What Are the Early Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 2.4 million adults in America suffer from schizophrenia, a group of severe brain disorders in which people abnormally interpret reality 2. Schizophrenia is diagnosed usually in the late teens or early twenties, and symptoms can include hallucinations and disordered thinking 12. Knowing the early symptoms can help to get treatment promptly and improve patient outcomes.

Physical Changes

According to the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO), there are often physical symptoms that present as a precursor to schizophrenia 2. These early signs can include a blank, vacant stare and a loss of coordination. There may be sudden uncontrollable movements of the tongue and parkinsonian-type symptoms, such as rigidity, tremors, jerking arm movements or involuntary movements of the limbs. When a healthy person begins to exhibit these signs, further evaluation may be necessary.

Changes in Emotions

Early signs of schizophrenia may present as a sudden change in emotion 12. Many schizophrenics show an abrupt lack of interest in previous activities. They may appear indifferent, lacking in emotion or may seem to lack the ability to experience pleasure. Depersonalization--in which the person begins to feel detached from his own body--may occur.

Changes in Mood

Often, a person with schizophrenia will seem to become a complete stranger overnight 2. IMHRO reports that early warning signs will show patients displaying uncharacteristic behaviors such as hostility, paranoia, resentment and irritability 1. They may present with depression or rapid changes in mood or severe anxiety. It is not uncommon for schizophrenics to become suicidal in the early stages of the disease.

Cognitive Changes

Cognitive changes accompany the physical, behavioral and emotional changes. Sufferers of schizophrenia may begin to string incoherent or unrelated words together 2. They may exhibit racing thoughts, have difficulty focusing, display nonsensical logic, exhibit obsessive-compulsive tendencies and have difficulty understanding simple things.

Behavioral Changes

According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the behavioral changes include neglect in hygiene, a lack of emotion, a withdrawal from social activities and sudden loss of motivation 2. There will be obvious changes in behavior. Sufferers may show a sudden loss in job or school performance, inappropriate responses, such as laughing at a sad event or crying for seemingly no reason. They may begin to stare off into the distance for hours. They may begin to abuse drugs and alcohol.