American Psychological Association refers Schizophreniform disorder as a disorder whose essential features are identical to those of schizophrenia except that the total duration is between 1 and 6 months (i.e., intermediate between brief psychotic disorder and schizophrenia) and social or occupational functioning need not be impaired.
A disorder, like schizophrenia, is a psychotic disorder that affects how you act, think, relate to others, express emotions and perceive reality. Unlike schizophrenia, it lasts one to six months instead of the rest of your life.
Some people experience the symptoms of schizophrenia for a few months only; they can usually resume normal lives. The symptoms sometimes disappear as the result of successful treatment, but they often do so for reasons unknown. The label schizophreniform disorder classifies these symptoms, but because relatively few studies are available on this disorder, data on important aspects of it are sparse.
Diagnostic Criteria for Schizophreniform Disorder.
A. Two (or more) of the following, each present for a significant portion of time during a 1-month period (or less if successfully treated). At least one of these must be (1), (2), or (3):
3. Disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence).
4. Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior.
5. Negative symptoms (i.e., diminished emotional expression or avolition).
B. An episode of the disorder lasts at least 1 month but less than 6 months. When the diagnosis must be made without waiting for recovery, it should be qualified as “provisional.”
C. Schizoaffective disorder and depressive or bipolar disorder with psychotic features have been ruled out because either 1) no major depressive or manic episodes have occurred concurrently with the active-phase symptoms; or 2) if mood episodes have occurred during active phase symptoms, they have been present for a minority of the total duration of the active and residual periods of the illness.
D. The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition.
With good prognostic features: This specifier requires the presence of at least two of the following features: onset of prominent psychotic symptoms within 4 weeks of the first noticeable change in usual behavior or functioning; confusion or perplexity; good premorbid social and occupational functioning; and absence of blunted or flat affect.
Without good prognostic features: This specifier is applied if two or more of the above features have not been present.
Specify if: With catatonia
Symptoms of schizophreniform disorder are similar to those of schizophrenia and might include the following:
- Delusions (false beliefs that are not based in reality and that you refuse to give up, even when presented with factual information showing they are inaccurate).
- Hallucinations (seeing, smelling, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there).
- Disorganized speech, such as: your statements not making sense, using nonsense words and skipping quickly from one topic to another.
- Odd or strange behavior such as: pacing, walking in circles and writing constantly.
- Other symptoms, including: limited emotional expression, lack of energy, poor hygiene and grooming habits, loss of interest or pleasure in life and withdrawal from family, friends and social activities.
Causes of Schizophreniform Disorder.
Although the exact cause of schizophreniform disorder is not known, researchers believe that genetic, biochemical and environmental factors may be involved.
- Genetics (heredity): A tendency to develop schizophreniform disorder might be passed on from parents to their children. This increases your risk of developing the disorder compared to the general population. However, this does not guarantee that the disorder will be passed on.
- Brain chemistry: If you have schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorder, you might have an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are substances that help nerve cells in the brain send messages to each other. An imbalance in these chemicals can interfere with the transmission of messages, leading to symptoms.
- Environmental factors: Evidence suggests that certain factors in the environment might trigger schizophreniform disorder in people who have inherited a tendency to develop the disorder. These factors can be poor social interactions or a highly stressful event.
The goal of treatment for schizophreniform disorder is to protect and stabilize you and relieve your symptoms. Treatment generally consists of medication and psychotherapy (a type of counseling). People with severe symptoms or who are at risk of hurting themselves or others might need to be in the hospital until their condition is stabilized.
- Medication — The primary medications used to treat the psychotic symptoms of schizophreniform disorder. Such as delusions, hallucinations and disordered thinking- are anti-psychotics. A group of newer medicines, called atypical antipsychotics, are most commonly used.
- Psychotherapy- The goal of therapy is to help your learn about the illness, establish goals and manage everyday problems related to the disorder. It also can help you manage the feelings of distress associated with the symptoms and challenge thoughts that might not be based in reality. Family therapy can help families deal more effectively with a loved one who has schizophreniform disorder, enabling them to contribute to a better outcome.
David H. Barlow, V. Mark Durand. Abnormal Psychology, An Integrative Approach. (7th ed).