When one believes that they or a loved one have schizophrenia, it can be overwhelming. Most believe that there’s only one kind of schizophrenia. However, in reality, there are multiple subtypes – each of which has its own set of presentation, symptoms, and treatment options. One of the most overlooked is disorganized schizophrenia.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at disorganized schizophrenia, how it develops, and what you can do to treat it. At the end, we invite you to ask any questions.
What is Disorganized Schizophrenia?
Disorganized schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia that usually involves the patient having disorganized speech, disorganized behavior, and a flat or inappropriate affect.
Disorganized schizophrenia differs from other types because you’re unlikely to experience auditory or visual hallucinations. Instead, those with disorganized schizophrenia struggle with their own set of symptoms that requires a specialized treatment. ¹
Disorganized Schizophrenia Symptoms
Disorganized schizophrenia symptoms range in severity and can have a drastic impact on day-to-day life. Those who struggle with this condition will experience symptoms of the following three categories:
When it comes to disorganized schizophrenia, one of the most common symptoms is disorganized speech patterns (sometimes referred to as “word salads”). Incoherent speech patterns can resemble the following: ²
- Inconsistent connections within sentences or sentence structure
- Repetitious thoughts, ideas, concepts, or phrases.
- Words that aren’t based in reality, usually made up by the speaker
- Rhyming words or phrases or using speech that has rhythmic nature to it
- In severe cases, the speech patterns are almost unintelligible or lack consistency or coherence
Those dealing with disorganized schizophrenia oftentimes have difficulties in functionality and follow through when it comes to tasks (both big and small). Disorganized behaviors may look like one of the following: ³
- A range of emotional states that shift suddenly and unexpectedly
- A breakdown in normal everyday functions like bathing, changing clothes, and eating meals routinely
- Performing actions that have a fundamental lack of purpose or seem strange to others
- Distortion of time, reality, and personal reactions to one’s own environment or surroundings
Disorganized schizophrenia can also present what’s known as flat responses, meaning that they commonly don’t have much in the way of physical expressions.
A flat response is when a person doesn’t express themselves through facial reactions or vocal inflections. In other words, a person appears to have a “flat” mood when talking to someone in a conversation. With flat responses, it can be difficult to try and decipher a person’s emotional state and, in turn, understand the help they need. ⁴
Disorganized Schizophrenia Diagnosis
Since disorganized schizophrenia mirrors other mental health conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose. When it comes to diagnosis, a mental health professional will address the following: ⁵
- Your medical and mental health history, which may include family histories
- Your symptoms and their severity
- The safety complications and functionality in your day-to-day life
In order to confirm a disorganized schizophrenia diagnosis rather than another mental health condition, other pathology examination may be done: ⁶
- A blood test showing blood count, chemical biomarkers, and thyroid levels
- Brain scans like MRI or CT
- Speech evaluation by a speech pathologist
In order to fall into the diagnostic code of disorganized schizophrenia, you must exhibit two or more of the symptoms over a month period. If you show signs of schizophrenia, you’ll be closely monitored by follow-up appointments to ensure symptoms improve rather than deteriorate.
How Does Disorganized Schizophrenia Develop?
Scientists still aren’t 100% sure what causes disorganized or other types of schizophrenia. However, there is statistical data that can assist in deciphering the developmental age and background of those that have disorganized schizophrenia.
It’s common for people to develop disorganized schizophrenia in adolescence or early adulthood (between the ages of 15 and 25). This is due to the fact that the brain goes through the most physiological changes and growth during this period and thus symptoms are more likely to exhibit due to these changes.
When we discuss risk factors, we look at several categories, including (but not limited to) genetic history, past family mental, medical health, and neurological structuring within the brain. If you’ve had any of the following, you’re at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia:
- A family history with mental illness including schizophrenia as well as psychoactive disorders. ⁷
- Exposure to viral infections (especially those that attack the brain and its structures). ⁸
- Have been subjected to harsh chemicals or irritants such as lead or gasoline. ⁹
- Imbibed in neurochemicals or illicit street drugs (such as PCP) where continual use can cause schizophrenia. ¹⁰
Disorganized Schizophrenia Treatment
Since disorganized schizophrenia is difficult to diagnose, it can also be difficult to treat. Due to this, the most common way to treat all forms of schizophrenia is through a mixture of medication, therapy, and medical treatment options.
Most of the treatments are done side by side with others in order to achieve the best success and to ensure a holistic approach to care.
Most of the medications for disorganized schizophrenia are also utilized for other forms of schizophrenia and consist of antipsychotics. Some patients may also be prescribed anti-anxiety meds, mood stabilizers, and anti-depressants as well. ¹¹
It’s worth noting that some patients have also found relief from incorporating certain vitamins into their diet.
Alongside medication, there are multiple different approaches to therapy. The most common route is individual talk therapy where you’ll discuss your treatment progress with a psychologist.
However, there are therapies that try and deal with your pattern of behavior. The purpose of these therapies is to address and change said behaviors in order to maximize treatment. While there are a number of these therapies, the most common is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). ¹²
Depending on your goals, you may also be interested in cognitive enhancement therapy (CET). Through this, you’ll identify and reduce triggers or stressors in order to reduce disorganized schizophrenia symptoms. In one study, it was shown that CET was effective in the management of various forms of schizophrenia, including disorganized schizophrenia. ¹³
Furthermore, social skills training, speech therapies, and social rehabilitation options can better assist those dealing with disorganized schizophrenia in trying to regulate day-to-day activities and building healthier social and professional behaviors.
Other Types of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is nowadays considered a disorder that is seen on a spectrum, with patients suffering from one form of schizophrenia rather than a generalized condition. However, to make things more simplistic for those that aren’t mental health professionals, schizophrenia can also be broken down into differing subtypes.
In order to identify the different types of schizophrenia, here’s a brief introduction:
Paranoid schizophrenia is the most common form of schizophrenia and features symptoms of increased paranoid delusions, thus blurring reality for the patient.
Furthermore, you may also struggle with multi-sensory hallucinations which can include hallucinations that you can smell, taste, hear and feel. Since most of those with schizophrenia have auditory or visual hallucinations, paranoid schizophrenia can be difficult to diagnose.
Catatonic schizophrenia results in a person having reduced mobility. If you struggle with this type of schizophrenia, it’s likely you’ll go from mostly stive and normalized motor function to an increasingly reduced motion. Other symptoms of the disorder can include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of the ability to speak
- Stupor or slowed, delayed responses and reactions
- Loss of voluntary actions
This state of inactivity can last anywhere between hours to days, with some snapping in and out of mobile states, going from full activity to a completely catatonic state. ¹⁴
Residual schizophrenia is a kind of schizophrenia wherein the patient might have an episode in their past – however, their symptom set is less pronounced than other subsets. Commonly, these individuals will show signs of schizophrenic symptoms, but with symptoms coming and going.
The consistency of schizophrenic episodes is more varied and patients may experience timeframes between flare-ups of symptoms. Although those with residual subsets will have more negative symptoms with blunting features and lowered energy levels. ¹⁵
Schizoaffective disorder differs from the other forms because it deals with schizophrenic and mood-instability symptoms. Those with schizoaffective disorder can struggle with delusions and hallucinations like those with different forms of schizophrenia, but also have mood shifts, depressive behaviors, and manic manifestations such as increased energy.
There are two different kinds of schizoaffective disorder: depressive type and bipolar type. Bipolar schizoaffective includes episodes of mania and sometimes major depression while depressive schizoaffective disorder only deals with depressive symptoms in conjunction with schizophrenic symptoms. ¹⁶
Undifferentiated Schizophrenia is a kind of schizophrenia that may mimic other forms but which symptom set and consistency of flare-ups don’t quite fit one of the forms. This may mean that the patient is exhibiting two or more subtypes or a mix of different subtypes. There’s usually a lessening of mental functionality, a reduction in emotional reactions, and a defaulting to a more simplistic set of behaviors. ¹⁷
Disorganized Schizophrenia Test
There are many online tests that can give you some direction on whether or not you struggle with disorganized schizophrenia. Most of these will ask questions regarding your symptoms and how common they are.
Although these tests aren’t completely definitive in diagnosing schizophrenia, they can help in organizing and identifying several key diagnostic factors.
If you’re trying to identify whether or not you struggle with disorganized schizophrenia, consider the following:
- Do you see or hear things that others don’t?
- Do you feel like you don’t have things in common with others?
- Do you fear that you are not in touch with reality at times?
- Do you have special powers or secret abilities that others do not comprehend?
- Do you have issues with completing normal, everyday tasks? (ie. showering, brushing your teeth, changing your clothes, doing laundry)
- Is organizing your thoughts, actions, or personal items a struggle?
- Do others have a hard time reading your facial features to understand your emotional state?
- Do you fear that there may be someone out to get you or watching what you do?
- Do you difficulties dealing with completing assignments at work or school?
- Do others have difficulties in understanding what you are saying?
If you have answered yes to multiple questions, it’s best to seek out a mental health professional to address these concerns.
DISCLAIMER: This is a sample self-administered examination and any results that this test yield isn’t to be taken as a diagnosis or a confirmation that you or others have schizophrenia or suffer from mental disorders that align with the symptoms that are presented above.
It can be overwhelming discovering that you or a loved one has schizophrenia of any kind. However, with the proper diagnosis, treatment, and therapy there is hope that one can lead a full life.
If you would like to know more about schizophrenia, we invite you to read our other supplemental articles on the disorder. Reach out, get help and support others.
Still have questions about disorganized schizophrenia?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge on this topic – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Center for Biotechnology Information: Disorganized schizophrenia via MedGen
² National Center for Biotechnology Information: Language in schizophrenia
³ National Center for Biotechnology Information: Disorganization and Reality Distortion in Schizophrenia
⁴ National Center for Biotechnology Information: Flat Affect in Schizophrenia
⁵ NYU Langone Health: Diagnosing Schizophrenia
⁶ Cleveland Clinic: Schizophrenia Diagnosis and Tests
⁷ National Center for Biotechnology Information: Genetics of Schizophrenia
⁸ Neuron: Viral Infection Leading to Brain Dysfunction
⁹ Cambridge University Press: Early-life metal exposure and schizophrenia
¹⁰ National Center for Biotechnology: Drug models of schizophrenia
¹¹ National Center for Biotechnology Information: Schizophrenia An Overview of Treatment Options
¹² NYU Langone Health: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Schizophrenia
¹³ National Center for Biotechnology: Cognitive enhancement therapy for schizophrenia
¹⁴ National Center for Biotechnology: Catatonic Schizophrenia
¹⁵ LumenLearning: Residual Schizophrenia Type
¹⁶ MayoClinic: Schizoaffective disorder
¹⁷ National Center for Biotechnology: Diagnostic issues in undifferentiated schizophrenia