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You are here:DisordersSchizophreniaWhat are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?

Mental health professionals talk about ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ symptoms when talking about schizophrenia. The general public are probably more aware of the ‘positive’ symptoms.

Positive symptoms are those that add something to someone’s reality. And are not believed to be ‘real’ and are not experienced by other people.

Negative symptoms can affect how someone functions and how they live their day-to-day life.

Not everyone with schizophrenia experiences all the different symptoms. Everyone is different.

Positive symptoms

Most people think of ‘hearing voices’ when they think of schizophrenia as it’s the most common hallucination someone can experience.

But there are other ways someone may experience a positive symptom that adds to their reality.

Positive symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations - these can take the form of something you hear, see, taste, feel or smell
  • Delusions – fixed beliefs that do not match up to how other people experience reality
  • Disorganised thinking – this can affect how you communicate, and can mean that other people struggle to understand what you’re trying to say


A hallucination is something that is not in many other people’s experience of reality.

One of the most common hallucinations is hearing voices. These can be different for different people, they can sound male or female. They can have an accent or speak a different language. They can say different things.

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I could hear people I know talking to me. It was a constant dialogue that I didn’t understand.

Voices are with you from the moment you get up to the moment you go to sleep. They tell you to do things straight way, they threaten you. They tell you if you don’t do what they say something bad will happen.

Often voices say things that are cruel and punishing and can be very distressing to experience.

Therapy can help someone to feel that hearing voices is ordinary and not something to be ashamed of. Something that can be actively dealt with rather than something that feels overwhelming.


A delusion is something fixed that you believe about the world in a concrete way. But it is something that doesn’t match up to how other people experience the world.

Someone may have a delusion that they are being chased, plotted against, famous and important or that the television is sending them special messages.

Experiencing delusions can feel overwhelming and can cause some people to behave differently.

Disorganised thinking

When you are experiencing disorganised thinking it can affect how you talk. You may jump from one subject to the next very quickly. Or you may talk very slowly or very fast.

Negative symptoms

The negative symptoms associated with having schizophrenia affect how someone can live their life, these include:

  • A lack of motivation
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Poor grooming or hygiene
  • Less interest in going out and socialising
  • No eye contact
  • Little communication
  • A reduced range of emotions
  • Limited concentration
  • Poor decision making

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