Most individuals have heard of schizophrenia and know what a large toll it can take on a person’s mental health and quality of life. As of late, researchers have found a disorder that shares schizophrenia’s symptoms, but may or may not actually develop into full-blown schizophrenia. This is known as schizophreniform disorder.
Schizophreniform disorder is a serious, but short-term mental health disorder with symptoms that are similar to those of schizophrenia. This condition is a form of psychosis that distorts the way people think, act, express emotions, perceive reality and the world around them and how they relate to others. The main difference between schizophreniform disorder and schizophrenia is that schizophreniform disorder presents symptoms for only six months. If symptoms persist past six months then the diagnosis is reconsidered and a person is normally diagnosed with schizophrenia, which is a life-long illness. The disorder affects one in 1,000 individuals and occurs equally among men and women, although the onset is earlier in men than it is in women.
Symptoms and diagnosis
A diagnosis of schizophreniform disorder is based on whether a person’s symptoms match the criteria listed in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Symptoms may include:
- Delusions: false beliefs that are not reality-based and that the person believes are real despite being given factual information
- Hallucinations: seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not really there
- Disorganized thoughts, speech or behavior: inability to make sense, using made up words, skipping from one topic to another, pacing, walking in circles, etc.
- A lack of energy
- An inability to function well: poor hygiene, inability to experience pleasure, etc.
If schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder have been ruled out as possible diagnoses, the episode of the disorder has lasted at least one month but less than six months and exhibits the presence of two or more symptoms including delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior or negative symptoms; then a patient may be suffering from schizophreniform disorder.
At this time, the exact cause for schizophreniform disorder, much like schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia, is unknown. However, researchers do believe that it is influenced by genetic, biochemical and environmental factors. Genetic factors can include heredity such as developing schizophreniform disorder when being passed from parent to child. Brain chemistry can also cause schizophreniform disorder, as those with the condition exhibit a disturbance in the functioning of their brain circuits that regulate thinking and perception. Finally, environmental factors point to the influences of poor social interactions or highly stressful events triggering the disorder for those who have a genetic tendency to develop it.
Prognosis and treatment
As previously mentioned, schizophreniform disorder is a serious, but temporary mental health disorder, which means those who develop it will recover within six months. However, around two-thirds of those with schizophreniform disorder may develop schizophrenia later on, which is a life-long illness.
Treatment for schizophreniform disorder is available and may include medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. Medications, normally antipsychotics, are used mainly to treat the psychotic symptoms of the illness such as delusions, hallucinations and disordered thinking. Therapy is used to help patients recognize and learn about their condition and treatment, establish goals and learn how to manage day-to-day issues that come with the illness. It can also help them deal with thoughts and emotions associated with the illness and, in the case of family therapy, can help family members deal with the loved one with schizophreniform disorder in a more effective manner.
For those who are at risk of self-harm or suicide, hospitalization should be considered for their safety until they reach a stable condition.
Any and all treatment options should be discussed with a doctor to provide the best and most effective recovery for the individual with schizophreniform disorder and to ensure that they reduce their risk of developing schizophrenia.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health disorder such as schizophrenia and would like to learn more about treatment for the illness or other mental health disorders, you can visit prod.sovcal.com or call (866) 819-0427 for more information.
Written by Brianna Gibbons, Sovereign Health Group writer