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Schizophrenia Health Center

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Schizophrenia Diagnosis

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There is no test that can make a schizophrenia diagnosis. People with schizophrenia usually come to the attention of a mental health professional after others see them acting strangely.

Doctors make a diagnosis through interviews with the patient, as well as with friends and family members.

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Psychiatrists have the most experience with diagnosing schizophrenia. A psychiatrist or other licensed mental health professional should be involved in making a schizophrenia diagnosis whenever possible.

A schizophrenia diagnosis can be made when all of the following are true about a person:

  • Schizophrenia symptoms have been present for at least six months.
  • The person is significantly impaired by the symptoms; for example, he/she has serious difficulty working or with social relationships, compared to the period before symptoms began.
  • The symptoms can't be explained by another diagnosis, such as drug use or another mental illness.

People with schizophrenia sometimes do not recognize their symptoms, or may be afraid of them. They may be suspicious of others or think other people are talking about them behind their backs. They may deny their symptoms or conceal them symptoms from doctors or loved ones. This can make it more difficult to confirm a schizophrenia diagnosis.

Diagnosing Schizophrenia by Symptoms

Conditions With Similar Symptoms to Schizophrenia

Other mental illnesses and medical conditions sometimes include symptoms that are similar to schizophrenia.

To diagnose schizophrenia with confidence, a doctor needs to be sure that a patient doesn't have other conditions that are causing the symptoms.

Conditions that can potentially create confusion around a schizophrenia diagnosis include:

Bipolar disorder. This mood disorder includes mania and depression. It may also cause delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking and speech.

Major depression. When severe, it can include:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Apathy
  • Lack of interaction

Drug use. Hallucinogens or chronic use of cocaine can cause:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

Schizoaffective disorder. This is a psychotic mental illness that is almost identical to schizophrenia. But the patient also experiences severe mood disturbances (mania or depression) along with their psychotic symptoms.

People with schizophrenia may also have depression or abuse drugs. These problems can make the schizophrenia diagnosis unclear. The only way for a psychiatrist to reliably make a schizophrenia diagnosis in these cases is by watching and interviewing a person over time.

People with schizophrenia commonly also have:

Many other mental illnesses and medical conditions may also share these symptoms. This makes these symptoms less helpful in making a schizophrenia diagnosis.

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