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What is Schizophreniform Disorder?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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Schizophreniform disorder is a mental illness similar to schizophrenia, but shorter in duration. People with schizophreniform disorder may display many or all of the symptoms of schizophrenia, including hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, and strange behavior. While the causes of schizophreniform disorder remain unclear, heredity, environmental factors, or chemical imbalances in the brain may be behind the disease. Schizophreniform disorder is relatively common, and is usually treated with a combination of psychiatric drugs and psychotherapy. Symptoms typically last no longer than six months.

While schizophreniform disorder has many of the same symptoms as schizophrenia, schizophrenia is a lifelong psychiatric disorder, while schizophreniform disorder causes symptoms for one to six months. Schizophreniform disorder affects about one in 1,000 people. Both men and women are equally susceptible to this mental illness. Men develop schizophreniform symptoms most often between the ages of 18 and 24, while symptoms most often appear in women between the ages of 24 and 35.

The symptoms of this psychiatric illness are similar to those of schizophrenia. Delusions, or false and unrealistic beliefs, are common. Often, patients cling to their sometimes odd delusions despite being presented with valid evidence to the contrary. Hallucinations, whether auditory, visual, or tactile, may also occur.

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Persons with this disorder may exhibit strange, erratic or catatonic behavior. Their speech may not make sense, and they may speak in gibberish or skip erratically from one unrelated topic to another while speaking. They may lack energy and seem less expressive of their feelings than they once did. They may withdraw from social contact. People with this disorder often don't groom themselves properly, and their personal hygiene may decline noticeably.

Psychiatrists have yet to fully understand what causes schizophreniform disorder. Genetics may play a role, and children of parents who have suffered schizophreniform disorder are more likely to develop it themselves. Environmental factors, including stressful life events or a history of insufficient socialization, can contribute to the development of this mental illness. An imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain may cause many symptoms. About two-thirds of those who develop schizophreniform disorder eventually develop schizophrenia, a lifelong illness with the same symptoms.

Schizophreniform disorder is usually treated with a combination of drugs and therapy. Therapy mostly seeks to educate patients about their disorder, and help them cope with the negative emotions that symptoms can cause. Therapy can help patients and their families learn how to overcome the obstacles that symptoms present to daily life.

Antipsychotic medications are typically administered to treat the symptoms of schizophreniform disorder. Drugs such as Zyprexa®, Risperdal®, and Seroquel® are most often used.

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