Disorganized schizophrenia is one of several types of schizophrenia, a chronic mental illness in which a person loses touch with reality (psychosis). Disorganized schizophrenia is marked by thoughts, speech and behavior that are inappropriate and don't make sense.
Disorganized schizophrenia is considered a more severe type of schizophrenia because people with this condition may be unable to carry out routine daily activities, such as bathing and meal preparation. It may be hard to understand what people with disorganized schizophrenia are saying. Also, frustration and agitation may cause them to lash out.
Disorganized schizophrenia is sometimes known as hebephrenic schizophrenia.
Signs and symptoms of disorganized schizophrenia fall into several categories of disorganized thinking and behaviors, including:
Other signs and symptoms of disorganized schizophrenia
Helping someone who may have disorganized schizophrenia
If your loved one poses a danger to himself or herself or to someone else, you may need to call the police or other emergency responders for help. In some cases, emergency hospitalization may be needed. Laws on involuntary commitment for mental health treatment vary.
Disorganized schizophrenia and other forms of schizophrenia are brain disorders. Genetics and environment likely both play a role.
Problems with certain naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters may contribute to disorganized schizophrenia. Imaging studies show differences in the brain structure of people with schizophrenia, but the significance of these changes is unclear.
Although the precise cause of disorganized schizophrenia isn't known, certain factors seem to increase the risk of developing or triggering the condition, including:
Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia typically develop between the teenage years and the mid-30s, although disorganized schizophrenia may start earlier.
Left untreated, disorganized schizophrenia can result in severe emotional, behavioral, health, and even legal and financial problems that affect every area of life. Complications that disorganized schizophrenia may cause or be associated with include:
Preparing for your appointment
If your loved one has signs and symptoms of disorganized schizophrenia, schedule an appointment with your family doctor or mental health provider. After an initial evaluation, your loved one may be referred to a psychiatrist for further evaluation. Join your loved one for these appointments. Your input will help the doctor or mental health provider make an accurate diagnosis.
What you can do
In addition to your prepared questions, don't hesitate to ask questions at any time during your appointment if you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
To diagnose disorganized schizophrenia, a doctor or mental health provider typically runs a series of medical and psychological tests and exams. These can help pinpoint a diagnosis, rule out other problems that could be causing symptoms and check for any related complications.
These exams and tests generally include:
Diagnostic criteria for disorganized schizophrenia
Diagnostic criteria for disorganized schizophrenia include:
It can sometimes be difficult to diagnose disorganized schizophrenia, especially because different conditions can have similar symptoms.
Treatments and drugs
Disorganized schizophrenia is a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment, even during periods when symptoms have lifted. People with this condition may feel as if treatment isn't necessary, and may be tempted to ignore treatment recommendations. But effective treatment can help people with disorganized schizophrenia take control of the condition and enjoy a happier and healthier life.
Treatment options are similar for all types of schizophrenia. But the specific treatment approach that's best for you depends on your particular situation and the severity of your symptoms.
Treatment team members may include:
Main treatment options
Medications for disorganized schizophrenia
Choosing a medication
If one medication doesn't work well or has intolerable side effects, the treatment team may recommend combining medications, switching to a different medication or adjusting the dosage.
If your loved one smokes, he or she may need a higher dose of antipsychotic medication because nicotine interferes with these medications. Make sure your loved one's doctors know about his or her smoking habits.
Medication side effects and risks
If your loved one is being treated for disorganized schizophrenia, talk with the doctor about possible medication side effects and dangerous interactions with other substances. Also be sure to follow the doctor's recommended scheduled for health checkups.
It's not safe to make any changes to mental health medications without talking to a doctor. Psychotic symptoms may relapse if medications are stopped. In addition, antipsychotic medication needs to be tapered off, rather than stopped abruptly, to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Psychotherapy for disorganized schizophrenia
Hospitalization for disorganized schizophrenia
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for disorganized schizophrenia
Social and vocational skills training for disorganized schizophrenia
If your loved one doesn't have a case manager to help with these services, ask your loved one's doctors about getting one.
Lifestyle and home remedies
To improve the likelihood that your loved one's treatment plan will be effective, help him or her:
Coping and support
Coping with an illness as serious as disorganized schizophrenia can be challenging. Medications can have unwanted side effects, and you may feel angry or resentful about having a condition that requires lifelong treatment. During periods when you feel better, you may be tempted to stop treatment, which can trigger a relapse. Here are some ways to cope with disorganized schizophrenia:
There's no sure way to prevent disorganized schizophrenia. Some signs of schizophrenia may be present from early childhood or even infancy. Early identification and treatment for people at risk of schizophrenia, perhaps starting in childhood, may help get symptoms under control before serious complications develop and may help improve the long-term outlook. Also, sticking with a treatment plan can help prevent relapses or worsening of disorganized schizophrenia symptoms.
Last Updated: 2010-12-10
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