How does a psychiatrist diagnose schizophrenia?


When our son was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, we were clueless about the illness but years later, this is what we discovered. It is a complex mental disorder that makes it difficult for a person:

  • To know the difference from real and unreal experiences.
  • Think logically
  • Have emotional responses the way other people do.
  • Behave like his or her peers in social situations.
  • To get help fast. Mental health professionals are not always sure what causes it.
  • Certain environmental events may trigger this illness in people who are emotionally at risk.
  • We were told that he was more likely to develop schizophrenia if he had a parent with the disease.
  • Schizophrenia affects men and women equally and usually shows itself in the teen years or young adulthood but can begin later in life. I learned that it tends to begin later in women than in men.


  • That our son was very tense.
  • He had difficulty sleeping.
  • It was hard for him to concentrate.
  • He showed a lack of emotion; a sort of flat effec
  • He held strong beliefs that were not based on reality which his doctor called delusions.
  • He heard and saw things that were not there; known as hallucinations.
  • It was extremely difficult for him to pay attention. His thoughts seemed to jump between unrelated topics.
  • His behavior had become bizarre.
  • Friends visited and tried very hard, but eventually he became isolated socially.
  • He was sure that people out there were trying to harm him, were following him, and even directing his thought processes.
  • The most difficult thing for us to absorb was the fact that there were no medical tests to help with the diagnosis. Diagnosis is made after a psychiatrist interviews the individual and family members.


  •  “When did the symptoms begin?”
  • “How has your son’s ability to function changed?”
  • “Tell me something about his developmental background.”
  • “I need to know about your family’s genetic history.”
  • “Have any of the medications worked well?”
  • “How about doing a brain scan?” my husband suggested.
  • “A CT, an MRI or blood tests will only help to rule out the other disorders that have similar symptoms to schizophrenia,” the doctor said


  • Anti-psychotic medications are the most effective treatment for schizophrenia. They actually change the balance of chemicals in the brain and can help control the symptoms.
  • The problem is the side effects.
  • We noticed that they acted as a sedative.
  • There were times when our son complained of dizziness.
  • He gained weight but at a later stage managed to lose it by walking and exercising.
  • His movements slowed down; he was restless and often had tremors.

Both my husband and I were determined to beat ‘this thing’ that was controlling our son’s life and the following quotation is apt:

‘What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.’ Dwight D. Eisenhower.

This entry was posted in Schizophrenia on by .

About Jill

Author of books and articles on support and experiences of living with a mentally ill family member. My aim in blogging is to let others see how a loving family, with a father and husband who is able to give unconditional love, can help the family cope. Many call me the blogging grandma.'

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