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The First Steps Towards Proper Diagnosis
The first step in getting treatment for schizophrenia is getting a correct diagnosis. This can be a more difficult than it might seem because the symptoms of schizophrenia can be similar at times to other major brain disorders such as bipolar disorder (Manic/Depression) or even major depression, or because a person with schizophrenia may be paranoid or believe that nothing is wrong and may not want to go to see a doctor. Because many regular family doctors may not be very familiar with schizophrenia it is important to see a good psychiatrist that is experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia. One way to do this is to contact a local support group that deals with brain disorders such as schizophrenia and talk to the other members that already have experience with the local psychiatrists. If that is not convenient, we recommend you join in our discussion areas (see “parents” area or “Main Area” listed on home page) and ask there if anyone can recommend a good psychiatrist in your area. Local members may be able to recommend a good psychiatrist experienced in schizophenia that they have worked with. As with most serious illnesses, its important to get diagnosis and treatment as quickly as possible.
The Common Symptoms of Schizophrenia
The First Signs of Schizophrenia - Personal Stories
The Importance of Keeping a Journal - For best diagnosis and recovery of person with schizophrenia
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is characterized by profound disruption in cognition and emotion, affecting the most fundamental human attributes: language, thought, perception, affect, and sense of self. The array of symptoms, while wide ranging, frequently includes psychotic manifestations, such as hearing internal voices or experiencing other sensations not connected to an obvious source (hallucinations) and assigning unusual significance or meaning to normal events or holding fixed false personal beliefs (delusions). No single symptom is definitive for diagnosis; rather, the diagnosis encompasses a pattern of signs and symptoms, in conjunction with impaired occupational or social functioning (Source: DSM-IV -available on Amazon.com Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR).
Symptoms are typically divided into positive and negative symptoms because of their impact on diagnosis and treatment. Positive symptoms are those that appear to reflect an excess or distortion of normal functions. The diagnosis of schizophrenia, according to DSM-IV, requires at least 1-month duration of two or more positive symptoms, unless hallucinations or delusions are especially bizarre, in which case one alone suffices for diagnosis. Negative symptoms are those that appear to reflect a diminution or loss of normal functions. These often persist in the lives of people with schizophrenia during periods of low (or absent) positive symptoms. Negative symptoms are difficult to evaluate because they are not as grossly abnormal as positives ones and may be caused by a variety of other factors as well (e.g., as an adaptation to a persecutory delusion). However, advancements in diagnostic assessment tools are being made.
Diagnosis is complicated by early treatment of schizophrenia’s positive symptoms. Antipsychotic medications, particularly the traditional ones, often produce side effects that closely resemble the negative symptoms of affective flattening and avolition. In addition, other negative symptoms are sometimes present in schizophrenia but not often enough to satisfy diagnostic criteria (DSM-IV): loss of usual interests or pleasures (anhedonia); disturbances of sleep and eating; dysphoric mood (depressed, anxious, irritable, or angry mood); and difficulty concentrating or focusing attention.
Currently, discussion is ongoing within the field regarding the need for a third category of symptoms for diagnosis: disorganized symptoms. Disorganized symptoms include thought disorder, confusion, disorientation, and memory problems. While they are listed by DSM-IV as common in schizophrenia—especially during exacerbations of positive or negative symptoms (DSM-IV)—they do not yet constitute a formal new category of symptoms. Some researchers think that a new category is not warranted because disorganized symptoms may instead reflect an underlying dysfunction common to several psychotic disorders, rather than being unique to schizophrenia.
Diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia (USA criteria)