Schizophrenia is a complicated and tricky mental disease that can’t be diagnosed through one type of test alone. Because schizophrenia is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, it is important for healthcare professionals to have a comprehensive medical, familial, and mental health profile on the person prior to establishing a diagnosis. Criteria for the diagnosis of schizophrenia is outlined in detail in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-DSM-IV.

Complications Diagnosing Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is often difficult to diagnose for a number of reasons. Many who suffer from schizophrenia don’t feel that there is anything wrong with them and will refuse to go to the doctor. For those that do seek a doctor, they often find little help. Medical doctors aren’t specifically trained to deal with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses, so it’s important to seek help from a licensed psychiatrist.

An additional complication that arises when diagnosing schizophrenia is that the disease shares symptoms with a number of disorders. Schizoaffective and other psychotic disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, multiple personality disorder, substance abuse and personality disorder are just a few mental illnesses with symptoms that resemble those common in schizophrenia. Psychiatrists must not only screen for other these disorders prior to attempting to diagnosis schizophrenia, they have to establish whether another mental illness is co-morbid with the disorder to effectively diagnosis and implement a proper treatment plan.

Prognosis in Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia research has come a long way in advancing the understanding the disease, but the prognosis can still be disheartening. Individuals suffering from schizophrenia have a rate of death that is more than double that of a person without the disorder. Almost half of individuals with schizophrenia will become substance abusers in their lifetime and many will die from those complications of those abuses.

Individuals suffering from schizophrenia that are on a consistent treatment plan and have benefit of a strong emotional, mental and familial support system, enjoy a brighter outlook than those lacking family and friends to help them in their daily lives. Prognosis is also better for those on refined treatment plans that take into account co-morbid illnesses and the specific subtype of schizophrenia. 

Many individuals with schizophrenia will spend some or most of their lives in mental institutions and other assisted-living facilities, and there continues to be a severe lack of resources to help every person who suffers from it.

Source(s): Schizophrenia, Medicinenet