the right tools.
Positive symptoms of schizophrenia can include:
- Hallucinations. These are perceptions based on sensory information that are not real.
- Delusions. These are beliefs that are not true and that cannot be overcome by logic.
- Paranoia. This is a deep distrust or distrust of others.
We’ll take a closer look at these symptoms below.
Hallucinations are a positive symptom of schizophrenia that may make you struggle to tell the difference between what is real and what is not. Hallucinations often arise as a result of an imaginary sensory perception.
Many types of hallucinations can occur:
- Visual hallucinations. Things are seen that are not really there, such as shadows or figures.
- Acoustic hallucinations. This includes hearing things that aren’t really there, such as voices speaking to you.
- Tactile hallucinations. These are touch sensations that aren’t actually there, such as the feeling of bugs crawling on your skin.
- Olfactory hallucinations. This includes smelling things that aren’t actually there, that are usually unpleasant, like rotten food, gasoline, or smoke.
Hallucinations can be scary because you may not know you are hallucinating.
Some people with schizophrenia also experience command hallucinations when their hallucination – like a voice – tells them to do something. When people experience the hallucinations of command, they are sometimes told to harm themselves or others. If this happens to you or someone you know, it is important to seek help for your safety.
If you are faced with any mental illness or substance use disorder, you can call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 800-662-4357. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be called 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.
Delusions are simply false beliefs that demonstrate imprecise thought processes in people diagnosed with schizophrenia. Often times when you have delusions you will fail to understand that what you are experiencing is not right. In addition, you may not respond to logic that contradicts your delusional belief.
There are several categories of delusions:
- Paranoia. These delusions include believing that someone is after you or that you are being attacked or bullied in some way.
- Grandiose delusions. These are also known as megalomania and occur when you think you have special or unusual powers.
- Religious delusions. These include a belief that is religious in nature and does not appear in a broader cultural context.
- Somatic delusions. These include believing that you have a physical condition or that something is wrong with your body when there is no evidence to suggest it.
- Referential delusions. These indicate that you believe that ordinary events affect you in ways that have hidden meaning.
- Eromaniac delusions. These indicate that you believe someone is in love with you, even though there is no evidence to back it up.
Paranoia is a cognitive phenomenon in which a person feels a deep distrust or distrust of others. People who suffer from paranoia may think that others are getting it or that they are hurting in some way. Paranoia and delusions can be similar, as paranoia can develop into delusional thoughts.
Many treatments can help alleviate the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a lot of research suggests that a combination of treatments called coordinated special care may be effective for people with psychosis.
Medication, psychotherapy, family support and education, confident community treatment, case management services, and supported employment are common treatments for schizophrenia.
Antipsychotics are an option for relieving symptoms of schizophrenia, according to Mental Health America. These medications can be typical or atypical, and both can help manage positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
Typical antipsychotics can treat positive symptoms. Some typical standard antipsychotics are:
Atypical antipsychotics can treat both positive and negative symptoms. Some standard antipsychotics include:
It can take a while to find the right medication for you as not everyone reacts to medication in the same way. Therefore, it is important to speak to your psychiatrist or doctor to determine which medications may be most helpful in reducing the positive symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying patterns in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and on how to deal with unhelpful thinking. Then you and your therapist can find solutions that include reframing and coping methods.
Cognitive enhancement therapy
Research suggests that cognitive enhancement therapy (CET) improves emotion regulation in people with schizophrenia by improving prefrontal cortex function. This therapy uses group sessions and computerized brain training.
Family support and education
Family Support and Education focuses on developing family support for the person with schizophrenia. In addition, the program includes teaching signs, symptoms, and strategies for effectively dealing with schizophrenia.
People with schizophrenia can use these services individually or in groups.
Confident interaction with the community
An ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) team provides specialized personalized services to the person diagnosed with schizophrenia. ACT teams are multidisciplinary that involve psychiatrists, therapists, and case managers.
Members of this team can be involved in supporting:
- Drug management
- Help a person through a crisis
- helping a person with daily tasks to function
Case management services
Case management services for people with schizophrenia help address social service needs and provide additional ongoing support. For example, case managers can convey the individual life skills or help them to get to the necessary doctor’s appointments.
Supported employment programs help people with mental illnesses achieve their work or career goals. Supportive employment programs often involve quick placement in work or educational programs. The person then receives ongoing coaching and support throughout the employment.
If you have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, there are several ways to get help.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, support is available. Just knowing that you are not alone can make a world of difference.
Consider reaching out to one of the resources listed below: