Symptoms of Schizophrenia: Positive and Negative

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  • 0:07 Schizophrenia Symptoms
  • 1:38 Positive Symptoms
  • 3:48 Negative Symptoms
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

The symptoms of schizophrenia can be divided into two types, positive and negative. In this lesson, we'll look at both types of symptoms, examples of each, and how drugs impact each type of symptom.


Hattie's family knows there's something wrong with her. They bring her to a psychologist with complaints about her behavior. She says she hears voices that she believes are real, and she believes that God has chosen her to bring justice on the world for the sins she sees around her.

In addition, she speaks in a monotone voice and shows very little emotion. She doesn't seem motivated to make friends or do any of the things that normal 19-year-olds do. She doesn't take care of herself, and someone has to stand beside her to make her brush her teeth or take a shower.

Hattie's psychologist listens to Hattie's family - and to Hattie herself - describe her symptoms and then makes a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that is associated with many symptoms, including hallucinations and delusions.

The symptoms of schizophrenia can be divided into two types: positive and negative. These are not positive and negative like you might think; a positive symptom is not necessarily good, for example. In the case of schizophrenia and other psychological disorders, a positive symptom is one that adds a behavior, thought or feeling, whereas a negative symptom takes away a behavior, thought or feeling.

In Hattie's case, the voices she hears are a positive symptom; they are something added that most normal people do not experience. On the other hand, her lack of emotion is a negative symptom; feelings are a normal thing, and here, they've been taken away. Let's look closer at both the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

Positive Symptoms

As we said, positive symptoms are when something is added to a person's experience that is not normally experienced by other people. Most people associate schizophrenia with the positive symptoms of the disorder.

Hallucinations are perceptions that are not real but feel real. For example, Hattie hears voices that she thinks are real. That's because, to her, they are real. The voices in her head sound exactly like the voices from people outside of her, because her brain activity is the same whether she's listening to the hallucination or to the real world.

Hallucinations come in several forms. The most common form in schizophrenic patients is auditory hallucinations, or hearing things that aren't real, like Hattie does. But visual hallucinations, or seeing things that aren't real, are also sometimes present in schizophrenia.

Another positive symptom of schizophrenia is delusions, or believing in something false even when evidence points to the fact that it is not true. In Hattie's case, she has delusions that she's chosen by God to punish the world for its sins. This is a self-aggrandizing delusion. Another common type of delusion for schizophrenic patients is paranoid delusions, or a delusion that someone is out to get you.

Thought Disorders are also common in schizophrenia and involve thinking in a dysfunctional way. Since no one can see the thoughts of others, thought disorders are often diagnosed based on the way people talk. One type of thought disorder, disorganized thoughts, involves being unable to logically connect thoughts. As a result, people with disorganized thoughts might speak in a garbled way and not make much sense.

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