Schizophrenia Spectrum and other Psychotic Disorders

The disorders in this section include Schizophrenia, Schizophreniform Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, and Delusional Disorder. People with these disorders often experience psychosis.

Psychosis can be defined as a break from external reality. Psychosis is quite common, and can occur for a number of reasons including sleep deprivation, amnesia, substance use and various forms of medical illnesses. Symptoms of psychosis can include confusion between reality and imaginary, hallucinations, false beliefs, disorganized thinking, and bizarre behavior. The following information identifies and explains the many different types of psychotic illnesses.

 

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious psychiatric condition that has a major impact on a person’s thinking, feelings, and behavior. People with schizophrenia often develop beliefs or behaviors that do not align with reality. Schizophrenia usually begins around the college-aged years. Contrary to common media portrayals, people with schizophrenia are very rarely dangerous or violent.  

Symptoms of schizophrenia include:

    • Delusions: implausible beliefs that a person holds with great conviction (e.g., believing that aliens are inserting thoughts into your head against your will)
    • Hallucinations: having sensory experiences (seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling or tasting something) when there is nothing there (e.g., hearing voices when there is no one talking)
    • Disorganized Speech: talking in an incoherent fashion that is difficult or impossible to understand and/or does not make sense
    • Disorganized or Catatonic Behavior: unusual behaviors that can be erratic or inappropriate (e.g., talking to oneself or dressing in a highly unusual manner without having a purpose for doing so)

 

  • Negative Symptoms: includes “flat affect” (a condition in which a person seems to have little emotion, displaying facial expressions or a vocal tone that rarely changes), reduced speaking, reduced feelings of pleasure, and difficulty starting and maintaining activities.

 

Schizophrenia can look very different in people. Individuals with schizophrenia, experience some level of these symptoms for at least 6 months.

If the above symptoms occur, but occur for a period of time shorter than 6 months the following can be considered:

  • Schizophreniform disorder is a psychiatric condition that has the same symptoms as schizophrenia, but the symptoms persist for for no longer than 6 months.
  • Brief psychotic disorder is a psychiatric condition in which the same symptoms of schizophrenia exist, but the symptoms persist for at least one full day and no longer than one month, with return to premorbid level of functioning.

What is Schizoaffective Disorder?

Schizoaffective Disorder is a psychiatric condition in which a person has symptoms of both schizophrenia and either depression or mania. This illness is characterized by a person experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia (delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior or negative symptoms) and simultaneously experiencing a major depressive episode or manic episode. The diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder is made when a person experiences at least 1 symptom of either delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech and either disorganized behavior or negative symptoms for 2 or more weeks without experiencing a major mood episode.


What is Delusional Disorder?

Delusional disorder is an illness characterized by the presence of one or more fixed, false beliefs with some significant interference in functioning, but not the extent that is seen in schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Persons with delusional disorder can experience hallucinations, however these are related only to the delusion.

Various types of delusional disorder include:

  • Erotomanic type: A false belief that includes another person is in love with the individual.
  • Grandiose type: A false belief involving the individual being responsible for some great talent, insight or having made some important discovery despite acknowledgement from others and evidence.
  • Jealous type: A false belief in which the individual believes his/her spouse or partner is unfaithful.
  • Persecutory type: A false belief in which the individual believes he or she is being conspired against, cheated, spied on, followed, poisoned, drugged, maliciously maligned, harassed or obstructed in the pursuit of a person’s long term goals.
  • Somatic type: A false belief in which the individual believes he/she has bodily functions or sensations that are not present.
  • Mixed Type: This applies when there is no one specific delusional theme that predominates a person’s belief system.
  • Unspecified type: This applies when the prominent delusion cannot be clearly determined.

What is Other Specified Schizophrenia Spectrum and Unspecified Psychotic Disorders?

Other specified schizophrenia disorder and unspecified psychotic disorders are applicable to individuals who experience symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, negative symptoms and of which cause significant distress, impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of functioning, but are not meeting full criteria for any of the primary psychotic disorders.  


 

 

Want to learn more about schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders?

Websites

  • Hearing Voices Network
    This network aims to raise awareness of voice hearing, visions, tactile sensations and other sensory experiences, giving individuals who have these experiences an opportunity to talk and get support.
  • Schizophrenia.com
    A non-profit community providing in-depth information, support, and education related to schizophrenia.
  • Schizophrenia & Related Disorders Alliance of America
    SARDAA is an organization which provides support, materials, training, and outreach for schizophrenia and related illnesses.
  • Mental Health America
    Mental Health America is a leading community-based non-profit working to address the needs of individuals with mental illness. They provide extensive information, resources for schizophrenia and psychosis.

Books
  • The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn Saks, 2007
    This memoir follows Elyn’s life as she develops schizophrenia in her teenage years and grows to become a respected professor, lawyer, and psychiatrist.
  • Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia: Helping Your Loved One Get the Most Out of Life by Kim Mueser, 2006
    Provides information on a range of treatment and support options that can lead to a better life for individuals with schizophrenia and their families. Individual chapters highlight special issues for parents, siblings, and partners, while other sections provide tips for dealing with problems such as cognitive difficulties, substance abuse, and psychosis.
  • Conquering Schizophrenia: A father, his son, and medical breakthrough by Peter Wyden, 1998
    Written by the father of a child with schizophrenia, this book tells of the their journey through the healthcare system, the acts of daily living, and treatment.
  • Diagnosis Schizophrenia: A Comprehensive Resource by Rachel Miller, 2002
    This book recounts the journeys of thirty five young people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Includes information provided by people who have schizophrenia and reviewed by psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, and psychiatric rehabilitation workers. Revised 2010.
  • I am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help!: How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment by Xavier Amador, 2010
    Written after the author`s struggle to get his schizophrenic brother to accept treatment, this book discusses tips and techniques to get someone with schizophrenia, bipolar, or other disorders accept treatment, when many of these patients do not believe they are ill.
  • Getting Your Life Back Together When You Have Schizophrenia by Roberta Temes, 2002
    A comprehensive guide for persons with schizophrenia.
  • Me, Myself, and Them: A Firsthand Account of One Young Person’s Experience with Schizophrenia by Kurt Synder, 2007
    With the help of psychiatrist Raquel E. Gur, M.D., Ph.D., and veteran science writer Linda Wasmer Andrews, Kurt Snyder recounts his experience and recovery from Schizophrenia and provides an overview for others affected by adolescent schizophrenia. Drawing on the latest scientific and medical evidence, he explains how to recognize warning signs, where to find help, and what treatments have proved effective. Kurt also offers practical advice on topics of particular interest to young people, such as suggestions on managing the illness at home, school, and work, and in relationships with family and friends.
  • Surviving Schizophrenia, Sixth Edition: A Family Manual by E Torrey, 2013
    This book explains the nature, causes, symptoms, and treatment of schizophrenia and addresses many issues of living with the disease. It also includes the latest research findings and answers to commonly asked questions.
  • Schizophrenia Revealed: From Neurons to Social Interactions by Michael Green, 2003
    Introduces a range of scientific findings on the nature and origins of schizophrenia.
  • Tell Me I’m Here by Anne Deveson, 1992
    Anne writes of her experience as a mother of a child with schizophrenia.
  • Understanding Schizophrenia: A Practical Guide for Patients, Families and Health Care Professionals by Ravinder D. Reddy MD and Matcheri S. Keshavan MD, 2015
    This book was written by two physicians with decades of experience in the field. They provide up-to-date information, answer commonly asked questions, and provide guidance for coping with this illness.

For treatment and support options, see our find treatment services section or our support resources section.

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