Schizophrenia is a well-known mental health condition. Despite many misconceptions, the condition is generally acknowledged by the wider public as a very severe disorder.

Hearing voices is the most notorious symptom associated with Schizophrenia – but there is so much more in the way of symptoms.

Symptoms are either classed as “positive” or “negative” – which can lead to some confusion. In this article, we look at both, and show the differences.

Schizophrenia is a severe mental health condition


From the outset, it is important to note that the terms “positive” and “negative” are somewhat deceptive.

One may think that positive symptoms would refer to nice symptoms, while negative symptoms would refer to the bad symptoms. Actually though, this isn’t the case.

First of all, here is a definition of the two sets of symptoms:

  • Positive symptoms refer to symptoms that ‘add’ a behaviour, thought or feeling. These symptoms change the behaviour or thoughts of an individual – such as hallucinations or delusions. Positive symptoms are often associated with psychosis.
  • Negative symptoms meanwhile refer to symptoms that will take away a behaviour. Negative symptoms include the lack of function or withdrawal seen from an individual that is suffering with Schizophrenia. In particular, these are symptoms that would not normally be seen in a healthy person. As an example, a negative symptom would be someone exhibiting a flat affect due to Schizophrenia, or withdrawing socially.

An example

As discussed above, an example of a positive symptom is someone having a hallucination, such as hearing voices.

This is a positive symptom as it adds a behaviour, thought or feeling. It is very distressing for whoever experiences the hallucination.

Meanwhile, an example of a negative symptom is a blunted/flat affect. This is where a person shows very little emotion, and feels unable to do so.

This is a negative symptom as it takes away a behaviour, thought or feeling. Like with positive symptoms, it is distressing for the person with the symptom.

The differences

So, positive symptoms are those that add a behaviour, thought or feeling, while negative symptoms are the characteristics that are removed from an individual – causing them to show no emotion, or withdraw socially etc.

Looking at the wider picture, each symptom, regardless of whether positive or negative, will affect the individual.

Positive symptoms will cause distortions in how someone with Schizophrenic sees or perceives the world.

Negative symptoms will take certain things away. So positive symptoms add, negative symptoms take away.

Hopefully, using some mathematical knowledge, this may make more sense now.

Both sets of symptoms aren’t always witnessed. For instance, someone diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia (also known as Schizophrenia with Paranoia), positive symptoms are witnessed, though negative symptoms aren’t always present.


So hopefully this article has helped to clear up any confusion regarding the symptoms of Schizophrenia.

In any case, if someone is suffering distress as a result of their symptoms, it is crucial to start treatment – as Schizophrenia is a severe condition that will normally cause significant functional impairment.

See Also


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