What is an example of schizophreniform disorder?

Samir Kadri
Author: Samir Kadri Medical Reviewer: Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD Last updated:

Schizophreniform disorder is a psychotic disorder that impacts the way you think, act and express emotions.

It lasts for between one and six months, and following the conclusion of the sixth months, a patient is typically diagnosed with schizophrenia if they still demonstrate symptoms. [1]

Example of schizophreniform disorder

A person with schizophreniform disorder may present symptoms in myriad ways. Common to all these presentations are a delusional mindset, jumbled communication, and a warped sense of reality.

A fictional example reads as follows. John, a 25-year-old professional, begins to experience significant changes in their thoughts, emotions and actions. The following behaviors are indicative of the potential presence of schizophreniform disorder.

  1. John starts to feel his friends and colleagues are conspiring against him.
  2. John experiences auditory hallucinations. These imaginary voices deride him and demand he exhibits negative behaviors, which overwhelms and distresses him.
  3. John’s speech becomes slurred and difficult for others to follow. He jumps between unrelated topics and can seem unhinged.

As a result of these symptoms, John may withdraw away from his friends, family and colleagues. His performance at work may suffer, and those close to him might encourage him to seek help. Following a consultation with a mental health professional, John is diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder.

Further consultation and observation are required to establish the appropriate treatment plan [1] for John. Treatment plans are usually comprised of a combination of antipsychotic medication, other drug treatments and psychosocial therapies. [1]

If symptoms resolve, John will continue his treatment for a further 12 months, whilst being closely inspected for any return of psychotic symptoms. [1] If symptoms persist, a diagnosis of schizophrenia may be issued.

What symptoms are required for an official diagnosis of schizophreniform disorder?

The symptoms of schizophreniform disorder are similar to those experienced by sufferers of schizophrenia, however they persist for a shorter duration.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the diagnostic criteria for schizophreniform disorder include the following symptoms: [2]

  1. Delusions: The person may hold strong and irrational beliefs that are not based on reality. For example, they might believe that they have special powers or that they are being persecuted by a specific group.
  2. Hallucinations: They may perceive things that are not actually there. Auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices, are common in schizophreniform disorder. These voices can be critical, commanding, or conversational.
  3. Disorganized speech: Their speech may be disorganized and incoherent, making it difficult for others to understand them. They might switch topics abruptly or speak in a way that seems unrelated or nonsensical.
  4. Social withdrawal: Individuals with schizophreniform disorder may become increasingly isolated and withdraw from social interactions. They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and have difficulty connecting with others.
  5. Impaired thinking: They may have trouble focusing, concentrating, or organizing their thoughts. They might also experience difficulties with memory and decision-making.
  6. Negative symptoms: Negative symptoms refer to a reduction or absence of normal behaviors and emotions. These can include decreased motivation, stunted ability to experience pleasure, reduced speech output, and a dearth of emotional expression.

It’s important to remember that a person’s experience with schizophreniform disorder may vary, and a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

Can schizophreniform disorder be prevented?

Currently there is no known way to prevent schizophreniform disorder. The cause of the disorder has not yet been verified, though it is considered to arise from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Genetic factors may play a role, as there is some correlation between familial ancestors having schizophreniform or schizophrenia and diagnoses in successive generations. However, having a family history of schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorder does not guarantee that an individual will develop the condition.

Environmental factors, such as prenatal complications, exposure to certain viruses or infections during pregnancy, and psychosocial stressors, may also contribute to the development of schizophreniform disorder.

  1. Tamminga, C. (2023, May 25). Schizophreniform Disorder. MSD Manual Professional Edition. https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-gb/professional/psychiatric-disorders/schizophrenia-and-related-disorders/schizophreniform-disorder
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 Changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2016 Jun. Table 3.20, DSM-IV to DSM-5 Psychotic Disorders. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519704/table/ch3.t20/
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Samir Kadri
Author Samir Kadri Writer

Samir Kadri is a medical writer with a non-profit sector background, committed to raising awareness about mental health.

Published: Jul 27th 2023, Last edited: Feb 21st 2024

Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD
Medical Reviewer Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD LSW, MSW

Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD is a medical reviewer, licensed social worker, and behavioral health consultant, holding a PhD in clinical psychology.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Jul 27th 2023