What symptoms are assessed during schizophrenia testing?
Without access to a clinical schizophrenia test, psychiatrists tend to diagnose schizophrenia on the basis of the presence of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ symptoms.
Positive symptoms show up as abnormal mental functions. In psychological schizophrenia tests, positive symptoms include excessive or distorted everyday behaviour – washing hands dozens of times – and include psychotic symptoms such as delusions, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, suspiciousness, and disorganised speech, thinking or behaviour. These symptoms are most common in acute schizophrenia.
Negative symptoms are taken to be the absence of mental functions that healthy people show. In psychological schizophrenia tests, negative symptoms include not being able to speak, being very emotionally unresponsive, showing poor personal grooming and no motivation to do every day things. These signs are more common in chronic schizophrenia.
Not having a schizophrenia test does not help as some of the symptoms are also common in other mental health conditions. They can also be brought on by taking recreational drugs. A firm diagnosis can therefore only be made if symptoms are present for several weeks – which means long delays in treatment. Keeping a journal of symptoms over time can be valuable in providing the information needed for a firm diagnosis to be made in the absence of a clinical schizophrenia test.
Could a schizophrenia test make treatment more effective?
Following the psychological schizophrenia testing process, schizophrenia treatment options can include medication, ‘talking’ treatments, and social support. The earlier treatment starts and the more support the affected person and their family gets, the better. Having a very reliable, quick and straightforward schizophrenia test would cut down time wasted and save a lot of worry and stress for patients and their families.
There is no cure for schizophrenia but most people benefit from drug treatment to control their psychotic symptoms. However, these drugs can result in unwanted side-effects including muscle stiffening or tremors, sedation, weight gain and restlessness, especially when taken at high doses. Several different types of drugs are available for use in schizophrenia treatment, so it may take a while to establish the best treatment and dose.
Could a schizophrenia test predict treatment success?
At the moment there are no clear ways to predict the schizophrenia treatment options and doses that will provide optimum benefits to each person. As medication may be needed for long periods, it is worth taking the time to find the best treatment, one that provides good benefits with minimum side-effects. If a schizophrenia test could be developed that measured a chemical in the blood that was associated with the level of symptoms, that test could, theoretically, help doctors monitor how effective their treatment was. This may be a long way off yet but, in the next few years, new technology could deliver such a test. Schizophrenia treatment in the meantime will continue to be a matter of ‘wait and see’ with careful support and monitoring.