Everything You Need To Know About DSM V Schizophrenia

By Sarah Fader

Updated March 23, 2020

Reviewer Laura Angers

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When it comes to mental health disorders, psychologists rely on a tool called the DSM-V (or DSM-5) to identify, diagnose, and help treat patients. One of the most recognizable and easily misunderstood disorders that lie within this book is Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people across the globe, and as many as 50% of those affected do not receive treatment. Here is everything you need to know about Schizophrenia and how the DSM-V is improving the well-being of those affected by it.

What Is The DSM-V?

The DSM-V, more formally known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), is a comprehensive and diagnostic tool that is used to identify and diagnose mental health disorders. Mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety are found in the book. However, developmental disorders like Asperger's and Autism, and serious psychiatric disorders like Schizophrenia, are too.

The DSM as we know it was first compiled in 1952 when the APA Committee on Nomenclature and Statics developed the first formal edition of the book. In recent decades, as psychologists have expanded their knowledge about mental health, new editions of the DSM have been published. The most current, the DSM-V, or fifth edition, was released in 2013. It is considered the most up to date classification system for mental health disorders.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious psychiatric disorder. It is characterized by a combination of "positive," "negative," and cognitive symptoms. These symptoms are chronic and usually appear in early adulthood.

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Positive symptoms, despite their name, are usually the most characteristic signs of Schizophrenia. They include a range of symptoms that are not typically seen in the general population including:

  • Hallucinations: May consist of seeing, hearing, or smelling things that are not there. Hearing voices is which are derogatory or threatening, is one of the most reported examples of hallucinations.
  • Delusions: A strong belief in ideas that are not grounded in reality (For example: being watched, believing one is God, etc.). An individual suffering from delusions will continue to believe their thought even when evidence is presented that proves it wrong.
  • Thought disorders: Includes difficulty forming cohesive thoughts and not being understood by others. Episodes of thought blocking may occur. Rapidly changing thoughts or creating words that do not exist is a common example too.
  • Unusual movements: Can consist of repetitive movements or lengthy episodes of being very still. Unusually slow movements have also been frequently reported.

Negative symptoms are somewhat subtler and may mimic signs of depression. They include:

  • Lack of emotions: Can appear very similar to depression in which a general lack of interest in life is prevalent.
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships: Lack of emotions and disinterest in others makes it easy for individuals with Schizophrenia to drift away from those they care about.
  • Flat voice: Speaking in a dull, flat tone without inflection or emotion is often reported.
  • Poor appearance: Little interest in caring for one's self-results in decreased hygiene.

Cognitive symptoms are those that impact overall functioning. These include:

  • Difficulty understanding information: Can include confusion about everyday situations or objects.
  • Trouble is making decisions: This includes difficulty understanding new information and using it effectively. This may be referred to as a problem with "executive functioning."
  • Lack of attention: Includes a general inability to focus.
  • Memory issues: May range from misplacing objects often to immediately forgetting information as soon as it is learned.

According to the DSM-V, one can only be formally diagnosed with Schizophrenia under certain criteria. First, an individual must experience at least two or more of the following for at least one month or longer:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech
  • Grossly disorganized behavior
  • Negative symptoms

The symptoms must also severely impact an individual's ability to work, their relationships, or the capacity to care for themselves. The individual must also exhibit some form of symptoms for at least six months. Likewise, all other possible psychiatric causes must be formally ruled out before a diagnosis of Schizophrenia.

Diagnosing Schizophrenia requires time and patience. Many individuals are not aware they are suffering from symptoms as the conditions can distort one's perception of reality. Once treatment is sought, it can be difficult to obtain a diagnosis quickly. There is no formal laboratory test, and symptoms must be assessed over time. However, the good news is that once Schizophrenia is detected, the disease is treatable.

How Is Schizophrenia Treated?

Treatment for schizophrenia largely depends on the severity of symptoms and progression of the illness. Schizophrenia will require lifelong treatment, and methods usually include:

Medications: Various medications treat Schizophrenia, however, antipsychotics are usually the first line of defense. These medications manage the symptoms of Schizophrenia but do not "cure" the disease. Antipsychotics may require a few weeks to take effect, and often, a patient may have to try a variety of medications including antidepressants and antianxiety drugs too. Because of this, it may take some time before the right dosage or combination of medications is identified. It is important that an individual never stops taking medication or changes the dosage without speaking to their doctor first.

Therapy: Psychotherapy can help an individual manage their day-to-day symptoms or identify signs that relapse in symptoms is imminent. Social skills training, family therapy, and vocational rehabilitation are also useful for individuals who require additional support in their daily lives.

ECT: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is primarily used in severe depression but can be effective for Schizophrenia. This treatment is used as a last resort when medications no longer work.

Inpatient Care: When symptoms of Schizophrenia become extremely severe or life-threatening (to the individual or anyone else), inpatient mental health facilities provide a safe and secure environment for treatment to take place. While it can be distressing to resort to hospitalization for someone with Schizophrenia, a plan will be put in place to get the individual stabilized as soon as possible.

How To Care For A Loved One With Schizophrenia

Caring for a loved one with Schizophrenia can be difficult but rewarding. Not only must you be aware and knowledgeable about your loved one's condition, but it is also important to take time to care for yourself too. Keep these tips in mind:

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Learn Research as much as you can about Schizophrenia, as well as the symptoms associated with the disease. Learn about treatment options and local support within your community. Keep up to date with the latest research and learn to identify when symptoms or situations may become dangerous.

Record: Keep a detailed list of your loved one's healthcare provider information as well as their medications. It may be helpful to track their symptoms to identify better when relapses occur or to document the side effects of treatments. Careful documentation will also be key to avoiding potentially dangerous medication interactions or overdoses.

Reach Out: Understand what your loved one is dealing with may be stressful for both them and you. Reach out to social services, support groups, or housing assistance in your area as needed. Try to avoid being the only person in your family to care for a loved one with Schizophrenia.

Encourage: Some days, the effects of Schizophrenia may prove especially challenging or overwhelming for both you and your loved one. Encourage your loved one to attend all of their medical and therapy appointments and urge them to stay up to date with their medications. Remember, that your role is to advocate for your loved one, not to treat or control them.

Stay Healthy: Caring for someone with Schizophrenia can be difficult. It is important to remember that you cannot care for someone unless your needs are also being met. Eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise and sleep, and take time to do something you love. Reach out to friends and family members for additional support, and do not be afraid to speak to a mental health professional of your own as needed.

What To Do If You Have Schizophrenia?

If you have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, there are many resources available to you. Remember, schizophrenia is treatable, and the more closely you follow your doctors care plan, the more manageable your symptoms may be.

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Work to be well-informed about your diagnosis and your treatment plans. Be vocal about what solutions help you best. Therapy, support groups, and local resources will be able to connect you with experts and contacts who are familiar with your condition.

Managing stress is important when it comes to self-care and Schizophrenia. Try to find a reliable therapist, learn relaxation techniques, and be mindful of how you are treating your mind and body. Remember, NEVER stop taking medication without the advice of your physician, and do not feel discouraged if it takes a few times to find the right medications for you.

As you can see, Schizophrenia is a complex disorder, and the information available here is just the start of what the disorder entails. The DSM-V is currently the best method used to identify and diagnose Schizophrenia, but resources for treatment and support are plentiful. Do not be discouraged if you or a loved one is dealing with a Schizophrenia diagnosis. The condition is treatable and manageable if you seek help. If you are dealing with a DSM-V Schizophrenia diagnosis, BetterHelp is there for you today!

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