Schizophreniform disorder is a time-limited diagnosis that can be a precursor to developing or being diagnosed with schizophrenia. This diagnosis is usually given when you’ve been experiencing some symptoms of schizophrenia for longer than a month but less than six months. 

If you are affected by schizophreniform disorder, you may experience breaks from reality, hear voices, or exhibit other classic symptoms of schizophrenia. Symptoms should not be the result of using drugs or another psychological disorder. This disorder is on the schizophrenia spectrum and is one of the early ways that schizophrenia can be seen. But, being diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder doesn’t always mean that you will develop schizophrenia

Symptoms

The symptoms of schizophreniform disorder are similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Some symptoms that are common to people with schizophreniform disorder include:

  • Breaking from reality or being unsure what around you is real
  • Hearing voices speaking to you out loud or in your head when no one is talking
  • Urges or thoughts of harming yourself or others - call 911 immediately
  • Hearing, smelling, or feeling things that are not real
  • Delusions, like imagining that someone is spying on you
  • Disorganized speech or 'nonsense' speech
  • Paranoia and suspiciousness, like believing someone is tapping your phone
  • Having abnormal or strange body movements or experiencing catatonia
  • Isolating yourself from others and failing to bathe or care for yourself and your home
  • A flat, emotionless appearance

Causes

There is no one specific cause that can be pointed to for the onset of schizophreniform disorder. Some risk factors may make you more likely to develop this disorder, like:

  • A family or personal history of schizophrenia, psychosis, or anxiety - having a parent or blood relative with schizophrenia can increase your chance of developing it by 10%
  • Improper brain function or changes to your brain’s chemical structure
  • Trauma, especially physical trauma or experiencing abuse or war
  • Postpartum psychosis from a recent childbirth
  • Previous psychological disorders or bouts of psychosis

Treatment

Schizophreniform disorder can often be treated with medication, therapy, and education. A diagnosis of schizophreniform disorder does not mean that you have schizophrenia or will definitely go on to develop schizophrenia. You and your doctor should work together to find the treatment plan that helps you the most. 

Medication: Many drugs, including antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and anti-anxiety medications, can be beneficial when treating your disorder. Speak with a medical professional to learn more.

Therapy: Therapy is often the cornerstone of treatment for schizophreniform disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you learn the coping skills that you need to handle your schizophreniform disorder. Family therapy can also be helpful in getting your loved ones to understand your condition. See your options for therapy at Sheppard Pratt. 

Education: Learning more about schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder can help you be aware of things to look for and find new treatments and strategies for living with your disorder. Learn more about it with our resources. 

Support: It’s important to know that you’re not alone when coping with schizophreniform disorder or other mental health conditions. Find a mental health support group at Sheppard Pratt.