Under the Hood

How To Identify Schizophrenia: 5 Early Warning Signs

Excluding the factor of age, schizophrenia typically affects all groups equally regardless of gender and race. The mental disorder, which is characterized by distorted thinking and perception, usually starts between the ages of 16 and 30. Currently, approximately 1 percent of Americans have schizophrenia.

While the exact cause of the disorder is unknown, genetic and environmental factors are believed to be catalysts. It is more likely to affect those with a schizophrenic family member or an elderly father, as well as those who experienced increased immune system activation or mind-altering drug exposure during their adolescent years.

There is no method to prevent schizophrenia, but early treatment can significantly improve long-term outlook. Here are five possible warning signs that may help identify the disorder:

Social withdrawal

The person at risk may begin to avoid social interaction with family and friends, spending most of their time in isolation. Progressively, this could affect their schedule as they may start skipping school, work, and social events. 

The affected person may also start feeling indifferent to important situations or uncharacteristically lose interest in hobbies, passions, and ambitions they previously nurtured.

Poor hygiene

Deterioration of personal hygiene is considered one of the earliest warning signs of depression and schizophrenia. The affected person may slowly stop performing basic activities such as bathing themselves, brushing their teeth or changing their clothes. 

It stems from internal factors like apathy, emotional flatness and self-neglect, but can also be influenced by social isolation. In some cases, the person may not even be aware of their poor hygiene and appearance.

Preoccupation with religion and supernaturalism

Medical literature has revealed a significant link between religion and various aspects of schizophrenia.

“Patients with schizophrenia also exhibit religious delusions and hallucinations. Further, there is some evidence to suggest that religion influences the level of psychopathology,” wrote the authors of a 2014 literature review.

This symptom occurs due to paranoia and an increasing disconnection from reality. In the early stages, a person may show signs of delusion such as a feeling of being haunted by evil spirits or mystic beings, excessive thoughts about supernatural forces, believing they have magical powers etc.

Odd movements

Certain movements or expressions, typically involuntary, have been observed from early stages in schizophrenia patients. Vacant facial expressions, twitching in the corners of the mouth, and infrequent blinking are commonly associated with the disorder.

Other physical manifestations include declining motor skills, constant pacing, and jerking of the limbs that resemble a tremor.

Auditory hallucinations

Hallucinations in schizophrenics can involve any of the five senses, but auditory ones are the most common. More than 70 percent of schizophrenic patients reported hearing voices. Such internal disturbances can lead to disrupted thoughts, loss of concentration, and poor memory.

A related symptom is thought insertion, which can be defined as the delusional feeling that one's thoughts are not their own but are being "inserted" from elsewhere. This is commonly associated with schizophrenia, though not specific to it.

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