Slideshows Images Quizzes
font size

Schizophrenia (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What professionals diagnose and treat schizophrenia? Are there particular tests that assess schizophrenia?

As is true with virtually any mental-health diagnosis, there is no one test that definitively indicates that someone has schizophrenia. Therefore, health-care professionals like psychiatrists or other psychiatric medication prescribers, clinical psychologists or primary-care providers diagnose this illness by gathering comprehensive medical, family, and mental-health information. Patients tend to benefit when the practitioner takes into account their client's entire life and background. Examples of this include the person's gender, sexual orientation, cultural, religious and ethnic background, socioeconomic status, family, and other social relationships. The symptom sufferer might be asked to fill out a self-test that the professional will review if the person being evaluated is able to complete it.

The practitioner will also either perform a physical examination or request that the individual's primary-care doctor perform one. The medical assessment will usually include lab tests to evaluate the person's general health and to explore whether or not the individual has a medical condition or has been exposed to certain medications (for example, amphetamines like methylphenidate [Ritalin or Concerta] or amphetamine and dextroamphetamine [Adderall] in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or corticosteroids for the treatment of severe asthma) that might produce psychological symptoms.

In asking questions about mental-health symptoms, mental-health professionals are often exploring if the individual suffers from hallucinations or delusions, depression and/or manic (for example, excessive anger or elevated mood, inappropriate emotional responses, rapid, pressured, and/or frenzied speaking, a lack of behavioral restraint, overexcitement, decreased need for sleep) symptoms as occurs in bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder, anxiety, substance abuse, as well as some personality disorders (like schizotypal personality disorder) and developmental disorders (for example, autism spectrum disorders including the condition that was formerly called Asperger disorder). Since some of the symptoms of schizophrenia can also occur in other psychiatric illnesses, the mental-health screening is to assess if the individual suffers from schizoaffective disorder or other psychotic disorder, depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, a personality disorder, or a substance-abuse/drug-induced psychotic disorder (for example, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, or psychedelic drugs).

Any disorder that is associated with bizarre behavior, mood, or thinking, like borderline personality disorder or another psychotic disorder, as well as dissociative identity disorder (DID), previously called multiple personality disorder (MPD), may be particularly challenging to distinguish from schizophrenia. However, people with DID often suffer from feeling detached from oneself, as well as what looks like amnesia for their dissociative episodes, which does not tend to be a characteristic of schizophrenia. In order to assess the person's current emotional state, health-care professionals perform a mental-status examination, as well. In addition to providing treatment that is appropriate to the diagnosis, determining the presence of mental-health conditions that may co-occur (be comorbid) with schizophrenia is important in improving the life of schizophrenia sufferers. For example, people with schizophrenia are at increased risk of having a substance-abuse, depressive, or anxiety disorder and committing suicide.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/24/2016


Emotional Wellness

Get tips on therapy and treatment.

Use Pill Finder Find it Now See Interactions

Pill Identifier on RxList

  • quick, easy,
    pill identification

Find a Local Pharmacy

  • including 24 hour, pharmacies

Interaction Checker

  • Check potential drug interactions
Search the Medical Dictionary for Health Definitions & Medical Abbreviations

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors