Schizophreniform Disorder

What is schizophreniform disorder?

Schizophreniform disorder is a form of schizophrenia in which symptoms last 1 to 6 months. Schizophrenia is a serious condition that causes changes in your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. About half of the people first diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder are later diagnosed with schizophrenia.

What is the cause?

The exact cause of this disorder is not known. Possible causes include:

  • The brain makes chemicals that affect thoughts, emotions, and actions. Without the right balance of these chemicals, there may be problems with the way you think, feel, or act. People with this disorder may have too little or too much of some of these chemicals.
  • Schizophreniform disorder tends to run in families. The disorder is also more likely to develop in people whose family members have other mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
  • If a woman has a virus or nutrition problems while she is pregnant, it increases the risk that her child will develop schizophrenia later in life. Low oxygen levels from long labor or premature birth may also increase the risk.
  • Stress may trigger the disorder or make it worse.
  • People with this disorder may have physical changes in their brain. These changes may mean that some parts of the brain are more active or less active than in other people.
  • Some drugs can cause schizophrenia symptoms. These include LSD, cocaine, and amphetamines.

What are the symptoms?

No single symptom defines this illness. If you have this illness, you may have symptoms such as:

  • Hearing, seeing, smelling, or feeling things that are not real
  • Believing things that are not true, such as believing that others are trying to hurt you
  • Having trouble keeping thoughts straight or stopping talking in the middle of a sentence
  • Making up words that have no meaning
  • Repeating certain motions over and over or not moving at all
  • Having no facial expression, such as a smile or a frown
  • Dressing oddly, like wearing winter gloves in summer
  • Not bathing or combing your hair
  • Speaking in a flat voice or talking to people very little or not at all
  • Having trouble enjoying anything
  • Having trouble using information to make a decision
  • Having trouble paying attention

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider or a mental health therapist will ask about your symptoms, medical and family history, and any medicines you are taking. He will make sure that a medical problem or mind-altering drugs, such as LSD or cocaine, are not causing your symptoms. You may have tests or scans to help make a diagnosis.

How is it treated?


Medicines are the most important part of the treatment. Several types of medicines can help. Your healthcare provider will work with you to select the best one for you. You may need to take more than one type of medicine. These medicines may cause side effects, but you and your healthcare provider will watch for them. Your healthcare provider may change how much or how often you take your medicine, or change the medicine you have been taking.

It is important to stay on your medicine to keep your symptoms under control. If you are thinking about stopping your medicine, talk to your provider first. Antipsychotics should not be stopped suddenly or without your provider’s okay.

Supportive therapy

This disorder changes the way you relate to others and the way you think about everyday activities. There are several kinds of therapy that can help.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on thinking and behavior. The therapist helps you learn how to:

  • Test the reality of your thoughts
  • Ignore voices in your head
  • Cope with stress
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts
  • Identify early warning signs that symptoms are getting worse
  • Set goals and motivate yourself

Group therapy can help you deal with work, relationships, and drug therapy and side effects. It takes place in a group of 6 to 10 people, under the guidance of a therapist.

If your symptoms are severe, you may need to be in a hospital until symptoms improve.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Get support. Talk with family and friends. Ask your provider or therapist if there are any support groups in your area for people with schizophreniform disorder.
  • Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, or take walks. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
  • Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Avoid alcohol and drugs, because they can make your symptoms worse. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
  • Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all of the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take. Take all medicines as directed by your provider or therapist. It is very important to take your medicine even when you are feeling and thinking well. Without the medicine, your symptoms may not improve or may get worse. Talk to your provider if you have problems taking your medicine or if the medicines don’t seem to be working.
  • Contact your healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse. Sometimes this illness makes you afraid of even your provider or therapist. Watch for this and be honest with your provider or therapist about it.

Get emergency care if you or a loved one has serious thoughts of suicide or self-harm, violence, or harming others. Also seek immediate help if you have chest pain or trouble breathing.

For more information, contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-08-28
Last reviewed: 2013-05-03
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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