Schizophrenia and Symptoms of a Thought Disorder

December 28, 2022 Rebecca Chamaa

It seems like I am always learning something new about schizophrenia and its symptoms. I learn from my relationships with people with the illness and from following social media accounts of people with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. I also get new information from my doctor and other psychiatrists who write about schizophrenia symptoms and the latest treatments.

The Spectrum of Schizophrenia Symptoms

It wasn't too many years ago that people said things like "high-functioning" and "low-functioning" to describe the level of symptoms someone had. Then people (me included) learned that people with schizophrenia are on a spectrum. Not everyone has every symptom, and not everyone has those symptoms to the same degree. Also, some people are highly responsive to (medication) treatment, and there are others whose illness is resistant to medication. Those are two examples of the spectrum, but many of us live somewhere in between.

I live with some symptoms almost all of the time. I don't live with every difficulty symptom daily (mainly due to medication). I do, however, struggle with anxiety, paranoia, olfactory hallucinations (smells), and at times, debilitating fears that I wouldn't classify as paranoia. (But maybe they do fall under that umbrella; I'm not sure.)

Most people are familiar with the symptoms of schizophrenia, like hearing voices and other hallucinations (you can have hallucinations from any of the five senses -- sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch). But there are lesser-known symptoms of the illness that I rarely hear or read information on. I remember when my doctor changed my diagnosis from bipolar with psychosis to chronic paranoid schizophrenia. She said, "You don't have a mood disorder, but you do have a thought disorder." 

Thought Disorders and Schizophrenia

I always assumed that my delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations were what made up my thought disorder. But I was wrong. I recently discovered that what some people call "word salad," or how I put together spoken and written language, is a symptom of a thought disorder. It isn't present all the time, but it shows up in my conversations and writing regularly.

Frequently, when I am in a long conversation with someone, I have a looseness of associations, which means I move from one topic to the next without a connection. For example, I can be in a group discussing architecture, and I will say something about riding the bus. It often makes people do a double take because it is abrupt and irrelevant to the flow of conversation. When I am free writing, this symptom often makes my writing jump all over the place, sometimes making for excellent writing, and other times it falls flat and seems scattered. Looseness of associations is not the only disorganized thinking symptom of a thought disorder; there are a couple of others. 

Since my diagnosis, I've been so thankful that the Internet has existed and become what it has (with groups, medical articles, blogs, social media, etc.). The availability of many resources, information, and access to other people allows me to constantly update what I know about schizophrenia, its symptoms, treatments, and why I struggle so hard with some things. 

In spite of this struggle, though, there still is hope. See more in this video:

APA Reference
Chamaa, R. (2022, December 28). Schizophrenia and Symptoms of a Thought Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Rebecca Chamaa

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