Schizophreniform Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

The schizophreniform disorder is characteristic of people who experience symptoms of schizophrenia for a few months, referring for treatment or for unknown reasons.

In this article I will explain your symptoms, causes, treatment, diagnosis and consequences in mental health.

Schizophreniform Disorder

Symptoms of schizophreniform disorder

The symptoms of this disorder are identical to those of schizophrenia, although they last at least 1 month and less than 6 months. It is not caused by medication, substances or other mental disorders.

There are five main symptoms given by the DSM-V:

  • Hallucinations: hearing, seeing, smelling or feeling things that are not real.
  • Delusions: have false beliefs, strange to other people.
  • Disorganized thinking: thoughts that make the person stop talking suddenly or use nonsense words.
  • Disorganized behavior: behaving strangely in public, accumulating objects, catatonia (from unrestrained agitation to immobility), waxy flexibility (keeping the body and limbs in the position in which someone places them).
  • Negative symptoms: apathy, logia, anhedonia, flat affectivity.

Causes of Schizophreniform Disorder

Although the exact causes of schizophreniform disorder are not known, it is believed to be due to genetic, chemical and environmental factors.

  • Genetics: It is more likely to occur in people who have relatives with schizophrenia or with bipolar disorder. Some people have a multifactorial genetic vulnerability that is triggered by environmental factors.
  • Brain chemistry: People with this disorder may have a disruption in the functioning of brain circuits that regulate perception or thinking.
  • Environment: Some environmental factors, such as stressful events or poor social interactions, can trigger the disorder in people who have inherited the tendency to develop it.


It is important to distinguish this disorder from other medical and psychiatric conditions. You can consider:

  • Toxicological evaluation.
  • Medical evaluation.
  • Evaluation of the psychological state.

Diagnostic criteria according to DSM-IV

  1. A) Criteria A, D and E are met for schizophrenia.
  2. B) An episode of the disorder (including the prodromal, active and residual phrases) lasts for at least 1 month but less than 6 months. (When the diagnosis must be made without waiting for the referral, it will be qualified as provisional).

Specify if: No good forecasting characteristics.

With characteristics of good prognosis: indicated by two or more of the following items:

  • Accused psychotic symptoms begin within the first 4 weeks of the first major change in behavior or habitual activity.
  • Confusion or perplexity throughout the psychotic episode.
  • Good social and labor premorbid activity.
  • Absence of affective flattening or blunting.

The following disorders may be considered as an alternative diagnosis:

  • Schizophrenia.
  • Brief psychotic disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Depression.
  • Substance-induced psychotic disorder.
  • Depression.
  • Delusional disorder.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Brain injury.

Treatment for patients with schizophreniform disorder

For the treatment of schizophreniform disorder, pharmacological therapy, psychotherapy and other educational interventions are considered.

Drugs / medication

Drugs are the most common treatment because they can reduce the severity of symptoms in a short period of time.

Usually the same drugs are used as in schizophrenia. If a drug has no effect, others are usually tried, add mood stabilizers like lithium or anticonvulsants or switch to conventional antipsychotics.

Atypical antipsychotics

These second generation drugs are generally preferred because they have a lower risk of developing side effects than conventional antipsychotics.

In general, the goal of antipsychotic treatment is to effectively control the symptoms with the lowest dose possible.

They include:

  • Aripiprazole.
  • Asenapine.
  • Clozapine.
  • Iloperidone.
  • Lurasidone.
  • Olanzapine.
  • Paliperidone.
  • Quetiapine.
  • Risperidone.
  • Ziprasidone.

Atypical antipsychotics may have side effects such as:

  • Loss of motivation.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Nervousness.
  • Weight gain.
  • Sexual dysfunctions.

Conventional antipsychotics

This first generation of antipsychotic drugs has frequent side effects, including the possibility of developing dyskinesia (abnormal and voluntary movements).

They include:

  • Chlorpromazine.
  • Fluphenazine
  • Haloperidol.
  • Perphenazine.

Treatment may occur in hospitalized, non-hospitalized or semi-hospitalized patients.

The main thing is to minimize the psychosocial consequences of the disorder in the patient and to maintain their safety and that of others.

To consider whether hospitalization is necessary, the severity of the symptoms should be taken into account, if there is family support and if the patient is willing to comply with the treatment.

As treatment progresses, training in coping strategies, problem solving, psycho education, and occupational therapy has good effects.

Because people with this disorder have a rapid onset of symptoms, they usually deny their disease, making it difficult to use insight-oriented therapies.

Therapies such as interpersonal psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy are more suitable for treatment along with medication.

Also Read : Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Group therapy is not recommended because people with this disorder may experience stress or anxiety when they see people with more severe symptoms.

Consequences in mental health

This disorder can have the following consequences on mental health:

  • Social functioning: if untreated may develop schizoid or paranoid symptoms that interfere with functioning in society.
  • Employment and economy: Many people with this disorder are unemployed and lack goals or purposes. They often sleep excessively and do not follow a routine.
  • Schizophrenia: If left untreated, it can develop into schizophrenia.
  • Trust: if left untreated, some people may become paranoid.
  • Social isolation: some people can isolate themselves and stop participating in family and social activities.
  • Independence: If left untreated, some people may have difficulty living alone or caring for them.
  • Cognitive abilities: may have difficulty concentrating, remembering things, solving problems, motivating oneself or enjoying oneself. This makes it more difficult to maintain jobs, establish personal relationships or control daily life.