Psychiatric Symptomatology

Signs and Symptoms in Psychiatry

Understanding of signs and symptoms is the backbone of any clinical specialty and has become essential in psychiatric practice due to the lack of confirmatory laboratory investigations.

Symptoms are complaints or subjective experiences reported by a patient and indicate the presence of a disease. Signs, on the other hand, are objective evidence of any symptom, observed by the clinician.

Though there is an overlap between signs and symptoms, they are labeled as per perspective, for example, sad mood is a symptom when reported by the patient; however, when observed by the clinician it is recorded as depressed affect (a sign).

Significance of a Symptom

Certain symptoms can be experienced by healthy individuals for a short period. Everyone can become suspicious, angry, anxious, depressed, or may have unusual experience at some point but it is not pathological all the time.

A symptom can be labeled as significant or pathological if it is persistent, severe, frequent, and causes distress to an individual or other persons.

Psychiatric signs and symptoms are elaborated under the following domains:

  • Disorders of mood
  • Disorders of perception
  • Disorders of thought
  • Disorders of self-awareness
  • Disorders of motor function

The links below points to each of these domains.

    Adapted from:
  1. Essentials of Psychiatry By Dr Sandeep K Goyal