Before a diagnosis of
can be made, your doctor must rule out other illnesses. People can suffer severe mental symptoms and sometimes psychosis due to underlying medical conditions that have not been detected.
It is often difficult to differentiate one mental disorder from another as many psychiatric illnesses share similar features and symptoms. Obtaining an early and accurate diagnosis is extremely important.
People who are diagnosed early are able to: Receive earlier treatment to stabilize their symptomsDecrease the risk of suicide
substance use disordersReduce the chance of relapse and/or hospitalizationReduce the possibility of social conflict or isolationReduce the decline in functioning and long-term impairments commonly associated with schizophrenia
Diagnosis includes the following: Initial evaluation—Your doctor will ask about your medical and family history and perform a physical examination.
Blood and urine tests—Laboratory tests will be taken to rule out possible medical causes of the symptoms. For example, commonly abused drugs (such as amphetamines or
cocaine) may cause symptoms resembling
or schizophrenia. Some metabolic illnesses or infections may also cause psychotic episodes. These drugs and conditions can be tested for in blood or urine samples.
Psychiatric evaluation—A psychiatrist will conduct a psychiatric interview to evaluate you for any psychiatric disorders that could be causing your symptoms.
Diagnosis is often based on the criteria outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM-5). In order to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, you must have psychotic symptoms for at least 6 months and show increasing difficulty in functioning normally.
Carson RC, Butcher JN, et al.
Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life. 11th ed. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon; 2000.
Keshavan MS, Roberts M, Wittmann D, et al. Guidelines for clinical treatment of early course schizophrenia.
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MacDonald AW, Schulz SC. What we know: findings that every theory of schizophrenia should explain.
McCormick LM, Flaum M. Diagnosing schizophrenia circa 2005: how and why?
Curr Psychiatry Rep.
Stern TA, et al.
Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.
What is schizophrenia? National Alliance on Mental Illness website. Available at:
http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Schizophrenia. Accessed November 7, 2012.
Last reviewed March 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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