The early signs of schizophrenia typically happen in the late teen years, and or in someone’s early adulthood. In many cases, they are pretty tough to spot unless you are very familiar with the illness. Another reason that it can be difficult to spot early warning signs of the illness has to do with the fact that teenagers experience a variety of mood swings and eccentric behavior.
In general, men tend to show warning signs of schizophrenia earlier than women, but there’s really no set age for illness onset. The period before actual symptoms of schizophrenia symptoms appear is known as the “prodromal” phase. During this time a doctor or professional may diagnose someone as exhibiting signs of “premorbid” schizophrenia if they think that the condition may develop.
Sometimes an antipsychotic medication may be prescribed in order to delay the onset of symptoms. The prodromal phase typically lasts anywhere from 2 to 5 years before full blown schizophrenia develops. In men these signs typically appear from age 20 to 25 and in women from age 25 to 30. Unfortunately although we do not know what causes schizophrenia, there is documentation of many common early signs that someone may be developing this illness.
Early Signs of Schizophrenia: The Warning Symptoms
It should be noted that many of these symptoms can be indicators of something as simple as major depression. However, when odd behaviors are coupled with isolation, preoccupation with religion, and the person drops out of all normal societal functions, this is a red flag for the possible development of schizophrenia.
- Bizarre Behavior: Unusual behavior: The person may exhibit “odd” or “unusual” behaviors that may make no sense. For example they may wear their pajamas backwards to work. They will do things that make zero logical sense and just seem weird.
- Cognitive Decline: It will be noted that the person experiences significant decline in mental performance. They may not be able to concentrate, cope with problems, and may drop out of school or life. They may also experience a significant degree of confusion and may easily lose things.
- Depression: The person typically displays significant signs of depression before the disease develops. The individual may appear emotionless and/or in a state of deep despair.
- Drug Abuse: Many people with schizophrenia turn to drugs to alleviate their mental pain. In some ways this is viewed as self-medicating. However, it should be noted that in some cases illicit drug abuse could cause or exacerbate psychotic symptoms.
- Flat Affect: The person may talk or appear emotionally flat – as if they have zero emotion or life. They may also gaze at you as though they are lost or clueless. They may not be able to cry or express any form of happiness or excitement. This flat emotion may contribute to an odd, flat speech as well.
- Hearing Voices: Most people that have schizophrenia experience auditory hallucinations at some point. Although hearing voices in your head does not always indicate mental illness, if these voices are destructive in nature and encouraging self-harm or dangerous behavior, they are a likely indicator of this illness.
- Inappropriate Emotion: For example during a time of sadness or someone’s death a person with this condition may laugh or chuckle. They may express inappropriate emotions at times that clearly do not fit their reaction.
- Magical Thinking: This is when someone thinks that they have special or supernatural powers. They may assume that other people are jealous of their supernatural “powers.” This shows a gross disconnect with reality.
- Paranoia: The person may believe that others are talking behind their back. They may also develop intricate theories about others trying to poison them or hack their thoughts. Many people with paranoia believe they are being followed by government officials or that people are plotting against them.
- Poor Hygiene: The individual’s personal hygiene may go downhill fast. They may no longer shower, trim their hair, brush their teeth, or take care of themselves. They may totally neglect their personal hygiene and appearance for long periods of time.
- Preoccupied with Religion or Occult: One major early sign of schizophrenia is if the person becomes obsessed with religion and/or the occult. If you notice this behavior, it is important to definitely take note.
- Relationship Deterioration: Social relationships will significantly deteriorate – the person may not socialize at all and may prefer to be alone.
- Social Isolation: The person will withdraw from social activities and isolate themselves from society. They may skip school, work, and/or other activities that involve talking to other people.
- Sleep Changes: The person may sleep excessively or be unable to sleep for very long.
- Suicidal Behavior: The person may self-harm and/or be involved with accidents that cause damage to their body. A common example could be cutting oneself. The person may also exhibit suicidal thinking.
It should be noted that many of these symptoms listed are not necessarily indicators of schizophrenia alone. There are many people that withdraw from social activities, become depressed, and sleep a lot because they are anxious, have depression, or another mental illness. However, if you experience many of these symptoms together, it is a likely indicator of schizophrenia.
What to do if you see early signs of schizophrenia in someone?
If you see someone else exhibiting early signs of schizophrenia, you may want to recommend that they get in for proper psychological evaluation. If they do have schizophrenia or some other condition, most professionals will be able to tell what is going on.
Treatment for the condition as soon as possible is associated with better functioning in society and a more favorable prognosis. If the individual has a family history of schizophrenia and they are showing the early warning signs and symptoms, it is likely that they are developing the same condition as there is a genetic link.
Most people with the early warning signs of schizophrenia are not aware of their condition. It typically takes outside intervention for someone to realize that what they are experiencing is in fact a mental illness. This is because all the symptoms that they are experiencing seem so real to them. Although the onset of these symptoms may be sudden or abrupt, the majority of people show a slow, gradual onset of these early signs.