Getting a new diagnosis is rarely good news — most people have a fair amount of anxiety and trepidation in learning they’ve got some sort of condition. Nowhere is this more true than with the diagnosis of schizophrenia. A schizophrenia diagnosis can be particularly scary because it is so misunderstood by so many people. It’s also one of the more rare but severe forms of mental illness. However, given that about 1 out of 100 people will be diagnosed with schizophrenia, it’s likely you’ve met or know someone with it.
But fear can be put to rest by asking questions and getting the facts you need to know in order to move forward with your life. Many times a newly-diagnosed person with schizophrenia may be in crisis, so these questions can also be asked by a family member or caregiver.
If your schizophrenia diagnosis did not come from a mental health professional — such as a psychologist or psychiatrist — your first order of business should be to see such a professional. While any medical professional can technically make a schizophrenia diagnosis, only a mental health professional is sufficiently trained in the complex science of diagnosis and treatment of this disorder.
Have you ruled out other conditions as the cause of these symptoms?
Just like many medical conditions, there’s no definitive set of tests that can be conducted to ensure a schizophrenia diagnosis is 100 percent accurate. Ensuring your doctor has ruled-out other possible conditions — or even an undiagnosed medical problem — helps to ensure the diagnosis has been carefully considered.
Is schizophrenia one of the disorders you regularly treat?
While it may seem disrespectful to ask a doctor this question, it’s important you’re seen by a professional who has deep experience in treating schizophrenia. While a specialist is ideal, a professional or doctor who’s regularly treated people with schizophrenia will also work just as well.
What kind of treatments are available for schizophrenia?
Make sure that if your doctor doesn’t offer psychotherapy, you walk out of the office with a referral to a therapist who has seen patients with schizophrenia or specializes in the disorder.
How soon after I begin treatment should I start noticing a change in my symptoms?
Most modern schizophrenia treatment will work on combating and reducing the most serious symptoms of the disorder — the hallucinations and delusions. With a combined, holistic treatment approach that includes both medications and psychotherapy, people will generally start to feel some improvement in their symptoms in the first few days or weeks. If you don’t feel an improvement after the first few weeks, you should talk to your doctor about the lack of progress.