The characteristic symptoms of schizophreniform disorder are identical to those of schizophrenia, but schizophreniform disorder is distinguished by its duration. An episode of the disorder (including prodromal, active, and residual phases) lasts at least one month but less than 6 months.

In some cases, the diagnosis is provisional because it is unclear whether the individual will recover from the disturbance within the 6-month period. If the disturbance persists beyond 6 months, the diagnosis should be changed to schizophrenia. Individuals who recover from schizophreniform disorder are projected to have a better functional prognosis.

Another way schizophreniform disorder differs from schizophrenia is that impaired social and occupational functioning are not required criteria. While such impairments may potentially be present, they are not necessary for a diagnosis of schizophreniform disorder. However, most individuals experience dysfunction in several areas of daily functioning, such as school or work, interpersonal relationships, and self-care.

Diagnostic criteria for schizophreniform disorders requires the following symptoms (with one being either 1, 2, or 3):

  1. Delusions
  2. Hallucinations (see schizophrenia for elaborated description of symptoms)
  3. Disorganized speech (communication is incoherent or seems like a “word salad”; frequent derailment of ideas)
  4. Disorganized or catatonic behavior
  5. Diminished range of emotional expression (the person appears emotionally withdrawn)

DSM-5 Diagnostic code 295.40