Schizophrenia is a mental health condition defined by a breakdown in the relation of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. As a lifelong illness, people tend to experience both positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
Throughout this article, we’ll take a deeper look at these positive and negative symptoms along with how to treat them. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What are the Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
There are two sets of negative symptoms that are categorized as so: ¹
- Primary Negative Symptoms – Those related to the disorder itself.
- Secondary Negative Symptoms – Those related to other aspects of day-to-day life, such as:
Negative symptoms are difficult to address as they don’t always outwardly appear. For example, someone who doesn’t show facial expressions may not necessarily lack emotions, but rather be struggling with a severe emotional state. ²
The consistency of negative symptoms vary. Some will experience them all the time where others will have severe bouts followed by remissions.
Schizophrenia’s most common negative symptoms include:
- Alogia (inability to speak due to disorganized thoughts)
- Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)
- Doesn’t gesture when communicating
- Inability to make eye contact
- Inexpressive face
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of interest in the world
- Monotone speech
- Physical inactivity
- Reduced sense of purpose
- Social withdrawal
- Unable to act spontaneously
What are Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
While negative symptoms are difficult to distinguish, positive symptoms are what we often associate with schizophrenia. The most common include: ³
- Delusions – Holding believes that aren’t supported by facts. For example, your irrational fears from believing things you see on television may lead to paranoia. ⁴
- Hallucinations – Hearing and seeing things that aren’t actually there.
- Thought Disorder – Disorganized thoughts that carry over into the way you communicate.
Other positive symptoms include:
- Agitated body movements
- Inappropriate emotions for specific situations
- Strange ideas and plans
Since positive symptoms are more apparent, this is what mental health professionals will look for when coming to a schizophrenia diagnosis.
Positive vs. Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
If you’re looking to diagnose schizophrenia, you’re going to seek out what positive symptoms a person struggles with. Beyond the fact that these are more apparent, they’re also unique in the sense that the average person doesn’t experience them.
On the other hand, negative symptoms are not only easier to overlook, but also more common among the general population. With that said, it can be difficult for doctors to see these symptoms and automatically assume it’s schizophrenia. Furthermore, some negative symptoms are common in other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder.
What are Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia?
Along with positive and negative, people with schizophrenia may also struggle with cognitive symptoms. These include:
- Difficulty focusing or paying attention
- Issues with information immediately after learning it
- Unable to process information in order to make decisions
While cognitive symptoms are usually subtle, they can appear in conversations or when someone with schizophrenia learns new information. However, these symptoms replicate other mental illnesses (such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and, therefore, cannot be used alone to diagnose schizophrenia.
Examples of Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Since negative symptoms are difficult to recognize, it can help to understand common behaviors of these symptoms:
- Appearing Apathetic – While this doesn’t indicate true apathy, people with schizophrenia may appear emotionless in serious situations.
- Difficulty with Diet – You may find yourself eating too much or too little. While it depends on your diet, some foods can exasperate schizophrenia symptoms. ⁵
- Inability to Communicate – As mentioned, some people with schizophrenia struggle with conversations as their speech and thoughts are disorganized. ⁶
- Lack of Personal Hygiene – With disorganized thoughts, it may be difficult to properly take care of yourself.
- Lack of Productivity – Spend most of the day lying around, inability to find something to do or complete tasks (procrastination).
- Sleep Problems – Not getting enough sleep or getting too much sleep. Up to 80% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia will experience some degree of insomnia. ⁷
- Withdrawal from Social Situations – Since this often leads to isolation, people with schizophrenia are vulnerable to depression. ⁸
Furthermore, negative emotions may present themselves in other ways, such as a person’s inability to make eye contact or properly respond to questions.
How to Treat Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Since negative symptoms are directly linked to positive ones, doctors will address them within schizophrenia treatment itself. It’s vital to understand that schizophrenia is a lifelong condition and, therefore, treatment will need to be consistent.
Currently, doctors treat schizophrenia with: ⁹
- Medication – While most doctors prescribe antipsychotics to treat positive symptoms, you may receive other medication if you struggle with another mental illness.
- Psychotherapy – Meant to address symptoms of positive and negative symptoms. The type of therapy you’ll attend will be based on your needs. For example, some people benefit more from group therapy rather than individual therapy.
However, some negative emotions may not appear until after you start treatment. Recent research has found a link between certain antipsychotics and the development of negative emotions. ¹⁰
Due to this, your doctor may prescribe other antipsychotics, such as cariprazine (Vraylar) which has been found to improve negative symptoms.
Natural Remedies for Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Alongside traditional treatment, many have found natural remedies to help with negative symptoms. While more research is necessary, the following supplements have been found to help ease schizophrenia symptoms:
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Furthermore, some holistic treatments have also been found useful:
- Change in diet
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Crisis intervention
- Stress management techniques (i.e. exercise)
- Specific coping mechanisms (i.e. avoiding alcohol and drugs)
Since schizophrenia is a lifelong condition, you’re best bet at easing negative symptoms requires you to make positive lifestyle changes.
Negative symptoms of schizophrenia can be just as damaging as positive ones. However, with the right techniques, you can overcome them all-the-same.
While a doctor may not initially recognize your negative symptoms, you should keep track of them if you notice any. This may involve you writing them down in a journal and presenting them when you see a psychiatrist.
If you’re currently treating schizophrenia, chances are you’re already addressing negative symptoms to some degree. However, if you find some negative symptoms appearing after treatment, it’s extremely important to discuss these with a mental health professional.
Still have questions concerning negative symptoms of schizophrenia?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment (Dovepress): Negative Symptoms in Schizophrenia: A Review and Clinical Guide for Recognition, Assessment, and Treatment
² Schizophrenia bulletin: Facial expressions of emotions and schizophrenia: a review
³ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Schizophrenia
⁴ Industrial Psychiatry Journal: Understanding delusions
⁵ Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment (Dovepress): Dietary patterns and schizophrenia: a comparison with healthy controls
⁷ Medicines (MDPI): Pharmacologic Treatment Options for Insomnia in Patients with Schizophrenia
⁸ frontiers in Psychiatry: Schizophrenia and Depression Co-Morbidity: What We have Learned from Animal Models
⁹ Pharmacy & Therapeutics: Schizophrenia: Overview and Treatment Options
¹⁰ Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment (Dovepress): Pharmacological treatment of negative symptoms in schizophrenia: update and proposal of a clinical algorithm