Affecting 1% of the US population, schizophrenia is one of the more uncommon mental illnesses. Still, it is extremely debilitating for sufferers to the point that some are not able to live independently. Unfortunately, schizophrenia’s symptoms tend to culminate in isolation due to social withdrawal. This combined with a propensity toward forsaking psych meds makes a ripe environment for schizophrenics to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

What Does Schizophrenia Look Like?

Schizophrenia is a long-term psychotic disorder that involves severe hallucinations and paranoia. Put simply, many things that seem real to a schizophrenic are not actually real. Their mind is steeped in thoughts that are not in touch with the real world. It is a common misconception that schizophrenics have multiple personalities; however, that is actually a symptom of Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is a completely separate disorder of personality. that According to the National Institute on Mental Health, schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Their symptoms fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

If you or a loved one is suffering from schizophreniz, it is important most of all to remember that only a licensed psychiatrist can make an official diagnosis. Since New Start firmly believes in getting dual diagnosis addicts the help they need, we partner with a local psychiatric group to offer clients professional psychological evaluations. Getting addiction treatment and appropriate psych meds simultaneously could be the 180 degree turn you or your loved one needs to start their recovery.

Positive Symptoms

“Positive” does not mean “good” in this case. It refers to additional psychotic behaviors that are not seen in healthy people, such as:



Dysfunctional Thinking

Movement Tics

Negative Symptoms

Similarly, “negative” does not mean “bad.” Negative symptoms are emotions and behaviors not generally seen in healthy people, including:


Inability to start or maintain activities

Lack of vocal/facial affect 

Refusal to speak or respond

Cognitive Symptoms

Not all schizophrenics experience cognitive symptoms; however, some may notice small changes in cognitive functioning such as:

Difficulty understanding information

Can’t use information right after learning it

Attention deficit  


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Highest rates of hospitalization for men are

AGES 15 – 40

Average age of onset varies by gender


After 10 years, of people diagnosed with schizophrenia:


Subtype Cases

Although some symptoms are universal to the disorder, there are distinct subtypes of schizophrenia that may impact what that person’s addiction looks like.

Developing acute schizophrenia can be a truly harrowing experience. The acute subtype describes when schizophrenic symptoms develop quickly after a long period of normalcy. These unfamiliar, disconcerting thoughts and behaviors can trigger substance abuse as a form of self-medication.

Paranoid schizophrenics tend to maintain a higher level of function among the subtypes. Although they experience positive symptoms like delusions and hallucinations, these thoughts can be relatively private or compartmentalized. Paranoid schizophrenics tend to have fewer negative symptoms that affect behavior. On that note, addicts with this dual diagnosis are more likely to be functional alcoholics and drug addicts. Denial may play a bigger factor in these cases.

Disorganized schizophrenics are generally lower functioning and tend toward more severe negative and cognitive symptoms. Positive psychotic symptoms are not as prevalent. This form of schizophrenia tends to have an early and gradual onset as compared to other subtypes. It is common for disorganized schizophrenics to live dependently with family or other caregivers, and to stop taking their psych meds in favor of self-medicating through substance abuse.

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