Schizophrenia is a very complex psychiatric condition and its earliest symptoms may be diverse. While there is a general tendency of co-appearance, there are numerous cases when patients experience just one type or take no notice of others. Among the most frequent signals that a person might be developing schizophrenia we can enumerate the following:
– Delusions and hallucinations – they can be either visual or auditory, or both;
– Disorganization of behavior – frequent mood swings, inability to perform basic activities such as proper dressing, formulating thoughts or organizing a working day;
– Self-isolation – patient avoids crowds and people’s company in general, frequently becomes absorbed in his/her own thoughts and fails to respond to inquiries;
The above symptoms will be lasting for the period of at least six months and they can affect the patient either sporadically or continuously. Already at this stage professional counseling from a community psychiatrist should be delivered to the patient as well as his relatives. The family, if supportive of the psychiatric treatment, will be instructed by medical practitioners about working regime and daily routine that are advised for a particular patient.
History of psychiatry notes several crucial methods employed by researches for the purpose of proper classification of early sings of schizophrenia. One of them, still popular nowadays, was proposed by Kurt Schneider. Schneiderian classification lays emphasis on so-called first rank symptoms which are concerned with false believes patients assume about reality. Delusions of being controlled by external forces, the obsession about conspiracies and other uncontrollable dangers prevail at an early stage of the illness. The patient will manifest his distrustful attitude quite confidently and will often refer to “voices” which inform him about other people’s intentions. Schneider’s first rank symptoms are analogical to what contemporary psychiatry describes as “positive symptoms”. Currently, more consideration is given to so-called “negative symptoms” as they are connected with a grave loss of personality and basic abilities patient enjoyed previously. Apart from hallucinations, intellectual regression as well as gradual loss of personal independence and self-reliance can be noticed both by the patient and his/her communal environment.
However, symptoms characteristic for schizophrenia are often recorded with respect to many other psychiatric conditions connected mostly with personality disorders. Therefore, excessive reliance on theory may lead diagnosis in the wrong direction and postpone scheduling an appropriate therapy. It is, therefore, advised to perform a detailed interview with both the patient and his closest family members and the forthcoming medical results ought to be periodically tested against possible new circumstances. In order to properly assess the actual situation of the patient several variations should be considered and neurological examinations should be performed accordingly.