how is schizophrenia diagnosed?
Interviews with you
Reconstruction of your story and your personal and medical history.
What symptoms do you have? When did they begin? How did they develop over time? Do they change or are they stable? Are there any trigger factors? In the meantime, your behaviour is observed. The way you act often says quite a lot about what is going on inside you.
Interview with your family, partner or friends
Reconstruction of your past. How did the symptoms first express themselves? When did they start? What are the symptoms? Was there an obvious reason for the problems; were there any trigger factors? How do you relate to people around you?
Medical tests and a blood test, brain scans and X-rays, to see whether anything abnormal can be measured or shown on an image. Tests are also carried out to exclude the possibility that you are taking drugs capable of bringing on psychosis.
Evaluation of your physical condition and psychological tests. Your personality is assessed and tests are performed, for example, to see how you cope with problems. Your IQ may be tested and calculated.
An assessment of your social situation. Your work, studies, social contacts, financial situation, housing, friends and acquaintances.
why is diagnosis so often delayed?
There are many reasons why people with schizophrenia aren’t usually diagnosed right when early signs appear, including:
Timing – It’s normal for teens to experience mood and behaviour changes, to some degree, so these early symptoms may be overlooked at first
No single test – Diagnosis is based on many factors rather than one quick, medical test
Stigma – Schizophrenia scares some people, so they may be uncomfortable getting help early on
Lack of training – Most primary care doctors do not have the specialized knowledge to recognize schizophrenia right away
The best way to help your loved one is to get involved early on. Become an active member of their treatment team, showing your support at every step.
Accompany them to appointments, and come prepared with recent observations and any questions you
Always talk about your loved one as a person and include them in the conversation when possible – they are more than their schizophrenia
Educate yourself on schizophrenia and what to expect from the healthcare system
Help your loved one set goals, and then keep detailed records of their progress
Take notes during discussions with doctors, particularly when it comes to treatment recommendations
But what about patient confidentiality?
It can be hard to help your loved one if you’re not in the loop. While generally speaking healthcare professionals cannot share a patient’s personal information with family members, there are circumstances when open communication is okay, including:
If your loved one signs paperwork allowing your involvement
If their doctor feels strongly that sharing information with you would be valuable and/or necessary based on their state of mind
If you have “power of attorney” over their personal care