How can you identify Schizophrenia?

The onset of schizophrenia is gradual and not dramatic. However there are a few common symptoms which mark the illness.

Loss of interest and social withdrawal: 

The person starts losing interest in his work, studies, family and friends. He is unable to concentrate, is irritable or looks vacant when questioned, stops going to work, often spends time wandering aimlessly or doing nothing, looking  preoccupied or lost in thought. This is usually accompanied by a sharp fall in academic or work performance, disturbed sleep patterns and loss of appetite. The individual also begins to withdraw into  himself, to shun company and social interaction of any sort.

Sometimes schizophrenia is identified by the patient’s  fixed belief in something that is obviously untrue.  He may believe that he is being persecuted, that people are conspiring against him at work; he may suspect his spouse’s fidelity and many take to watching her constantly; he may believe his thoughts are being controlled by some external force for instance, that a radio receiver is planted in his head. These beliefs will not be shaken  by attempts to reason with him.

During the ‘acute’ phase of the illness the patient often hears voices in his head and begins responding to them. He is seen apparently talking to himself but in a disjointed way, often laughing, gesturing ,smiling.
Sometime the patient sees frightening figures, in his fear he may become uncontrollable and be driven to violence, even attempting suicide.

Disinterest in personal hygiene:
In the later stages, the patient refuses to bathe or keep himself clean, loses interest in his physical appearance and that of his surroundings.

Inability to express emotion: 
The patient becomes emotionally ‘blunted’ – he is unable to express appropriate emotion and does not appear to be in touch with outer reality. It is not often that all the symptoms listed appear in any one individual. But if any of these symptoms can be identified, then it is imperative that the First Step be taken.