Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment

Schizophrenia Diagnosis

Schizophrenia is frequently diagnosed when the first “psychotic break” or psychotic episode occurs. Psychosis can be difficult to define, but essentially means a person is out of touch with reality. Determining what is real and what is not can be difficult, if not impossible, when a person is in the throes of a psychotic episode.

Diagnosing schizophrenia is challenging because drugs such as meth or LSD can cause schizophrenia-like symptoms. Several other disorders also share a few common characteristics of schizophrenia. While there is no single physical or lab test used to diagnosis schizophrenia, evaluation of a person’s illness for a minimum of six months by a mental health professional can help ensure a correct diagnosis. Potential comorbidities such as brain tumors, medical conditions and other psychiatric diagnoses including bipolar disorder must be ruled out. To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, two or more primary symptoms must occur persistently in context with reduced functioning.1

Schizophrenia Signs

The way the disease manifests and progresses depends on the age of onset, severity and duration of symptoms. Schizophrenia sometimes affects young children and older adults, although symptoms most frequently begin to emerge between late adolescence and one’s mid- to late-20s. An individual begins to act increasingly bizarre, paranoid, withdrawn or disorganized. Typically, a family member, spouse, close friend, coworker or employer notices something is seriously wrong and advises the person to visit a mental health professional. Warning signs of a possible schizophrenic episode include:

  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Irrational, bizarre or odd statements or beliefs
  • Increased paranoia or questioning others’ motivations
  • Exhibiting increasingly fewer emotions
  • Hostility or suspiciousness
  • Increasing reliance on drugs or alcohol (in an attempt to self-medicate)
  • Lack of motivation
  • Speaking in a strange manner
  • Inappropriate laughter
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Deterioration in personal appearance and hygiene

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