In her work as a psychiatrist at the Wyandot Center in Kansas, Dr. Christie Mensch draws on her in-depth experience working with patients who have schizophrenia. Dr. Christie Mensch conducted research into contributing factors to schizophrenia and presented her work at the 168th annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.
Before people exhibit the hallucinations, delusions, and other symptoms of schizophrenia, they often goes through a period in which early warning signs are evident. This is known as the prodromal phase and may be instrumental in bringing the person to treatment.
Individuals with prodromal schizophrenia may begin to demonstrate unusual patterns of speech, thought, or behavior. They may claim to have supernatural powers or believe that others are talking about them behind their back, while some report hearing voices. In many cases, these symptoms may correlate with a new and unusual preoccupation with religion or the occult.
Emotional disturbances, such as inappropriate emotional expression or apparent lack of emotion, may also indicate the development of schizophrenia. Symptoms of depression, including social withdrawal and changes in sleep, are common at this stage.
Emotional distress and disturbing thoughts may even lead to suicidal thoughts, which calls for attention regardless of its root cause. Other warning signs include changes in motor function and behavior.
Those with early schizophrenia often become unusually clumsy and may develop a tremor, muscle rigidity, or other difficulties that appear similar to those of Parkinson’s and related motor disorders. The person’s walk may seem to have changed and unusual gesturing or posturing may occur, while the overall movement may speed up or slow down.
These early warning signs of schizophrenia may be difficult to identify, as each one can parallel a number of issues. These signs may even mimic the ordinary behaviors of adolescence, the time of life in which schizophrenia most often emerges. In combination, however, a few or more of such symptoms may indicate the development of a serious mental illness and should prompt professional consultation.