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Schizophrenia Diagnosis

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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).

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:

  • A decline in reasoning and memory abilities
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicidal behaviors

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

Subtypes of Schizophrenia

After making a schizophrenia diagnosis, a psychiatrist may classify a patient according to subtypes of schizophrenia. These subtypes include:

Catatonic schizophrenia. The patient has either:

  • Little to no movement
  • Excessive movement for no particular reason

Disorganized schizophrenia. This includes:

  • Persistently erratic speech and behavior
  • Inappropriate emotional expressions

Paranoid schizophrenia. The patient has:

  • Preoccupation with delusions that other people want to harm them
  • Frequent auditory hallucinations (hearing things that aren't there)

Undifferentiated schizophrenia. The patient doesn't meet the specific criteria of the above subtypes.

Residual schizophrenia. Symptoms have greatly improved but the patient still has mild symptoms or only symptoms such as:

  • Apathy
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Minimal facial expressions
  • Poor grooming habits

Paranoid schizophrenia tends to have a better prognosis than other subtypes.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on May 01, 2013
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