The DSM-IV-TR is also known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. According to the DSM-IV-TR, mental health professionals recognize four differentiated subtypes of schizophrenia. These are paranoid-type, catatonic-type, disorganized-type, and residual-type. But many sufferers of this severe mental illness do not fit into this neat classification scheme. Doctors label patients with a fifth subtype, undifferentiated schizophrenia, when a patient clearly suffers from this psychological disorder, but fails to meet the diagnostic criteria for the other diagnoses.
Even though sufferers of schizophrenia undifferentiated type fail to meet the diagnostic criteria for the more distinct classifications, their illness may still be temporarily or permanently disabling. In fact, because they display symptoms from different classifications of this mental illness, these patients may be very challenging to treat. On the other hand, because many develop symptoms later in life, and in response to traumatic or painful events, their prognosis may be hopeful.
Undifferentiated Schizophrenia Symptoms
How can psychiatrists tell if a patient suffers from undifferentiated schizophrenia? Individual patients may demonstrate a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms may appear alone or together. Additionally, they may be consistent or inconsistent, or only appear at certain times in the patient’s life or under specific situations. These may be some symptoms of this subtype:
- The patient’s speech may be incoherent.
- The patient may be unable to demonstrate appropriate reactions or emotions for the immediate situation.
- The patient’s behavior may be, alternatively, violent or depressed.
- The patient may be, alternatively, paranoid or euphoric.
- The patient may exhibit a low attention span and lack of concentration.
Obviously one or two of these symptoms will not result in a diagnosis of schizophrenia undifferentiated type. Incoherent speech, inappropriate emotions, one particular mood, or a lack of concentration may or may not be caused by this particular malady. These could be symptoms of another schizophrenia subtype, or even a different issue. Medical professionals need to understand the patient’s history and consider the symptoms together in order to arrive at this diagnosis.
If you suspect that you, or a loved one, are suffering from a mental illness, it is important to seek treatment as quickly as possible. Your family doctor can offer advice. If symptoms are severe and alarming, do not hesitate to visit a hospital emergency room or call an ambulance for assistance.
Schizophrenia Undifferentiated Type Triggers
Episodes are often triggered by specific stressful events in the patient’s life. They may be a reaction to stress caused by events like trauma, the death of a loved one, an inability to pay bills, drug use, or even a physical illness.
In this case, the tendency to develop this mental illness may lie dormant, but only emerge after a tragedy or stressful situation. Removal of, or treatment for, the trigger may alleviate many symptoms and lead to a better prognosis in the future.
Undifferentiated Schizophrenia Treatment
Treatment depends upon the nature of the symptoms, the underlying cause of the mental illness, and the severity of the illness. Mental health professionals will need to understand each individual patient very well before prescribing a long-term treatment plan. The following treatment options may be considered:
- Medication: Anti-psychotic medications may be prescribed. These drugs help the patient manage his or her mood. The exact medication and dosage will depend upon the severity of the symptoms. For example, depressants may be prescribed when a patient is in an over-excited or agitated state. Anti-depressants may be called for when a patient is in a paranoid or depressed state.
- Therapy: Since undifferentiated schizophrenia often emerges after a patient endures a stressful or traumatic situation, one-on-one counseling may be very productive to help the sufferer deal with stress and painful emotions. Group therapy support may help sufferers socialize and realize they are not the only one afflicted with this illness. Family support groups help loved ones understand the disease better.
- Public and Private Support: It is important to establish a support system to help the individual meet his or her needs. This may come in the form of private foundations, families, or even public programs. Support may assist the patient with living arrangements, financial aid, and social activities. Most treatment centers can direct a patient and the patient’s family to social workers who can help get this set up.
- Hospitalization: During severe episodes, some patients may be better treated in an actual institution. A hospital can provide a safe environment until the worst symptoms pass. In addition, in-patients often get seen more often by mental health professionals so they can enjoy a better diagnosis and treatment plan in the future.
Undifferentiated Schizophrenia Prognosis
An initial diagnosis of undifferentiated schizophrenia may seem like a total calamity, especially after a patient has already endured a stressful event. However, that diagnosis may be exactly what the sufferer needs in order to begin managing his or her illness and getting help in all areas of life. This includes getting assistance with disease management, daily living activities, social integration, and maybe even financial aid. This diagnosis does not mean that the patient must give up hope of leading a rewarding and productive life again.
Since this disease tends to emerge later, triggered by a calamity, many suffers do manage to become functioning and productive people again. These individuals will certainly be better off for having identified their illness and worked out a lifetime treatment plan with the assistance of medical professionals, social workers, and their own network of family and friends. Once symptoms are known and recognized, it is important to seek treatment early for any reemergence.
Can Undifferentiated Schizophrenics Recover?
Honestly, most patients do not fully recover. According to the Merck Manual for mental health professionals, only about 15% of schizophrenia sufferers totally recover their full productivity. However, many more than 15% are able to become functional and productive people again if they get treatment and support.
- Individuals with highly stressful jobs before the onset of the disease may need to find less stressful employment and an easier lifestyle.
- Patients may need to rely upon financial or living assistance, both from public and private sources.
These individuals, and their families, must also understand that this treatment and support may be something they will need for the rest of their lives.
Generally, people who had a productive history before the onset of the disease, developed undifferentiated schizophrenia later in life, have no cognitive impairments, and fewer symptoms have a better chance of a full or partial recovery. Fast treatment and sticking to a treatment regimen is also associated with better outcomes.