Schizophreniform Disorder

written by Dr. Cheryl Lane, PsyD

Schizophreniform is a psychiatric disorder which has many similarities with schizophrenia.

The two primary differences between schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder are:

  • The disturbance lasts for at least a month but less than the 6 months required for a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
  • The person doesn’t necessarily have difficulties functioning socially, or at work or school.

Like schizophrenia, however, at least two of the following symptoms must be present:

  • Delusions (firmly held beliefs which are not based in reality, and are maintained despite evidence which disproves the belief or even when practically no one else ascribes to the same belief)
  • Hallucinations (e.g. seeing or hearing things which aren’t really there)
  • Speech which is disorganized (e.g. the person can’t stay on one topic, gives irrelevant responses, or his/her words make no sense at all)
  • Extremely disorganized or catatonic behavior (e.g., is extremely unkempt, dresses bizarrely, is unresponsive to his/her surroundings, has a rigid posture, or exhibits bizarre or overly excited movements)
  • “negative” symptoms, such as lack of emotional expression or response, or significantly impaired thinking, or is unable to initiate or carry out basic tasks)

(The patient needs to meet only one (rather than two) of the above criterion if the delusions are bizarre, or the person is hearing at least two voices talking to each other, or is hearing a voice which is giving an ongoing commentary on the person’s activities or thoughts.)

Also, the symptoms must not be due to schizoaffective disorder or a mood disorder with psychosis, and must not be due to a health condition or the effects of a substance.

Some of the people who are initially diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder will recover from the illness before the 6 month period is up. However, the majority will not recover and will end up being diagnosed with either schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

Treatment

Treatment for schizophreniform is generally the same as for schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medication is usually prescribed to minimize or alleviate the symptoms. Supportive psychosocial interventions involving the family and the patient can also be very helpful.

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