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What Are the “Negative” Symptoms of Schizophrenia Mean?

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Negative symptoms in schizophrenia are those aspects that seem to be diminished or absent in a person's usual behavior or emotional responses. These symptoms can be subtle but significantly impact the quality of life.

People with schizophrenia often face challenges such as a reduced drive or lack of motivation. This can make daily tasks and goals seem overwhelming, as they struggle to find the energy or interest to engage in regular activities.

They might also have difficulty experiencing joy or pleasure in activities they used to enjoy, a condition known as anhedonia. Their emotional range can become limited, making it hard for them to express feelings or respond to emotional situations.

Additionally, communication can be a struggle. They may speak less often, find it hard to keep a conversation going, or have trouble organizing their thoughts into coherent speech. This combination of symptoms can make social interactions and personal relationships challenging, adding to the Schizophrenia disorder's complexity.

The Challenge of Diagnosing Schizophrenia in India

Schizophrenia. A disorder that is well-feared but poorly understood. Much like the understanding of overall mental health, schizophrenia too is understood on a superficial level. For a disorder that affects around 3 out of 1000 people in India, the lack of knowledge about the disorder has multiple consequences.

Firstly, multiple harmful myths exist. These range from the idea that schizophrenia is akin to split personality disorder to misconceptions about individuals with the disorder being violent and aggressive. 

Secondly, a lack of understanding in terms of the symptoms of the disorder is leading to the disorder being diagnosed after it has progressed quite a bit. Complicating matters is the fact that around 80% of people with schizophrenia in India do not get the care that they need. 

While there is a lot to do to change the landscape of mental healthcare and schizophrenia care, the first step is to understand the disorder thoroughly. This blog will talk specifically about the negative symptoms of schizophrenia and wade through its complexities.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia (Positive, Negative, Cognitive)

Schizophrenia is a complex mental health condition that influences your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It's a long-term illness that not only impacts the person diagnosed but also deeply affects their family and friends.

This condition involves three main types of symptoms: positive, negative, and cognitive.

Positive Symptoms

Positive symptoms of schizophrenia are unusual thoughts or perceptions that include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder, and disorders of movement. These symptoms represent a distortion or an excess of normal functions.

Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia refer to a reduction or absence of normal behaviors and can include apathy, lack of emotion, poor or nonexistent social functioning, and difficulty in carrying out routine tasks. These symptoms often lead to social withdrawal and can be mistaken for depression.

‍Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia involve problems with thought processes. These can include difficulties with concentrating, memory problems, and trouble with decision-making, often leading to disjointed and confused thoughts.

Primary Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Primary negative symptoms of schizophrenia are those that are not due to medication side effects, a depressive episode, or social isolation. They represent a reduction or absence of normal behaviors and emotions.

These symptoms can include anhedonia, which is the inability to experience pleasure; avolition, a lack of motivation or desire to complete tasks or engage in social activities; alogia, which is a reduction in the quantity or quality of speech; and blunted affect, which involves a lack of facial expressions and a decrease in expressive gestures. 

Another key negative symptom is social withdrawal, where individuals may isolate themselves and avoid interactions with others. These symptoms can be particularly debilitating as they interfere with a person's ability to carry out daily activities, maintain social relationships, and generally engage with the world around them. 

They are often harder to treat than the positive symptoms of schizophrenia and can greatly impact a person's quality of life.

Secondary Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Secondary negative symptoms of schizophrenia are those that result from other factors such as social isolation, medication side effects, or a depressive episode. For instance, social withdrawal could be a secondary symptom resulting from a person's fear of a hallucination reoccurring in a social setting. 

Similarly, a lack of motivation or anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) could be secondary symptoms stemming from a depressive episode. Certain antipsychotic medications used to treat schizophrenia can also lead to secondary negative symptoms like blunted affect or reduced emotional expression, due to their side effects. 

It's important to differentiate between primary and secondary negative symptoms, as the treatment approach may vary. For example, secondary negative symptoms related to medication side effects may be managed by adjusting the medication regimen, while those related to depression may improve with the addition of an antidepressant.

Mental Negative Symptoms

Mental negative symptoms of schizophrenia refer to the cognitive and emotional aspects that are diminished or absent in individuals with the disorder. These can include alogia, which is a poverty of speech where the individual may speak less, or their speech may be vague or repetitive. 

Another mental negative symptom is avolition, or a lack of motivation, which can make it difficult for the individual to initiate and persist in goal-directed activities. Anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure, is another mental negative symptom that can lead to individuals losing interest in activities they once enjoyed. 

Blunted affect, which involves a reduction in the expression of emotions, can also be considered a mental negative symptom, as it affects the individual's ability to express their feelings. These symptoms can significantly impact an individual's ability to function socially and occupationally, and they can be more debilitating than the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.

Physical Negative Symptoms

Physical negative symptoms of schizophrenia refer to the observable manifestations of the disorder that involve a decrease or loss of normal functions. One of the most common physical negative symptoms is a blunted affect, which is characterized by a lack of facial expressions, poor eye contact, and reduced gestures, making the person appear emotionless or indifferent.

Another physical negative symptom is alogia, or poverty of speech, where the individual speaks less, and when they do, their speech may lack the normal variations in tone and inflection. Catatonia, a state of unresponsiveness, can also be considered a physical negative symptom, as it can lead to rigid posture, lack of movement, or bizarre movements. 

These physical negative symptoms can be particularly challenging as they can hinder social interactions and make it difficult for the individual to engage in normal daily activities.

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Clinical Diagnosis and Identification of Negative Symptoms

Identifying and diagnosing the negative symptoms of schizophrenia involves a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional. This typically includes a clinical interview, observation of the individual's behavior, and potentially a physical examination to rule out other medical conditions. 

The mental health professional will look for signs of diminished emotional expression, such as a lack of facial expressions or a monotone voice, as well as signs of avolition, like a lack of motivation or interest in daily activities. 

They may also assess for anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure, and alogia, a reduction in the quantity or quality of speech. It's important to differentiate these symptoms from those of depression or the side effects of medication. 

The diagnosis of schizophrenia is made based on the presence of these negative symptoms along with other criteria, such as the duration of symptoms and the impact on the individual's functioning.

Examples of Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Here are some examples of how a person with negative symptoms might behave:

  • Often spending days inactive, struggling to find activities or motivation.
  • Experiencing irregular sleep patterns.
  • Poor eating habits.
  • Overlooking personal cleanliness and grooming.
  • Minimal or ineffective communication.
  • Limited eye contact, facial expressions, or use of gestures.
  • Difficulty understanding and following instructions or responding to questions.
  • Showing little or no emotion in situations that typically elicit a response.
  • Indecisiveness or ambivalence when making choices.
  • Preferring solitude, avoiding social interactions.

Positive vs Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

1. Nature of Symptoms: Positive symptoms of schizophrenia represent an excess or distortion of normal functions, such as hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech or behavior. On the other hand, negative symptoms represent a reduction or absence of normal functions, such as lack of motivation, reduced emotional expression, and social withdrawal.‍

2. Perception by Others: Positive symptoms are often more noticeable and dramatic, making them more recognizable to others. Negative symptoms, however, can be more subtle and may be mistaken for laziness or depression.

3. Impact on Daily Life: While positive symptoms can cause significant distress and disruption, negative symptoms often have a more profound impact on an individual's ability to function in daily life, affecting their ability to work, study, and maintain relationships.

4. Response to Treatment: Positive symptoms generally respond well to antipsychotic medication, which is the mainstay of treatment for schizophrenia. Negative symptoms, however, are often more resistant to treatment, requiring a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and social support to manage effectively.

Treatment of Negative Symptoms


Antipsychotic medications are often the first line of treatment for schizophrenia. While these medications are particularly effective in managing positive symptoms, they can also help with some negative symptoms. 

However, it's important to note that everyone responds differently to medication, and it may take some time to find the right medication and dosage for each individual. Regular communication with the healthcare provider about the effectiveness of the medication and any side effects is crucial.


Various forms of therapy can be beneficial in managing negative symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals develop coping strategies and change negative thought patterns

Social skills training can improve communication and social interaction, which can be particularly helpful for those experiencing social withdrawal. Family therapy can also be beneficial, providing education and support to family members.


Lifestyle changes can play a significant role in managing negative symptoms. Regular physical activity can help improve mood and energy levels. A balanced diet can contribute to overall well-being. 

Establishing a regular sleep schedule can also be beneficial. Social activities, such as joining a club or participating in community events, can help combat social withdrawal and improve social skills.

When to See a Doctor

Recognizing the need for help can be a significant step toward recovery. Suppose you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms such as social withdrawal, lack of motivation, diminished emotional expression, or any other signs of schizophrenia. In that case, it's important to seek help from a healthcare professional. 

It's natural to feel apprehensive or overwhelmed, but remember, there's no need to face these challenges alone. Mental health professionals are trained to understand and help manage these symptoms. Early intervention can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of treatment and the overall prognosis. 

It's never too early or too late to seek help. You deserve to live a fulfilling life, and seeking help is a courageous step toward achieving better mental health. Remember, you're not alone, and help is available.

‍Addressing Negative Symptoms in Schizophrenia with Cadabams

The negative symptoms of schizophrenia involve missing elements in behavior and emotion that are usually present in most people, such as communication skills, social engagement, and motivation. While they may not be as immediately striking as positive symptoms like hallucinations and delusions, negative symptoms are equally challenging to manage.

Addressing these symptoms effectively requires a tailored approach. A combination of medication and psychotherapy offers a viable path to managing schizophrenia. It's crucial to maintain open communication with healthcare providers, ensuring that any changes in symptoms are promptly addressed.

If you are searching for a solution to your problem, Cadabam’s Rehabilitation Centre can help you with its team of specialized experts. We have been helping thousands of people live healthier and happier lives for 30+ years. We leverage evidence-based approaches and holistic treatment methods to help individuals dealing with schizophrenia negative symptoms effectively. Get in touch with us today. You can call us at +91 96111 94949.

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1. What are the negative symptoms of schizophrenia?

Negative symptoms refer to those symptoms that take away from the normal spectrum of human functioning. Negative symptoms of schizophrenia include emotional flattening, loss of interest, lack of expressions, reduced eye contact, and more. 

2. Why are negative symptoms hard to notice?

While the positive symptoms of a disorder like schizophrenia are very evident, negative symptoms are less so. This is because negative symptoms often get confused for regular mood or behavioral changes. 

3. What impact do negative symptoms have on daily life?

The negative symptoms of schizophrenia have a severe impact on the daily life of an individual. They can affect interpersonal relationships, academic performance, work performance, and much more. They can also lead to social isolation and withdrawal from activities of daily living. 

4. Can negative symptoms of schizophrenia be treated?

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia can be mainly treated through psychotherapy. Through therapy sessions, a trained clinical psychologist can help a person regain their emotional and behavioral stability, while also helping them build resilience against the positive symptoms of the disorder. 

5. How important is therapy in managing negative symptoms?

Therapy plays a fundamentally important role int he management of negative symptoms. While medication can treat positive symptoms of schizophrenia, it is therapy that helps a person regain their emotional regulation and allows them to better function during necessary activities.

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