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    How Do Doctors Know If Someone Has Schizophrenia?

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    If a doctor thinks someone may have schizophrenia, they will interview that person, as well as their friends and family members.

    Psychiatrists have the most experience with this.

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    What Is Psychosis?

    Psychosis refers to when you lose touch with reality and see, hear, or believe things that aren’t real. You may have delusions. That means you hold onto untrue or strange beliefs. You might also have hallucinations. That’s when you imagine you hear or see something that doesn’t exist. Psychosis is a symptom, not an illness. It can be caused by a number of things, like a mental or physical illness, substance abuse, or extreme stress or trauma. Psychotic disorders, like schizophrenia, are mental...

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    To make the diagnosis, all of these things must be true about a person:

    • They’ve had schizophrenia symptoms for at least 6 months.
    • The symptoms cause major problems, such as trouble with work or relationships.  
    • There’s no other likely diagnosis, such as drug use or a different mental illness.

    People with schizophrenia sometimes don’t recognize their symptoms or may be afraid of them. They may be suspicious of others or think other people talk about them behind their backs. They may deny their symptoms or conceal them from doctors or loved ones. This can make it harder to confirm a schizophrenia diagnosis.


    For a psychiatrist to be sure about their schizophrenia diagnosis, a person must have at least some of these symptoms:

    • Hallucinations. The person hears voices or other sounds that aren't there or sees things that don't exist.
    • Delusions: Unshakeable beliefs that aren't true.
    • Disorganized speech and behavior: The person talks and acts strangely.
    • Lack of motivation and energy
    • Blank look, little emotional expression
    • Poor grooming habits

    A schizophrenia diagnosis is even more likely if you:

    • Hear your own thoughts spoken aloud
    • Think that thoughts are being inserted into your mind, or removed from it, by an outside force
    • Believe that other people can read your mind
    • Sense that an outside force makes you feel something, want something, or act in a certain way
    • Hear voices discuss you, argue about you, or narrate your actions

    A person with schizophrenia may describe these symptoms openly. Or a psychiatrist may figure out they are probably happening after watching how the person talks and acts.

    Conditions With Similar Symptoms to Schizophrenia

    To diagnose schizophrenia, a doctor needs to be sure that something else isn’t causing the symptoms.

    Conditions that can be confused with schizophrenia 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
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