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Schizophreniform Disorder – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Overview

The doctor may diagnose a patient to be suffering from the schizophreniform disorder if they show symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucinations, delusions, and chaotic behaviour. These symptoms lasts anywhere between 1 to 6 months. For example, when they are alone in a room, they may hear others talking or calling out to them when none of such people exist. 

This blog talks about its symptoms, causes, diagnoses, and treatment options.

What is schizophreniform disorder?

Schizophreniform disorder is a type of psychotic disorder with symptoms identical to schizophrenia. However, this disorder lasts for less than 6 months. It is a serious mental illness that can distort the way people think, act, express emotions, perceive reality, and relate to others.

Schizophreniform disorder, like schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, is a form of mental illness called psychosis – where a person cannot differentiate between reality and imagination.

What are the symptoms of schizophreniform disorder?

 Like schizophrenia, the symptoms might include the following:

  • Delusions: False beliefs that people refuse to give up, even after presenting factual information showing that their belief is untrue
  • Hallucinations: Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are untrue
  • Disorganized speech: Making illogical statements and quickly skipping from one topic to another
  • Odd or strange behaviour: Constantly pacing, writing, or walking in circles
  • Other symptoms: Patients may also present the following symptoms: 
    • Poor hygiene and grooming habits
    • Lack of energy
    • Loss of interest in life
    • Withdrawal from friends, family, and other social activities

When should you seek medical advice?

See a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms or if your loved ones have expressed their concern regarding your behaviour.

What are the causes of schizophreniform disorder?

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of the schizophreniform disorder. But a combination of factors can be at play. They may include: 

  • Genetics: The likelihood of developing schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder is high, if they have a family history of these disorders.
  • Brain structure and function: An imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain may result in people developing schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder.
  • Social factors: Childhood trauma, poor social relationships, or very stressful events may lead to schizophreniform disorder in people who have inherited the tendency to develop the illness.
  • Environmental factors: Low birth weight, preeclampsia in the mother during pregnancy, living in cities, and being born during the winter, may increase the risk of being afflicted with this disorder.

What are the complications of schizophreniform disorder?

The complications of the schizophreniform disorder may include a higher chance of developing schizophrenia and an increased risk of suicide.

How is schizophreniform disorder Treated?

Medication and psychotherapy help in treating schizophreniform disorder. People with severe symptoms or those who are at risk of hurting themselves or others may need to stay at the hospital to get their condition under control.

Medication

Antipsychotic drugs are the main medications that doctors use to treat the psychotic symptoms of schizophreniform disorder, such as delusions, disordered thinking, and hallucinations.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy helps people recognize and learn about the illness and its treatment, establish goals, and manage everyday problems associated with the condition. It may also help individuals manage the feeling of distress associated with the symptoms and challenge the thoughts that might not be rooted in reality. Family therapy may help families deal more effectively with a loved one suffering from a schizophreniform disorder, helping achieve a better outcome.

After the symptoms improve, people must continue treatment for close to a year. This treatment plan includes slowly reducing the dosage of medication and carefully observing for any signs of relapse.

Conclusion

Schizophreniform disorder can be a devastating illness. It might make people act in odd ways, think inconsistent thoughts, change topics too quickly while speaking, express emotions inconsistently, impair their ability to manage relationships, and lead to a distorted view of reality. It might be a scary experience, but fortunately, doctors and treatments can help the patient manage the symptoms better.

People must remember to trust their friends, family, and the doctor treating them. Individuals experiencing this disorder must also take the medications exactly as prescribed, and avoid substance abuse to keep the disorder under control. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can schizophreniform disorder be prevented?

There is no known way to prevent the risk of developing schizophreniform disorder. However, early diagnosis and treatment might help minimize the disruption of people’s lives, families, and friendships.

How is a schizophreniform disorder diagnosed?

When people have symptoms of this disorder, the doctor may use various tests such as MRI scans or blood tests to rule out a nonpsychiatric medical problem.

When the doctor finds no physical reason for the symptoms, they may refer people to a psychiatrist or psychologist who uses specially designed interview and assessment tools to check if people have a psychotic disorder. For diagnosing schizophreniform disorder, the symptoms should have not exceeded 6 months.

Can people live a normal life with schizophreniform disorder?

Schizophreniform disorder may be extremely disruptive because it changes the way people act, think, express emotions, perceive reality, and relate to others. This leads to problems with employment, relationships, and other aspects of life. Some patients might require hospitalization for their safety and that of their loved ones.

What is the difference between schizophreniform disorder and schizophrenia?

The symptoms of both schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder are similar. The only difference is the duration of the symptoms. People may experience the symptoms of schizophreniform disorder for 1–6 months, and the symptoms will continue after 6 months for those with schizophrenia.

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