Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Mental health centre

Schizophrenia - How do doctors diagnose schizophrenia?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

There are both good and bad sides to being diagnosed with schizophrenia. You might feel relieved to have a name for what is happening to you. And it's a first step towards getting the right treatment to help you cope with your illness. On the other hand, being diagnosed with a serious long-term mental illness can be a shock. You might not be happy at having a label that some people associate with being mad or dangerous.

Doctors are usually very cautious about diagnosing someone with schizophrenia. Usually, they will carry out several different assessments over a period of weeks or months, to be certain you don't get diagnosed incorrectly. You'll see a specialist mental-health doctor (a psychiatrist) before you are diagnosed.[23]

Your doctor may do some of the things below to help work out if you have schizophrenia.[24]

Asking questions

If your GP thinks that you may have schizophrenia, he or she will probably refer you to a hospital or clinic, to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist will want to hear the history of any problems you've had. He or she may ask you:[24]

  • What sort of symptoms have you been getting?

  • When did you first start having these problems (such as hearing voices)?

  • If you do hear voices, what do they say?

  • Do you know that the delusions or hallucinations you have are part of an illness, or do you think they are real experiences?

  • Do your problems come and go or do you get them all the time?

  • How have your problems affected your life (such as your studies or your work)?

The psychiatrist will probably ask about any other mental or physical health problems you have had, and whether anybody else in your family has had mental health problems.

If a friend or relative has come with you to the hospital or the clinic, your doctor may ask them what they have noticed about your condition. This may be particularly important if your symptoms are making it hard for you to speak or for people to understand what you are saying.

Doing a mental state examination

During the interview, the psychiatrist will look at you carefully and see how you react to things. This is called a mental state examination. This is to find out if you have schizophrenia symptoms at the time of the interview. The psychiatrist will:

  • Look at your appearance and behaviour

  • Listen carefully to the way you speak and what you say

  • See how you move and how much energy you seem to have

  • Ask about how you are thinking (whether your thoughts are racing or coming slowly)

  • Try to work out whether you are having abnormal thoughts (delusions) or abnormal experiences (hallucinations)

  • Ask about your mood and how you feel about yourself

  • If you are having delusions or hallucinations, try to work out whether you know your experiences are not real.

Last Updated: June 21, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
Next Article:

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman looking at pregnancy test
Early pregnancy symptoms
donut on plate
The truth about sugar addiction
smiling african american woman
Best kept secrets for beautiful hair
couple watching sunset
How much do you know?
nappy being changed
How to change your baby's nappy
woman using moisturizer
Causes and home solutions
assorted spices
Pump up the flavour with spices
bag of crisps
Food cravings that wreck your diet
woman with cucumbers on eyes
How to banish dark circles and bags
probiotic shakes
Help digestion
polka dot dress on hangar
Lose weight without dieting