Mild Schizophrenia 101 – Definition, Symptoms, and Treatment

Updated 02/2018. Schizophrenia is a psychological disorder characterized by dysfunction across many aspects of cognition, including emotional behavior. Schizophrenics can be thought of as uncoordinated individuals, forced to walk a fine line between reality and fantasy, the risk of slipping increasing with each step.

Studies into the family histories of schizophrenics suggest that the disorder is highly hereditary with the greatest risk of developing the disorder occurring among identical twins. However, like many psychological disorders, the expression of schizophrenia is dependent on an environmental trigger, which means that not all individuals who are carriers will go on to suffer from the disorder.  There are also different types of schizophrenia, determined by the expression of positive, negative, or disorganized symptoms. The type of schizophrenia we will discuss in this section is mild schizophrenia.

What Is Mild Schizophrenia?

In order to properly understand the term “mild” as related to schizophrenia, we must first understand the three symptom categories of the disorder. As mentioned above, these are classified as:

  • Positive. These symptoms involve great deviations from normal behavior and are expressed through visible indications of hallucinations and delusions.
  • Negative. These symptoms are more ambiguous because they bring into question appropriate social behavior. Since mild schizophrenia is expressed mostly through negative symptoms, we will look deeper into this classification later.
  • Disorganized. Lastly, these symptoms are more severe and include the more stereotypical view of schizophrenia such as rambling and behaving in an excessive manner.

In order to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, an individual must exhibit two or more aspects of positive, negative, or disorganized symptoms consistently over at least a one month period.

What Are the Warning Signs?

There are warning signs associated with the onset of schizophrenia. People in the early stages of schizophrenia will start to become socially withdrawn, spend more and more time alone, and often neglect their personal hygiene and proper nutrition. Many people stop eating altogether.

Along with becoming more socially withdrawn, the person may spend much of his/her time deep in thought, unattentive to the rest of the world, and may talk out loud to themselves.

A deterioration in work quality or grades is another indicator of the beginning stage of schizophrenia.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

A person with mostly negative symptoms of schizophrenia may be diagnosed with a mild case of the disorder because negative symptoms are mostly associated with non-active characteristics such as:

  • lack of motivation
  • social withdrawal
  • general indifference toward many aspects of daily life.

Individuals suffering from mainly negative symptoms may come across as absolutely unreachable on any emotional level. Do not take this to mean that these individuals lack emotion. Rather, their lack of expression or reaction constantly gives off this impression.

People suffering from mild schizophrenia with mostly negative symptoms may also suffer from anhedonia, which is defined as an inability to achieve pleasure by any means. Because of the correlation between expression of emotion and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, many researchers believe that early detection of schizophrenia lies in monitoring the emotional expression of high-risk individuals.

Mild schizophrenia may be diagnosed as “undifferentiated” because although the symptoms may indicate the presence of schizophrenia, they may not be specific enough to fall under the classification of major types such as paranoid schizophrenia, catatonic schizophrenia, or disorganized schizophrenia.

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia are notorious for being confused with depression. It is important to pay attention to symptoms carefully so that schizophrenia symptoms cannot flourish under the mask of depression. Although mild schizophrenia is not as burdensome as other types of the disorder, when not treated properly, the symptoms can worsen.

Treatment of Mild Schizophrenia

Neuroleptics, or schizophrenia-relieving drugs have been proven beneficial in treating people with positive symptoms of schizophrenia by reducing the severity of hallucinations and delusions. Something to take into consideration is that although medication has proven effective against the schizophrenia, the very symptoms of the disorder (especially positive symptoms) cause sufferers to be suspicious of medications and many times, they refuse to take them.

In instances of noncompliance, psychosocial approaches are considered. This last approach requires that the schizophrenic have a large support group, whether it be family or friends, as this requires an immense amount of patience.

Although schizophrenia is generally a tragic condition which can be treated, yet not cured, individuals with mild schizophrenia can benefit significantly from antipsychotic drugs. That being said, many people with mild schizophrenia underestimate their symptoms and do not believe they should be on medication. Antipsychotic drugs are not viewed in the most positive light as is, and many people today are against medication in general. However, schizophrenia is a serious and debilitating psychological disorder and it can really wreak havoc in the lives of those who suffer from it, so serious consideration should be given to treatment.

People with mild schizophrenia should seek help to treat their condition because avoiding treatment early on can only increase the severity of symptoms later.

Can Schizophrenia Be Prevented?

If a person is dealing with mild schizophrenia and he or she is treating the condition with a combination of medication and psychosocial therapy, it is likely that the more severe symptoms of schizophrenia can be prevented. However, schizophrenia is a very complex disorder and researchers have been hesitant to confirm that it can be prevented or cured. This is not surprising because schizophrenia, other than being divided into many different types, also tends to manifest itself differently in each individual.

What we do know about schizophrenia is that given hereditary pre-disposition for the disorder, the onset of schizophrenia is usually triggered by some traumatic event and since each person’s perception is different, this aspect is also up for debate.

A Word of Caution

If you decide to use this information to seek help for a loved one, please be cautious about jumping to conclusions and diagnosing them without enough information. Take into consideration the hereditary aspect of the disorder and also look at other sources for further information.