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Schizophrenia Diagnosis

Schizophrenia Diagnosis
Causes and Risk Factors

Establishing a diagnosis for schizophrenia may not be simple.  In fact, patients experiencing schizophrenia may be incorrectly diagnosed with a different mental disorder before a final diagnosis of schizophrenia is made.  Furthermore, although schizophrenia has been diagnosed in people as young as age 5, schizophrenic tendencies usually do not display themselves until sometime in the late teens or mid-20s for males, and the mid-20s to mid-30s for women.  

Medical history
Diagnosis may be complicated if a person is unwilling to cooperate with doctors by not responding to questions.  Additionally, your situation may be complicated by laws stating under what conditions a person may be hospitalized or forced to seek treatment; in many cases, a crisis precipitates a visit to the hospital, thus allowing for potential diagnosis and treatment.  If a friend or loved one is schizophrenic and in an emergency room setting, you may want to speak to the doctor privately and relay your concerns prior to the doctors talking with the patient.  This way, your doctor can be as well prepared as possible.

Medical exams
Your first doctor's visit may be a family physician, emergency room doctor, or mental health professional (e.g. a psychologist or psychiatrist).  Your doctor will want to understand your medical history, especially if another family member has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.  S/He will most likely order many tests in order to confirm or exclude different medical problems as the cause behind the symptoms; for example, some brain tumors may cause hallucinations that affect a person's senses.   Tests that your doctor is likely to run include:

  • A full physical
  • Various laboratory tests - Lab diagnostics examine blood, brain (for tumors), and determine what drugs or alcohol might be affecting the body. These may be done by drawing blood, using MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) or via urine tests.
  • A psychological evaluation - You may talk with a psychologist, or allow a psychologist to talk to friends and family members. Additionally, questionnaires and self-assessments may be filled out.

Once a diagnosis is found, treatment can begin.  Treatment for schizophrenia help decrease the severity and frequency of symptoms.  To learn about how doctors treat the range of schizophrenia diagnoses, continue reading the  paranoid schizophrenia treatment section for more info.

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