Cognitive Deficits in Schizophrenia

For people with schizophrenia and affective disorders like bipolar disorder, cognitive deficits are a primary symptom. These problems with skills like attention, memory, language comprehension, organization, decision making, and planning are part of the mental illness for many people. Some cognitive problems may only be serious during episodes of acute illness, while other may be present even when other symptoms are relatively slight.

According to information from the New York State Office of Mental Health, at least 85% of people with schizophrenia experience cognitive deficits. Common deficits include inability to pay attention, recall information, process information quickly, think critically and problem solve, plan and organize, and initiate speech.

For example, an individual with schizophrenia may have trouble concentrating when people talk, or be unable to focus on the important parts of a conversation or written passage if it is too long due to problems with attention. Slower processing and comprehension of information may cause delays in conversation, and they may have trouble remembering things they have read or heard.

Difficulty with executive cognitive function like critical thinking, planning, and problem solving can make it hard for people with schizophrenia to adapt to new situations. When something goes wrong or not according to plan, for example, someone with schizophrenia may have trouble coming up with an alternate course of action. They may also have trouble knowing whether a piece of information is important or not.

Cognitive deficits in schizophrenia impact a person's ability to function, and it is important that they be recognized and treated just like other symptoms. Cognitive rehabilitation techniques are available and can improve cognitive symptoms.

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