Schizophreniform Disorder

Schizophreniform Disorder

Schizophreniform Disorder

Schizophreniform disorder is a mental health condition characterized by psychotic symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking, disorganized speech, and behavioral disturbances which exist for at least one month and for fewer than six months.

Schizophrenia vs Schizophreniform Disorder

A distinction between schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder is that occupational, academic, and/or social functioning is impaired in schizophrenia whereas this isn’t necessarily the case with schizophreniform disorder.

The duration of the active and residual psychotic symptoms is the main difference between schizophreniform disorder and schizophrenia, with schizophrenia symptoms lasting longer than six months. Moreover, schizophrenia often begins gradually — over a number of months or years — whereas schizophreniform disorder can begin quite rapidly.

Prevalence

The male to female ratio of schizophreniform disorder is 1:1. The onset of symptoms in men is typically between the ages of 18 to 24 and in women 18 to 35. The rates of schizophreniform disorder are higher in developing countries compared to developed countries.

Symptoms of Schizophreniform disorder:

People with schizophreniform disorder experience the same symptoms as those for schizophrenia only they last for more than one day but fewer than 6 months, and the onset might be quick. Social functioning might not be impaired either.

  • Delusions (false beliefs that the person refuses to give up, even after they get the facts)
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t real)
  • Strange, jumbled speech
  • Odd behavior, might be catatonic
  • Reduced range and expression of emotions

    • An inability to experience pleasure or many emotions
    • A lack of motivation and energy
    • Decreased, impaired, or absent speech
  • Poor self-care
  • Social withdrawal
  • Cognitive/functional abilities may or may not be affected

Causes of Schizophreniform disorder:

The exact cause of schizophreniform disorder remains unknown; however, genetic and environmental factors have been implicated.

  • Genetics – a family history of schizophrenia or bipolar affective disorder
  • Biological – possible dysfunction in the brain’s neural network that manages perceptions and thought processes
  • Environmental – stressful events, poor relationships

Risks of Schizophreniform disorder:

The outlook for people with schizophreniform disorder varies depending upon the nature, severity, and duration of the symptoms. Those with symptoms that persist will be diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and talk for free at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). They can also provide you with information about low-cost clinics and therapists for your depression.

Call 911 if you are seriously contemplating or vocalizing thoughts of suicide or self harm.

Diagnosing Schizophreniform Disorder:

There are no proven lab work, brain scan, or mental health tests that can accurately diagnose schizophrenia, so diagnosis is made on the person’s observed behavior — which relies on observations made by mental health professionals, family, friends, and coworkers. This diagnosis is only given after any possible medical illnesses or substance abuse is ruled out.

The Brief Negative Symptom Scale (BNSS) can be used to assess the presence, severity, and changes of negative symptoms.

The DSM-5 lists the following criteria for a diagnosis of schizophreniform disorder:

  • Two (or more) of the following, each present for a significant portion of time during a 1-month period (or less if successfully treated). At least one of these must be (1), (2), or (3):

    1. Delusions.
    2. Hallucinations.
    3. Disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence).
    4. Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior.
    5. Negative symptoms (i.e., diminished emotional expression or avolition).
  • An episode of the disorder lasts at least 1 month but less than 6 months. When the diagnosis must be made without waiting for recovery, it should be qualified as “provisional.”
  • Schizoaffective disorder and depressive or bipolar disorder with psychotic features have been ruled out because either 1) no major depressive or manic episodes have occurred concurrently with the active-phase symptoms, or 2) if mood episodes have occurred during active-phase symptoms, they have been present for a minority of the total duration of the active and residual periods of the illness.
  • The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition.

A diagnosis is further broken into the presence or absence of enough noticeable features, and catatonia. Symptom severity can also be noted on a scale of 1 to 5.

Impairments to functioning socially or at work aren’t necessary to diagnose schizophreniform disorder.

Treatment for Schizophreniform Disorder:

There is no known way to prevent schizophreniform disorder from occurring. However, early diagnosis and intervention can help decrease the disruption that the condition can cause on a person’s ability to function, and improve their quality of life.

About 33% of people with the disorder recover within 6 months. The other 66% will either be given a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

Various treatment options are available for schizophreniform disorder including psychotherapy and medication. The closer the person sticks to the therapy and treatment plan, the better the chance of it not reoccurring.


  • Psychotherapy

    • Cognitive behavioral therapy – examines, challenges, and changes thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are unhelpful to the recovery process; and it teaches problem solving and coping skills
    • Cognitive remediation therapy – helps improve cognitive skills
    • Family education and support – provides support, education, and relational skills classes for the person and family members
    • Metacognitive training – focuses particularly on the thought processes that lead to delusions to correct them
    • Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT) – helps establish a better daily routine that includes healthy food, regular mealtimes, exercise, sunlight, and a sleep schedule, which improves a person’s quality of life.
  • Medication
    Can reduce the severity of delusions and hallucinations.

    • Atypical antipsychotics – such as olanzapine and clozapine to block dopamine receptors or combine antagonism of dopamine and serotonin
    • Phenothiazine antipsychotics – such as thioridazine and chlorpromazine to block dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain and depress certain hormone releases
  • Hospitalization
    This may be necessary if symptoms are severe and/or there is a risk to the patient’s safety and/or that of others. Psychiatric and occupational rehabilitation —as an inpatient or day patient — can help to promote recovery.

Symptoms of Schizophreniform disorder:

People with schizophreniform disorder experience the same symptoms as those for schizophrenia only they last for more than one day but fewer than 6 months, and the onset might be quick. Social functioning might not be impaired either.

  • Delusions (false beliefs that the person refuses to give up, even after they get the facts)
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t real)
  • Strange, jumbled speech
  • Odd behavior, might be catatonic
  • Reduced range and expression of emotions

    • An inability to experience pleasure or many emotions
    • A lack of motivation and energy
    • Decreased, impaired, or absent speech
  • Poor self-care
  • Social withdrawal
  • Cognitive/functional abilities may or may not be affected

Causes of Schizophreniform disorder:

The exact cause of schizophreniform disorder remains unknown; however, genetic and environmental factors have been implicated.

  • Genetics – a family history of schizophrenia or bipolar affective disorder
  • Biological – possible dysfunction in the brain’s neural network that manages perceptions and thought processes
  • Environmental – stressful events, poor relationships

Risks of Schizophreniform disorder:

The outlook for people with schizophreniform disorder varies depending upon the nature, severity, and duration of the symptoms. Those with symptoms that persist will be diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and talk for free at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). They can also provide you with information about low-cost clinics and therapists for your depression.

Call 911 if you are seriously contemplating or vocalizing thoughts of suicide or self harm.

Diagnosing Schizophreniform Disorder:

There are no proven lab work, brain scan, or mental health tests that can accurately diagnose schizophrenia, so diagnosis is made on the person’s observed behavior — which relies on observations made by mental health professionals, family, friends, and coworkers. This diagnosis is only given after any possible medical illnesses or substance abuse is ruled out.

The Brief Negative Symptom Scale (BNSS) can be used to assess the presence, severity, and changes of negative symptoms.

The DSM-5 lists the following criteria for a diagnosis of schizophreniform disorder:

  • Two (or more) of the following, each present for a significant portion of time during a 1-month period (or less if successfully treated). At least one of these must be (1), (2), or (3):

    1. Delusions.
    2. Hallucinations.
    3. Disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence).
    4. Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior.
    5. Negative symptoms (i.e., diminished emotional expression or avolition).
  • An episode of the disorder lasts at least 1 month but less than 6 months. When the diagnosis must be made without waiting for recovery, it should be qualified as “provisional.”
  • Schizoaffective disorder and depressive or bipolar disorder with psychotic features have been ruled out because either 1) no major depressive or manic episodes have occurred concurrently with the active-phase symptoms, or 2) if mood episodes have occurred during active-phase symptoms, they have been present for a minority of the total duration of the active and residual periods of the illness.
  • The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition.

A diagnosis is further broken into the presence or absence of enough noticeable features, and catatonia. Symptom severity can also be noted on a scale of 1 to 5.

Impairments to functioning socially or at work aren’t necessary to diagnose schizophreniform disorder.

Treatment for Schizophreniform Disorder:

There is no known way to prevent schizophreniform disorder from occurring. However, early diagnosis and intervention can help decrease the disruption that the condition can cause on a person’s ability to function, and improve their quality of life.

About 33% of people with the disorder recover within 6 months. The other 66% will either be given a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

Various treatment options are available for schizophreniform disorder including psychotherapy and medication. The closer the person sticks to the therapy and treatment plan, the better the chance of it not reoccurring.


  • Psychotherapy

    • Cognitive behavioral therapy – examines, challenges, and changes thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are unhelpful to the recovery process; and it teaches problem solving and coping skills
    • Cognitive remediation therapy – helps improve cognitive skills
    • Family education and support – provides support, education, and relational skills classes for the person and family members
    • Metacognitive training – focuses particularly on the thought processes that lead to delusions to correct them
    • Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT) – helps establish a better daily routine that includes healthy food, regular mealtimes, exercise, sunlight, and a sleep schedule, which improves a person’s quality of life.
  • Medication
    Can reduce the severity of delusions and hallucinations.

    • Atypical antipsychotics – such as olanzapine and clozapine to block dopamine receptors or combine antagonism of dopamine and serotonin
    • Phenothiazine antipsychotics – such as thioridazine and chlorpromazine to block dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain and depress certain hormone releases
  • Hospitalization
    This may be necessary if symptoms are severe and/or there is a risk to the patient’s safety and/or that of others. Psychiatric and occupational rehabilitation —as an inpatient or day patient — can help to promote recovery.