What is Schizophrenia?

What is the difference between positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia? It’s often difficult to distinguish the difference. Here, we’ve put together the complete guide that explains the core details you need to know.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that impacts up to 0.7% of the population. In 2013, this resulted in around 25 million cases. Schizophrenia is a condition characterised by hallucinations, delusions and disorganized speech. Social withdrawal often accompanies the condition.

Of course, there are many effective drug treatment options for schizophrenia. Pharmacological therapy includes the antipsychotic drugs such as:

  • Risperidone
  • Olanzapine
  • Clozapine
  • Amisulpride

…amongst many others.

Here though, we want to specifically talk about symptoms. When it comes to schizophrenia, the symptoms the patient experiences may be divided into positive and negative symptoms.

The question is – what is the difference between these two symptom types?

Schizophrenia is routinely tested on pharmacology and clinical pharmacy exams. It’s imperative that you understand the diagnostic differences between various symptoms that the patient experiences.

Let’s get started.

Positive Symptoms

Positive symptoms of schizophrenia are experiences those that people do not typically face in everyday life.

Examples include:

  • Hallucinations – auditory, visual, olfactory or tactile
  • Delusions – persecutory, referential, pathological, religious, grandiose
  • Disorganized speech
  • Difficulty concentrating on a series of events

Another way to characterise positive symptoms is to think of these symptoms as being “present” – added effects that wouldn’t otherwise be experienced by ordinary people.

schizophrenia pharmacology

Negative Symptoms

In contrast, negative symptoms are effects that are absent, or not present – symptoms that are a “lack of” what is ordinarily experienced by people.

For example:

  • Anhedonia – lack of pleasure
  • Alogia – lack of words / inability to communicate sufficiently
  • Flattening – a dampening of emotion / flat voice
  • Withdrawal – lack of social engagement
  • Lack of personal self-interest – for instance, not washing themselves
  • Avolition – not going ahead with scheduled tasks

You can see, then, that positive symptoms are exaggerated effects not seen in ordinary people. Negative symptoms, in comparison, are a reduced form of what is normally experienced in ordinary people (pleasure becomes lack of pleasure etc.).

This is the fundamental difference between positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia – a distinction worth bearing in mind for your next pharmacology or clinical pharmacy test!