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The 9 types of psychological symptoms (and characteristics)

The 9 types of psychological symptoms (and characteristics)

July 14, 2024

When we speak of a mental or psychological disorder, we are referring to a set of characteristics and inferrable elements of the analysis of the behavior and responses of an individual that cause significant discomfort and imply a handicap, disability or difficulty of adaptation for the person or his / her person. environment.

There are a lot of elements that can be observed in different dimensions of the person, these can be grouped into different types of psychological symptoms .

What is a symptom?

In order to talk about the different types of symptoms that we can find, it is useful to first define what a symptom is.


It is understood as a symptom the element or characteristic that could be pointing out the presence of a medical or psychological problem . It is not an objective and totally visible indicator, as it could be the lack of a part of the body, but we would be talking about an indication that something is happening.

Although it could be very useful to have the possibility of directly detecting any condition, unfortunately very rarely this is possible. Taking into account that mental processes are not directly observable physical entities (and even if they were, their meaning could be diverse), obtaining unambiguous signs of the presence of a disorder is not possible, which makes it necessary to resort to the observation of behaviors , behaviors and expressions that allow us to visualize the thoughts, emotions and beliefs that make us be who, what and how we are.


Different types of psychological symptoms

The human psyche is a complex structure in which multiple systems interact that exert diverse functions, with which there is a great variety of aspects that could end up resulting in a maladaptive relationship with oneself or with the world.

This also implies that there is a wide variety of possible psychological symptoms , that we could group in the following ones.

1. Perceptive

The perception or absence of it from the stimuli that come from the real world and the differentiation between these and contents produced by the mind are some of the most characteristic symptoms of certain disorders. Within this category would be perceptual deceptions, in which something that does not exist in the external world is perceived, as well as perceptual distortions in which an existing stimulus in the medium is captured in an anomalous way.


It can also be included within this type of symptoms the difficulties to recognize through the senses the stimuli that are presented to us even though our senses act correctly at the biological level, the agnosias.

2. Of the way of thinking

Although when we talk about cognitive symptoms, we usually think about "what" we think, It is equally relevant to consider the "how" or "in what way" we do it . This type of symptoms refers to the form of thought, that is, to the way we reason, which is visible through language.

Lack of logic and internal coherence, use of words for characteristics that have nothing to do with their meaning, loss of associations, accelerations and / or inability to follow a line of thought to its conclusion or use excessively elements that do not have a great relationship with what is intended are some of the psychological symptoms of this type.

3. About the content of thought

As a living entity that has to make an active effort in order to survive and remain in the world, the human being captures and perceives the information of the environment in order to be able to act in relation to the events and circumstances that may affect it. For this it is necessary to work with the information received, being able to make judgments about it and use these to respond to the environment. The interaction with the environment and with ourselves makes that each one's beliefs come into play, which for the most part we will use as a basis to establish a plan of action before what may happen.

But nevertheless, Some people have fixed beliefs, intense, far from reality and inflexible that cause great anguish or difficulty in the life of the individual, behavior may be an indicator of the presence of a problem at this level. Within this type of psychological symptoms are mainly delusions, obsessive ideas and overvalued ideas.

4. Consciousness

Although when we talk about psychological symptoms, the first thing we think about is constructs linked to perception, thought or emotion, to be able to experience all these things it is necessary to have a certain level of conscious activity .

It is important to bear in mind that we can also find symptomatic elements in this aspect, being able to decrease their level (as in stupor or in extreme case coma), a narrowing of what we are aware of, making the cognitive and behavioral dissociated ( being an example of this multiple personality), the introduction of strange elements such as confusion or delirium or even the excess of consciousness that can accompany the consumption of substances.

5. Of attention

Even when we have a sufficient level of consciousness to grasp the stimuli, we must be able to focus on them and / or distance our cognitive resources.

So that, Another type of psychological symptoms to consider are those related to the ability to focus, direct, sustain and withdraw attention . Within this type of symptoms we can find to find so much inability, difficulty or excess to concentrate, direct the attention, select the stimuli to direct it or react to possible stimuli.

6. Memory and recognition

Memory and recognition are vital elements for the human being, being basic to be able to learn and modify our behavior or acquire skills to respond to the situations of our daily life.

The psychological symptoms that indicate an alteration in this area include the difficulty to remember past events (anterograde amnesia), coding and storing new information (retrograde amnesia), making mental elaborations that are taken as memories (as in confabulation), or a Extreme ability to remember events or stimuli (hypermnesia).

7. Language

As the main communication tool, language, both verbally and non-verbally, allows us to establish links with the environment and with other living beings, and even organize our thinking. Aspects considered as Symptoms in the area of ​​language include difficulties in intonation, rhythm, expression or comprehension .

8. Psychomotor

The human being is an animal that needs to be able to move or move parts of its body to perform most of actions. The inability or difficulty in movement, the emission of stereotyped patterns of involuntary movements or an excess of movements or motor agitation are typical psychological symptoms of this area.

9. Affective

One of the types of symptoms that have the greatest effect on the subjective well-being of the person and that has more presence in most disorders are the symptoms linked to emotion and affect. They refer to their own characteristics that show that there is an alteration in the subjective assessment of the individual.

Excessive joy or sadness, anxiety, impulsiveness, indifference, decontextualization, inability to express, absence of emotion, excessive rigidity or variability are typical psychological symptoms.

Bibliographic references:

  • Baños, R. and Perpiña, C. (2002). Psychopathological exploration. Madrid: Synthesis.
  • Santos, J.L. (2012). Psychopathology. CEDE Preparation Manual PIR, 01. CEDE. Madrid.

How to Spot the 9 Traits of Borderline Personality Disorder (July 2024).


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