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Formal DSM Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders Diagnoses

Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D., edited by Kathryn Patricelli, MA

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Formal DSM Schizophreniform Diagnoses

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

The American Psychiatric Association maintains the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which describes the criteria necessary for the diagnosis of all mental disorders. Sections of the DSM are written by committees of experts to ensure that the latest science is included, and that common standards for diagnosis are made available to all professionals. Currently, the DSM is in its fifth edition (DSM-5).

The Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders

The DSM defines schizophrenia as an individual condition characterized by a set of positive and/or negative symptoms lasting for at least six months and including at least one month of active-phase symptoms. The DSM-5 also holds the idea that schizophrenia exists as a part of a continuum or spectrum of related conditions that share symptoms in common, and which may share causes as well. When viewed as a continuum of disorders, schizophrenia can be seen to range between "normal" at one end (with no schizophrenia present at all), and severe schizophrenia at the other. Most individual cases fall somewhere in the middle of the scale.

There are also several personality disorders that appear to be best thought of as extremely mild schizophrenia spectrum problems. These conditions sit on the scale close to the 'normal' side of the spectrum. These are long-term disorders that begin in childhood, or by early adulthood at the latest. They negatively affect people's work, family, and social lives. The symptoms cause a great deal of distress, either for the affected people themselves, or for those who are around them. Schizoid Personality Disorder and Schizotypal Personality Disorder share similarities with aspects of schizophrenia, but also differ in important ways.

Delusional disorder and schizophreniform disorder hold a middle position on the scale.

Finally, schizophrenia itself and a related condition, schizoaffective disorder, are on the extreme and severe end of the spectrum.

These schizophrenia spectrum conditions are described further in the following sections.