Understanding Schizophreniform Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

This article will provide a comprehensive understanding of schizophreniform disorder, including its symptoms, causes, and available treatment options.


Schizophreniform disorder is a psychotic disorder that falls under the umbrella of schizophrenia. In two out of three cases, those who don’t get treatment for schizophreniform will go on to develop schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia, which is why it’s important to understand the key symptoms of the disorder, the potential causes, and the treatment.

Key symptoms have to do with abnormalities in one or more of the following areas:

  1. Delusions
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Disorganized thoughts
  4. Abnormal motor behavior
  5. Negative symptoms

Key potential causes have to do namely with:

  1. Changes to the brain’s chemical structure
  2. Previous psychological disorders or psychosis
  3. Improper brain function
  4. Postpartum psychosis
  5. Trauma

Key schizophreniform disorder treatment involves medication, therapy, and education.

schizophreniform disorder

Symptoms of Schizophreniform Disorder

Symptoms of schizophreniform disorder are identical to the symptoms of schizophrenia. However, the distinguishing feature is in the duration of the symptoms. With schizophreniform, psychotic symptoms last for at least one month but no longer than six months.

For a diagnosis of schizophreniform, individuals must experience the following:

  • Two or more of the symptoms below must be persistent for at least one month, one of which must be delusions, hallucinations, or disorganized speech:
    • Delusions
    • Hallucinations
    • Disorganized speech
    • Abnormal behavior
    • Negative symptoms
  • An episode has to last at least one month but not more than six months.
  • The symptoms must not be attributed to schizoaffective disorder and depressive or bipolar disorder.
  • The psychotic disturbance must not be attributed to other medical conditions or substance abuse.

Note: One difference between schizophreniform disorder and other psychotic disorders is that the symptoms may be severe, but they do not necessarily impair occupational or social function.

There are currently no psychometric or laboratory tests that can confirm this disorder, although there are several regions in the brain that can indicate abnormalities through neuroimaging studies. The best way to get a diagnosis is to work with a qualified mental health professional or psychiatrist who can review your symptoms with you and rule out any other possible explanations.

Schizophreniform disorder is a time-limited diagnosis, and it represents a precursive psychotic disorder that can but does not always lead to schizophrenia. Symptoms center around breaks from reality, such as hearing voices or being unsure of what’s real and what isn’t.

Differential Diagnosis

There are several other mental health conditions that can manifest with psychotic symptoms that are the same as schizophreniform disorder. These mainly have to do with a psychotic disorder related to:

  • Medical conditions or the treatment for medical conditions
  • Substance abuse
  • Neurocognitive disorders
  • Major depressive or bipolar disorder with psychotic features
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Delusional disorder
  • Paranoid personality disorders
  • Schizotypal
  • Schizoid
  • TBI
  • PTSD
  • OCD
  • ADHD

Given how many other conditions present with similar symptoms, it is imperative to get a proper diagnosis. For example, the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia and schizophreniform disorder differ primarily in terms of how long the illness has lasted, and this is something that you can discuss with a mental health professional as you submit for evaluation.

schizophreniform disorder

Causes and Risk Factors

There is no specific cause that leads to the development of schizophreniform disorder. However, there are several environmental influences, biological factors, and genetic predispositions that can increase your risk if you have more than one factor that puts you at an even higher risk of developing schizophreniform.

Biological Factors

Biological factors can include the way your brain functions. The chemical structure in your brain may not function properly or may not develop properly, in which case you might have schizophreniform disorder.

If you have a history of psychological disorders or psychosis, this can increase your likelihood of developing schizophreniform disorder.

Those who recently gave birth and develop postpartum psychosis increase their risk of developing schizophreniform disorder.

Environmental Influences

There are also several environmental influences. Those who have experienced physical trauma or abuse during war are at a particularly high risk of developing schizophreniform disorder.

Genetic Predisposition

In some cases, people have a genetic predisposition to schizophreniform. If you have a family history of psychosis, anxiety, or schizophrenia, you are at a higher risk of developing the disorder.

If you have a parent or close blood relative with a confirmed diagnosis of schizophrenia, your chances of developing schizophreniform disorder increase by 10%.

schizophreniform disorder treatment

Schizophreniform Disorder Treatment

Treatment for schizophreniform disorder hinges on timely therapy, medication, and supportive care.


Schizophreniform disorder treatment centers on antipsychotic prescription medication. This medication can be taken for 12 months or longer, depending on what your doctor prescribes. The medication is more effective when used in conjunction with psychotherapy and supportive care. Getting treatment early after a confirmed diagnosis can help prevent the condition from developing into schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

Depending on the symptoms you have, other medications might include mood stabilizers or anti-anxiety prescriptions, but this is highly individualized and something you should review with help from a professional.


Psychotherapy is the most important facet of schizophreniform treatment. Things like cognitive behavioral therapy can provide the coping skills that help you better understand your relationship to the disorder, change your perspective about the disorder, and, by extension, change how you feel, think, and behave.

Family therapy is equally important because it provides education about your condition and how family can best support you as you navigate the symptoms.

Supportive Care

In some situations, schizophreniform disorder treatment involves support through things like mental health support groups that involve people who have gone through the same condition or who have similar mental health conditions.

Supportive care might also be something that’s extended to close family who are involved in helping you navigate the unique challenges of your disorder.

Summing Up

Overall, it is imperative to get a proper diagnosis and timely intervention to prevent schizophreniform from developing into schizophrenia. While schizophreniform disorder does not necessarily impede daily function occupational and social relationships, schizophrenia can.

If you are experiencing symptoms of psychosis, like hearing voices even when no one is talking or being unsure of what’s real, don’t be afraid to reach out. The sooner you get a proper diagnosis and treatment for any mental health condition, the better off you will be.