Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia Diagnosis and Treatment

Learn more about schizophrenia diagnosis, its causes and symptoms, the different types, and treatment options.

Table of Contents

What Is Schizophrenia?

Mental illnesses are often incredibly complex, making them hard to diagnose and treat. In most cases, the more serious the illness, the more difficult it is to identify properly and care for. If you or a loved one is suffering from schizophrenia, you’ve likely had to go through the process of securing a proper diagnosis. However, if you believe that you may be suffering from schizophrenia, an accurate diagnosis can be challenging to obtain. Keep reading to learn more about schizophrenia, the diagnosis process, and treatments available to people suffering from it.



Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects less than one percent of the population. Like some other mental diso rders, schizophrenia goes through periods of activity and inactivity. When schizophrenia is active, symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations, trouble communicating, foggy thinking, and a lack of motivation or focus.



Unlike many people believe, schizophrenia doesn’t translate to having a split personality or multiple personalities. While schizophrenia is a serious illness, it has been stigmatized in the past, making individuals who suffer from it susceptible to claims that they’re dangerous. This is not the case most of the time.

Types of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia, like some other mental illnesses or disorders, is on a spectrum. Some cases are more severe than others, while some are hardly noticeable. Schizophrenia is on the spectrum, as are other disorders associated with schizophrenia. The thing that separates these disorders is the length of living with the disorder and the symptoms of mood disorders. Three common disorders on the spectrum are:

  • Paranoid Schizophrenia: Now referred to as schizophrenia with paranoia. Individuals suffer from delusions and hallucinations, making it difficult to distinguish what’s real and what isn’t.
  • Schizoaffective Disorder: A combination of psychotic symptoms and depression or bipolar disorder. Psychotic symptoms happen even when mood swings aren’t. This is a rare, lifelong illness.
  • Schizophreniform Disorder: Symptoms have occurred for at least a month up to six months. This develops into full schizophrenia for about two-thirds of people, while the other third never experience it again, and symptoms go away.

Causes and Symptoms

Like many other mental illnesses, scientists and medical professionals haven’t been able to identify a singular cause for schizophrenia. However, there are potential causes that have been identified and warning signs.

Potential Causes of Schizophrenia

Some of the most researched potential causes of schizophrenia are:

  • Genetics: If you have a close relative, a parent, or a sibling with schizophrenia, you’re six times more likely to develop it as well.
  • Brain Damage: Substance abuse that causes brain damage may increase the likelihood of developing schizophrenia.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to viruses and malnutrition in the first and second trimesters (before birth) have been linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

While there may not be any concrete causes for schizophrenia, there are some warning signs and symptoms.

  • Positive Symptoms: Positive symptoms include a wide range of symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, confused thoughts, trouble concentrating, and movement disorders.
  • Negative Symptoms: Negative symptoms are a lack of normal mental function and may include lack of pleasure, trouble with speech, flattening, and withdrawal.
  • Disorganized Symptoms: The most common disorganized symptom of schizophrenia relates to memory. Individuals who are suffering from a bad working memory and the issues above may have schizophrenia.

How Schizophrenia is Diagnosed

Diagnosis of schizophrenia is no easy task. Often, it takes a lengthy amount of time so that other disorders can be ruled out. To do that, the following things will need to take place:

  • Physical Exam: Done to rule out other possible causes
  • Tests and Screenings: Also used to rule out other disorders and the presence of drugs that may be causing schizophrenia symptoms.
  • Psychiatric Evaluation: An evaluation to observe the patient’s thoughts and mental status. 
  • Diagnostic Criteria for Schizophrenia: To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, patients must meet the diagnostic criteria set up by the DSM-5.

Treatment Options for Schizophrenia

While schizophrenia is a serious mental illness, many who suffer from it can lead a normal, healthy life with the proper care and treatment. Much of this is laid out below.

Medications

There are several different medications available to individuals suffering from schizophrenia:

  • Second-generation Antipsychotics: Antipsychotics that present a low risk for serious side effects.
  • First-generation Antipsychotics: Medication that may come with more serious side effects but may be required depending on the individual being treated.
  • Long-acting Injectable Antipsychotics: Intramuscular or subcutaneous injections given every two to four weeks.

Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC)

CSC is a form of treatment for individuals suffering from their first episode of psychosis. It promotes shared decision-making with a team of specialists that work directly with the patient. By doing so, they develop a specialized treatment plan.

Psychosocial Interventions

Several different psychosocial interventions can be put into place to help individuals suffering from schizophrenia.

  • Individual Therapy: Psychotherapy meant to help normalize thought patterns.
  • Social Skills Training: Improvement of communication and social interactions through daily activities.
  • Family Therapy: Therapy designed to help family members learn how to help an individual suffering from schizophrenia.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Supported Employment: Assistance in being prepared for and finding jobs for those with schizophrenia.

Hospitalization

When schizophrenia becomes active, individuals may experience crisis periods. During these periods, hospitalization may be necessary to prevent harm and keep them healthy overall.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

This is a form of therapy in which seizures are induced with electricity. This is done for those who don’t respond to drug therapy.

Self-Management Strategies and Education

If you or a loved one is suffering from schizophrenia, self-management strategies and education can be provided to assist you.

Support Groups

There are many support groups for people who are suffering from schizophrenia. These groups help with coping, as well as education and socialization.

Self-Management Techniques

Practicing good self-management techniques can make a remarkable impact on your life. The following techniques can help reduce the intensity of schizophrenia in individuals:

  • Do regular exercise
  • Try relaxation techniques
  • Try a complementary therapy
  • Stick to a sleep pattern and eat well
  • Set small goals

Taking Control of the Voices

Taking control can mean a few things. Sometimes, you may need to ignore them, while other times may require standing up to them. Learning coping mechanisms for the voices is the best way to help take control of them, as well as your life.