Signs and Symptoms Copy

Symptoms of psychosis are often divided into positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms include delusions and hallucinations – an addition of experiences that most people do not have (hence the term positive). Negative symptoms include poverty of thought or speech, loss of motivation and restriction in the range of emotional expression – a loss of experiences that most people have (hence the term negative).

Positive Symptoms

  • Hallucinations are sensory perceptions in the absence of external stimuli. Hallucinations can occur in any sensory modality (e.g., auditory, visual, tactile, gustatory, olfactory) but auditory hallucinations are the most common in psychosis. 

  • Delusions are fixed, false beliefs out of keeping with the person’s cultural environment. They may be sustained despite proof to the contrary. Common types of delusions include persecutory, religious, grandiose, delusions of reference, somatic, as well as passivity experiences such as thought insertion, thought broadcasting or thought withdrawal. 

  • Thought disorder often occurs and is evident in a pattern of disjointed speech and vague or disorganized thinking. Changes in cognition may impair insight and judgment – the individual may not be able to recognize that something is wrong or that there is a need to get help. 

Negative symptoms

  • Negative symptoms are common in the acute phase but are often less evident due to the nature of positive symptoms. They are characterized by a loss of or deficit of previous attributes. Anhedonia, passivity, blunted affect, memory and concentration difficulties are all negative symptoms which are often evident in young people experiencing psychosis.

In addition to these symptoms of psychosis, many other disturbances often occur in a psychotic disorder including sleep disturbance, depression and anxiety, social withdrawal and problems with role functioning.

Cognitive Problems

People with psychosis also often experience problems with cognition. Cognition is the mental process of gaining knowledge and understanding. Some cognitive abilities include: attention, memory, processing information, solving problems, planning and organizing. The ways that psychosis may affect cognitiion varies widely from person to person. However, we do know that these mental abilities are even more important than psychotic symptoms in determining how well a person functions in everyday life.

Additional Reading

  • Signs and Symptoms of Psychosis.
    An MS Powerpoint presentation on the signs and symptoms of psychosis.
    Download the document here.
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