Early Warning Signs of Schizophrenia

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

The following early warning signs may warrant getting a consultation from a medical professional. Any one of these signs on their own might not indicate schizophrenia. Yet you want to have peace of mind if you or a loved one experiences a build-up of these signs.

man with insomnia sitting beside a sleeping woman on a bed

Physical Symptoms

A blank, vacant facial expression called “blunted affect” or a “flat affect” and is a reduced expression of emotions according to the National Institute of Mental Health. People with schizophrenia may have sleep disturbances, either sleeping excessively or experiencing insomnia. There is also some evidence of sensory processing issues according to a report published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin.



Anhedonia is when a person is unable to experience joy or pleasure from activities according to a report published in 2015. They might feel detached from their own body (depersonalization). They may also be hypersensitive to criticism, and insults. Another sign is having no desire or motivation.


A person might be overcome with sudden irritability, anger, and resentment. These symptoms are difficult to diagnose in teens, as those feelings can be common in adolescence according to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. They might also experience suspicions about people around them and may have low motivation, energy, and little or no enthusiasm. Suicidal thoughts (also termed suicidal ideation) are possible.

man trying to talk to woman, woman pulling away

Behavior Changes

Early warning signs of schizophrenia include withdrawal from family or friends and a decline in self-care according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). They may also have difficulty beginning or sustaining activities, and you may notice reduced speaking according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Hallucination concept, psychedelic scarf in front of light.


Hallucinations may affect any of the five senses, individually or in combination. Most commonly they include hearing voices, seeing things, or smelling things other people can’t perceive according to NAMI. Upwards of 70 percent of individuals with schizophrenia hear voices, called auditory hallucinations according to a report published in 2017.

confused businessman

Cognitive Problems

Cognitive symptoms may be subtle and hard to notice in some people and much more severe in others according to the National Institute of Mental Health. There may be changes in memory, difficulty understanding information and using it to make decisions, problems focusing, and problems with working memory.

paranoid woman looking through blinds


Delusions are false, fixed beliefs that are persecutory and irrational in nature according to NAMI. These take the form of thinking that someone is controlling you - often with an electronic implant or thinking your thoughts are being broadcast over the TV or radio. You may believe that people can read your mind. Delusions of grandeur often involve thinking you are a famous person or have super powers.

A Gradual Process

Early psychosis usually develops gradually according to NAMI. In the beginning, a person may have changes in thoughts and perceptions but not understand what is happening. Sometimes the process is gradual enough that they don’t understand it is happening. Early warning signs often look similar to typical teenage behavior, such as irritability or a withdrawal from family.

Consulting with medical professional.

The Takeaway

If your teen is experiencing some of these signs, it doesn’t mean they have schizophrenia. However, it may make sense to get a consultation. If it turns out not to be schizophrenia, the root might be another illness. Either way, it will give you peace of mind to get this checked out. The earlier schizophrenia is treated, the better the outcome.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.