Schizophrenia: Definition & Overview

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  • 0:03 Schizophrenia
  • 0:56 Positive Symptoms
  • 1:51 Negative Symptoms
  • 2:36 Types of Schizophrenia
  • 3:46 Causes
  • 4:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Bautista
Our perception of schizophrenia is largely shaped by what we see in the movies. Is schizophrenia more than just a 'hallucination' disease? Check out this lesson to find out about the different types of schizophrenia.


In the 2002 movie A Beautiful Mind, genius mathematician John Nash arrives at Princeton and befriends his roommate, Charles. Charles is funny, charming... the two get along well. It is very unsettling when, later on the movie, Nash is told that he never had a roommate at Princeton. He had a single room. Charles had been a hallucination, a symptom of the schizophrenia that Nash was beginning to suffer.

Schizophrenia is known as a psychotic disorder, characterized by patients who lose touch with reality. It's more common in men than in women and tends to develop in men at an earlier age, between 20 and 28, while in women it typically develops between the ages of 26 and 32. Reasons for this gender difference in onset, as well as in brain structure and response to treatment, are not well understood.

Positive Symptoms

In the movies, these kinds of visual hallucinations are striking - but often overstated - representations of what it's like to live with schizophrenia. In reality, most patients, including Nash, experience auditory hallucinations only, though hallucinations may occur in any of the senses. They are known as positive symptoms of schizophrenia, or symptoms that are more than what a normal person experiences. Hearing a voice offering running commentary on your behavior (rather like the annoying director's commentary on a DVD), or hearing several voices talking amongst themselves, are additional sensations that most people don't have. Other positive symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions - thinking you're someone you're not, thinking that the government is trying to take your refrigerator - and disordered thought or speech, which is what it sounds like: patterns of thought or speech that others can't follow or make sense of.

Negative Symptoms

There are also negative symptoms of schizophrenia, which are defined - not surprisingly - as symptoms that make a patient's experience less than other people's. One of these is blunted affect, or emotions that don't seem to run the full range or are experienced less intensely. Similar to blunted affect is anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure. Social withdrawal and lack of motivation are other negative symptoms, though perhaps consequences themselves of a blunted emotional experience and inability to experience pleasure. Some patients stop speaking entirely, known as alogia. Still others descend to a near catatonic state, in which they are entirely unresponsive to the world around them.

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