Learn All about Schizophreniform Disorder

· June 7, 2019
Schizophreniform disorder is a type of schizophrenia with similar symptoms. Typically, between 60 to 80% of these patients progress to schizophrenia. Learn more here!

Schizophreniform disorder is known as a type of schizophrenia and, as such, has similar symptoms. However, these symptoms always last more than one but less than six months in their respective prodromal, active, and residual phases.

When a patient has symptoms of schizophrenia but they haven’t been present for the full six months required for the diagnosis of this condition, they’re suffering from what’s known as schizophreniform disorder. Typically, between 60 to 80% of these patients progress to schizophrenia. In some situations, patients come to suffer from bipolar or schizoaffective disorders.

For a patient to be diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder, their symptoms couldn’t have been caused by medications, recreational drugs, or medical or other psychological problems.

Schizophreniform Disorder

A patient with hallucinations.

Overall, the duration of the disorder is what differentiates it from schizophrenia. In addition, it doesn’t have any other underlying cause or explanation.

Epidemiology

Overall, people from all cultures can develop this disorder, with a predominance of previous schizoid personality disorder in 50% of cases. Recent studies estimate that less than 1% of the population suffers from it.

When parents have a schizophrenic disorder, there’s a 20-40% chance their children will suffer from it. This disorder may also evolve to schizophrenia.

Although it manifests in both men and women, it’s usually more common in younger men. After a first episode, 30% of patients don’t relapse. However, the remaining 70% relapse or tend towards chronic schizophrenia.

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Symptoms of Schizophreniform Disorder

Overall, the essential characteristics of schizophreniform disorder are identical to those of schizophrenia. However, there are two big differences:

First, the duration of the condition is different. As we mentioned above, it must last for at least one but less than six months. Likewise, the disorder typically doesn’t affect the patient socially or occupationally.

A woman with delusions.

Overall, schizophreniform disorder symptoms are divided into two: positive and negative.

A patient may experience hallucinations and paranoia (positive symptoms) and apathy (negative symptoms).

Positive Symptoms

The main ones are:

  • Hallucinations. Sensations that the patient experiences in any of the five senses without any external stimulation. The most common example is seeing or hearing things or nonexistent people.
  • Delusions. Distorted ideas that the patient firmly believes. They may often cause discomfort or concern. The most common delusion is nonexistent persecution.
  • Disorganized speech and thoughts. There is a loss of logical associations in thought. The patient manifests disorganized speech.
  • Disorganized behavior. The patient manifests behaviors ranging from great agitation, such as shouting for no reason, to illogical behavior, such as wearing warm clothes during the summer.

Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms affect a patient’s personality. The most important ones are:

  • Flat effect. The patient experiences an inability to feel a range of emotions. For example, they don’t look people in the eye and may have a monotonous speech.
  • Apathy and lethargy. Apathy is a lack of interest in things, while lethargy is lack of energy. For example, the patient may have poor hygiene.
  • Anhedonia and social isolation. Anhedonia is an inability to experience pleasure in the things the patient liked to do before.
  • Alogia. Poverty of speech that’s often considered a form of aphasia.

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Schizophreniform Disorder Treatment

A patient in therapy for schizophreniform disorder

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Psychotherapy

Generally, treatment with psychotherapy and psychotropic drugs yields good results.

About half of patients diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder evolve into schizophrenia. However, the exact cause of the disorder is unknown.

The treatment is similar to schizophrenia. Psychotherapy and antipsychotics are the foundations of schizophreniform disorder treatment. Again, it’s important to mention that schizophreniform disorder shouldn’t have been caused by another medical illness or substance abuse in order to be a proper diagnosis.

However, cognitive behavioral therapy may help patients, especially in understanding their disorder and offering practical ways of coping with it. Other therapies and methods may also yield good results.

If violent or self-destructive symptoms manifest, hospitalization may be required. Family therapy shouldn’t be overlooked, as it helps patients cope with their disorder in a comfortable environment where they feel safe.