Schizophrenia and Handwriting
What Is the Connection Between Schizophrenia and Your Handwriting
Schizophrenia is an uncommon mental illness that can seriously degrade your connection to everyday reality. The illness is most well-known for its ability to trigger symptoms of psychosis. However, it can also affect you in a range of other ways. One potential change is a notable alteration of your normal handwriting and schizophrenia handwriting.
What does handwriting reveal about the nature of schizophrenia? Can doctors use changes in the way you write to diagnose this severe condition? Over the past few decades, many researchers have explored these questions. Their findings show that the connection between schizophrenia and handwriting is significant in some ways, but not in others.
Definition of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a complex and chronic mental illness. Doctors identify it by looking for three kinds of problems:
- The appearance of psychosis
- Impairment of certain normal traits and behaviors
- Mental and physical disorganization
Psychosis is marked by hallucinations, delusional thinking and paranoia. These symptoms may appear individually or in combination. They are also known as “positive” symptoms. In this case, positive is not actually a good thing. It means that you are experiencing mental changes that should not be there.
Traits and behaviors that may be impaired if you have schizophrenia include your ability to:
- Express emotions
- Feel pleasurable sensations
Doctors classify these impairments as “negative” schizophrenia symptoms. This means that you are missing mental abilities that should be there.
Mental disorganization symptoms may include things as:
- Confused or jumbled thoughts
- Illogical thoughts
- Disordered or nonsensical speech
Symptoms of physical disorganization may include unusual or strange movements or behavior.
Episodic Schizophrenia Symptoms
The definition of schizophrenia is centered on episodes or outbursts of symptoms. During these episodes, symptoms intensify. Between episodes, symptoms decrease. Not everyone experiences the same episodic schizophrenia symptoms. In addition, not everyone has episodes that last as long or have the same intensity.
Most people experience their first bout of symptoms as late teens or young adults. Men tend to develop the illness at an earlier age than women. In many cases, episodes of schizophrenia become less severe as time passes.
Handwriting and Schizophrenia
Before discussing schizophrenia and handwriting, it helps to understand how the illness affects your body. The strange movements in people with schizophrenia are signs of changes in your normal muscle function. These changes are caused by malfunctions in your nervous system. You cannot control them voluntarily. Researchers refer to such involuntary nerve problems as motor abnormalities.
Abnormalities of this type are a common feature of schizophrenia. Specific problems a person with the illness may experience include:
- Slowed reaction times
- Poor muscle coordination
- Difficulty performing complex tasks
- Muscle spasms and contractions
- Jerky and irregular muscle movements
- An overall reduction of body movements
These nervous system problems actually appear before the classic signs of schizophrenia. In fact, they are often present in childhood. However, motor abnormalities have a wide variety of potential causes. For this reason, their presence does not mean for sure that a child will later develop the illness.
What does all of this mean for handwriting and schizophrenia? Studies show that people with the illness can experience significant handwriting changes. Those changes can alter your normal writing in multiple ways.
Examples of Potential Changes in Handwriting
How exactly can schizophrenia affect your handwriting? Specific changes may include such things as:
- The speed and direction of your writing
- How much pressure you use when writing
- The length of your writing strokes
These are just some examples of the potential changes in your handwriting. Particular changes may or may not occur. In addition, you make experience other kinds of writing alterations.
Can Doctors Use Handwriting to Diagnose Schizophrenia
How unique is the connection between schizophrenia and handwriting? Can doctors use changes in your writing to diagnose the condition? To answer the first question, schizophrenia is not the only mental illness that affects the way you write. The same kinds of changes occur in people with bipolar disorder. In fact, the changes found in the two illnesses are so similar that they are functionally identical.
In a way, this also gives us the answer to the second question. Since the same changes appear in people with bipolar disorder, by themselves they cannot be used to diagnose schizophrenia. That is especially true since similar handwriting changes may appear in additional kinds of mental illness.
Severe Depression and Handwriting Correlation
One example of a similar handwriting change can occur in cases of depression. Like people with schizophrenia, people with depression can develop motor abnormalities. As a result, they can also experience altered handwriting. This alteration can affect the speed and direction of a depressed person’s writing.
The Validity of Graphology and Graphotherapy
Graphology is a form of handwriting analysis that looks for unique clues about your personality. Graphotherapy uses structured handwriting exercises to help you make beneficial personality changes. Are either of these things helpful for people with schizophrenia?
On one level, it seems like this could be a possibility. After all, people affected by schizophrenia do tend to have certain handwriting issues. However, in reality, graphology and graphotherapy are not useful. Why not?
A couple of things will help us answer this question. First, the handwriting changes linked to schizophrenia are not personality-related. Instead, they result from long-standing problems in your nervous system. When doctors analyze handwriting in affected people, they are not looking for personality traits. They are looking for signs of changes in your motor function.
Just as important are the doubtful validity of graphology and graphotherapy in general. Most scientists view these fields as pseudosciences. This means that they sound scientific, but have no basis in provable fact.
How Do Doctors Actually Diagnose Schizophrenia
If handwriting cannot be used to diagnose schizophrenia, what steps do doctors actually take to identify it? The process is complicated. In many cases, the first clear symptom is a bout of psychosis. However, psychosis has many other possible causes. That includes such things as:
- The use of certain drugs
- Physical problems like a brain tumor
- A mental illness other than schizophrenia
Before making a diagnosis, your doctor must rule out these possibilities. In addition, you must be affected by your schizophrenia symptoms for at least half a year.
Potential Pre-Signs of Schizophrenia
A psychotic episode is the most typical sign of schizophrenia’s arrival. However, well before such an episode occurs, certain pre-signs may appear. Things you may notice include:
- A sudden or gradual decline in personal motivation
- Unusually low grades in school
- A drop in work performance
- Unusual relationship problems
None of these pre-signs is definitive. By themselves, they do not point to increased schizophrenia risks. Instead, they are more general warnings that something may be wrong. Only an actual diagnosis can say what that “something” is.
What to Do If You Notice Signs of Schizophrenia in a Loved One
How should you react if you notice signs of schizophrenia in someone? That depends, in part, on the situation. If no immediate danger is present, a good starting point may be talking to your loved one. This will allow you to outline your concerns. It will also give your loved one a chance to respond. Be aware that people with the illness may not realize what is happening to them.
If possible, ask your loved one to see a mental health expert. Depending on your circumstances, this may or may not be effective. In most cases, you cannot make your loved one get help. However, you can do so if they pose a serious threat to their own safety. You can also act if they pose a serious threat to anyone else. It is possible that your loved one will be overtly suicidal or homicidal. If that is the case, seek emergency help at once.
Seeking treatment for mental health issues is always important. That may be especially true for a severe illness like schizophrenia. As a rule, effective treatment involves:
- Supporting services for various parts of daily life
Help from family members is often crucial. The goal is not to cure schizophrenia. Once the disease appears, it will likely remain for a lifetime. However, the right treatment can help keep its effects as minimal as possible.
Schizophrenia has the reputation of being disabling in most people. But in reality, outcomes differ. Some people continue to experience serious problems even after they get help. However, many others return to a stable and productive daily routine.
Seeking Treatment for Mental Health Issues at Emerald Isle
At Emerald Isle, we understand the complexities of diagnosing schizophrenia. That is why we provide detailed evaluations that help uncover the presence of the illness. If you are affected by schizophrenia, Emerald Isle is also an established source for effective treatment. We feature a range of programs for your recovery. That includes both inpatient programs and multiple outpatient options. No matter which program is appropriate, you will benefit from the same customized approach to care. For more information on our resources for schizophrenia, call us today.
- American Psychiatric Association – What Is Schizophrenia?
- NPJ Schizophrenia: Unravelling Socio-Motor Biomarkers in Schizophrenia
- PLOS One: Handwriting Movements for Assessment of Motor Symptoms in Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders and Bipolar Disorder
- Perceptual and Motor Skills: Dysfluent Handwriting in Schizophrenic Outpatients
- Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica: Kinematical Analysis of Handwriting Movements in Depressed Patients
- Forensic Research & Criminology International Journal: Forensic Graphology – Assessment of Personality
- Medical Paratexts From Medieval to Modern: Chapter 9. “Nonsense Rides Piggyback on Sensible Things” – The Past, Present, and Future of Graphology
- National Institute of Mental Health: Schizophrenia
- Mayo Clinic: Schizophrenia – Symptoms & Causes
Comments are closed