While the term “undifferentiated schizophrenia” is no longer used, its symptoms are still evident.

As we learn more about mental health, how we view disorders — and what we call them — sometimes changes.

This is the case with undifferentiated schizophrenia. You may not have ever heard of this condition because the term “undifferentiated schizophrenia” is no longer used in the medical community.

However, the condition itself didn’t disappear. Its symptoms are now just found under a new name.

“Undifferentiated schizophrenia” is an outdated term once used in past versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

It’s one of four original subtypes created to classify schizophrenia cases by their main symptoms.

The undifferentiated subtype has features of psychosis — like hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech — but symptoms may not meet the criteria for any of the other subtypes.

This might be because symptoms aren’t specific enough to classify, or they may overlap with another subtype criteria. If you received an undifferentiated schizophrenia diagnosis, your symptoms likely didn’t fit in anywhere else.

The other subtypes in the past DSM version included:

  • Disorganized type: main symptoms related to disorganized behavior and speech
  • Catatonic type: symptoms involving two or more movement-related impairments
  • Paranoid type: presence of hallucinations and delusions without symptoms of disorganization or emotional disturbance
  • Residual type: schizophrenia episode has occurred but with no further psychosis symptoms

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association revised the DSM to its 5th edition (DSM-5), eliminating all subtypes of schizophrenia.

Instead of separate diagnoses, previous subtypes of schizophrenia are now placed under one all-inclusive diagnostic term, “schizophrenia spectrum disorder.” This allows healthcare or mental health professionals to provide a diagnosis based on the severity of your symptoms.

Why was this change made?

The goal of the DSM-5 is to provide guidelines for mental health professionals around the world.

Each new edition includes criteria based on the latest research and discussions related to successful mental health treatment.

In the older DSM, subtypes of schizophrenia were found to be too limiting. They didn’t completely capture the vast array of symptoms that could occur in schizophrenia, and sometimes symptoms didn’t fit into any single subtype.

In addition to the limitations the subtypes imposed, some people living with schizophrenia saw symptoms evolve over time. For example, if you were initially diagnosed with catatonic type and your symptoms changed over time to include more disorganized features, you might no longer meet the original criteria.

The disorder itself didn’t change. You’re still living with symptoms of schizophrenia, but the severity of your symptoms may have changed.

Schizophrenia affects less than 1% of the U.S. population.

While the causes of this condition are still under investigation, experts believe multiple factors may influence your chances of experiencing schizophrenia, including:

  • Changes to the structure and function of the brain: altered neurotransmitters, disrupted neural connections, and diminished gray matter in the brain
  • Environment: exposure to malnutrition, viruses, etc.
  • Genetics: if you have a close relative or sibling with schizophrenia, you’re six times more likely to develop the condition
  • Substance use: the use of mind-altering drugs, particularly during childhood and young adulthood

Symptoms of undifferentiated schizophrenia are no longer limited by subtype.

If you’ve received a schizophrenia diagnosis, you can experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • disorganized thinking
  • reduced emotional expression (called a flat affect)
  • reduced speaking
  • incoherence
  • difficulty focusing
  • challenges related to information retention
  • action that seem disconnected
  • atypical movements or catatonia
  • decreased self-motivation
  • lack of interest in social activities
  • diminished sense of pleasure or joy

To receive a schizophrenia diagnosis, the DSM-5 states the following guidelines must be met:

  • At least 2 of the following symptoms are present during a 1-month period (or less with treatment):
    • hallucinations
    • delusions
    • disorganized or catatonic behavior
    • negative symptoms (symptoms that indicate a loss of regular function)
    • disorganized speech
  • One of the present symptoms for a diagnosis must be hallucinations, delusions, or disorganized speech.
  • Since the onset, symptoms have caused clinical impairment in one of more areas of major function.
  • Symptoms have been present for at least 6 months, during which there is at least 1 month of active phase symptoms.
  • Other mental health conditions, such as schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder with psychotic features, have been ruled out.
  • Symptoms aren’t linked to the effects of a substance.

Treatment will depend on your unique set of symptoms, but your journey may start with a discussion with a healthcare professional. They will likely conduct a thorough evaluation, including blood tests and imaging, to rule out any other causes for your symptoms.

They will then refer you to a mental health professional who will recommend treatment, if needed.

The severity of your symptoms and how they’re affecting your day-to-day life will determine which medications and therapy options may be best for you. This will be balanced with the potential side effects of those treatments.

Many people living with schizophrenia find symptom relief through antipsychotic medications combined with psychotherapy options, such as:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • psychosocial treatments
  • family education supports
  • behavioral skills training
  • assertive community treatment (ACT)
  • coordinated specialty care (CSC)
  • cognitive enhancement therapy (CET)

While schizophrenia can’t be cured, with the right treatment, you can learn to manage your symptoms.

One 2020 study found that an estimated 70% of people saw some improvement in symptoms within the first 6 months of treatment. Only about 29% of people saw a significant improvement in symptoms. However, the study was small and evaluated people with first-episode schizophrenia spectrum disorders only.

Living with schizophrenia can be challenging. In addition to symptoms that affect your motor function and emotions, you may be unaware when you’re experiencing moments of psychosis.

Treatment with psychotherapy and medication is one of the best ways to manage the symptoms of schizophrenia, but there are still things you can try at home.

Self-care tips you can try to manage your symptoms include:

  • taking all medications exactly as prescribed, without missing doses
  • attending all scheduled appointments
  • learning to recognize the signs of schizophrenia relapse
  • keeping multiple lines of communication open with your healthcare team
  • focusing on keeping your meaningful relationships strong
  • eating a nutritious, balanced diet
  • getting plenty of sleep
  • exercising
  • joining support networks

Undifferentiated schizophrenia was a subtype of schizophrenia that is no longer recognized by the medical community. However, the condition still exists under the umbrella of schizophrenia spectrum disorder.

Like any mental health condition that involves a detachment from reality, living with schizophrenia can be challenging.

If you’re experiencing symptoms, help is available. Symptoms of schizophrenia can be managed with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

To learn more about schizophrenia or to find a mental healthcare professional in your area, you can speak with someone by calling the SAMHSA National Helpline at 800-662-4357 (HELP).