7 Tools for Diagnosing Schizophrenia

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Diagnosing schizophrenia can be very difficult and a variety of tests are needed to make sure it isn’t a condition that mimics schizophrenia such as a brain tumor or herpes encephalitis. Rather than jumping to conclusion, it’s best to get a proper diagnosis. Here’s what to consider for a diagnostic workup.


History and Mental Status Examination

A mental status examination is where the individual is asked such questions as "Do you know where you are?  and What is today's date?" As well as abstract questions like "What does the expression 'a rolling stone gathers no moss' mean?


Physical and Neurological Examinations

Asking a patient to draw a clock or write a sentence can help identify brain diseases such as brain tumors or Huntington's disease.


Basic Lab Work

A blood test can turn up pernicious anemia, AIDS, or lead intoxication.  A thyroid function test should be ordered as well as a routine test for syphilis.


Psychological Tests

This kind of test can be useful in early or borderline cases to rule out or confirm a diagnosis of schizophrenia.


MRI Scan

According to E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. "an MRI scan should be done on every individual experiencing psychosis for the first time.  Multiple diseases picked up by an MRI mirror the symptoms of schizophrenia.


Lumbar Puncture or Spinal Tap

For patients experiencing certain symptoms such as headaches, rapid onset of psychotic symptoms, visual or olfactory hallucinations - a spinal tap can be used to rule out serious infections such as meningitis.


Electroencephalogram (EEG)

This is used like the lumbar puncture to rule out or confirm other diseases. It should be ordered for individuals with a history of meningitis or encephalitis, birth complications, or severe head injury; also for individuals that had episodic psychotic attacks with a sudden onset.


The Takeaway

Other tests may be warranted depending on the presenting symptoms. Getting an accurate diagnosis is critical in the treatment of schizophrenia or any of the other diseases that might be occurring.  Earlier treatment is crucial in successfully managing a conditon.