How is Schizophrenia Diagnosed?
There is currently no physical or lab test that can absolutely diagnose schizophrenia - a psychiatrist usually comes to the diagnosis based on clinical symptoms. What physical testing can do is rule out a lot of other conditions (seizure disorders, metabolic disorders, thyroid disfunction, brain tumor, street drug use, etc) that sometimes have similar symptoms.
Current research is evaluating possible physical diagnostic tests (such as a blood test for schizophrenia, special IQ tests for identifying schizophrenia, eye-tracking, brain imaging, 'smell tests', etc), but these are still in trial stages at only a few universities and companies and are not yet widely used. It will likely be a few years before these on the market, and adopted by hospitals, etc.
People diagnosed with schizophrenia usually experience a combination of positive (i.e. hallucinations, delusions, racing thoughts), negative (i.e. apathy, lack of emotion, poor or nonexistant social functioning), and cognitive (disorganized thoughts, difficulty concentrating and/or following instructions, difficulty completing tasks, memory problems). Please refer to the information available on this page (see below) for common signs and symptoms, as well as consumer/family stories of how they identified schizophrenia in their own experiences. However, only a psychiatrist can make a diagnosis and start a treatment program. If you are experiencing symptoms are bothersome, debilitating, or harmful, please to to an early psychosis diagnosis and treatment center or make an appointment with your doctor and/or a psychiatrist.
The First Steps Towards Proper Diagnosis
The first step in getting treatment for schizophrenia is getting a correct diagnosis. This is important to do quickly because research has shown that the sooner you get diagnosed and treated, the better the long-term outcome (which is the same for all serious illnesses). 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-epression) or even major depression. Another issue is that a person with schizophrenia may be paranoid or believe that nothing is wrong with them, and therefore 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.
The best place for proper diagnosis of psychosis (hallucinations & delusions) and schizophrenia - are at the increasing number of centers focused on early diagnosis and treatment of psychosis and schizophrenia. See the following list to find out if there is one in your area: Worldwide list of early psychosis/schizophrenia diagnosis and treatment clinics.
Another way to do find a good psychiatrist 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.
See our FAQ guide, with sections on finding and working with a good psychiatrist. This is a vital part of the treatment and recovery process, as research and anecdotal evidence both confirm that a good patient-doctor relationship can be important for enhancing treament compliance.
If you have a family history of schizophrenia, psychiatric illness, or other serious conditions in your family, it can be a great help to the doctor if you create a Health Family Tree that tracks such diseases through family generations. Having a family health history in front...
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