Schizophrenia Diagnostic Tests

What a clueless book reviewer and others don’t seem to realize is that for close to nine years I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral schizophrenia website. While I was employed at that job I wrote news articles that featured unbiased factual information. Of course I always wrote articles there about what I thought could be useful strategies for living in recovery too.

Today I’m compelled to crib the information from a slide slow I published at HealthCentral circa 2014.

I ask you: do you think I would want someone to take medication if they didn’t have to? Do you think I like having this illness? Do you think one-size-fits-all treatment is the way to go? The answer to these questions should be NO.

Now here’s the slide show I wrote in 2014: (Yep–no one else on either side of the aisle dared write this. I was the only one.) It’s a little long to scroll down on a cell phone yet I didn’t want to break it up into two entries.

To diagnose schizophrenia certain tests must be given. 

First of all, a brain tumor or herpes encephalitis should be tested for to rule out that the person has one of these illnesses that mirrors schizophrenia.  The following information was taken from Surviving Schizophrenia, 6th Edition by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.  I recommend you buy this book to have on hand.  It’s the most recent version of this Family Manual that was first published in 1987.

It’s better to put your mind at ease about yourself or a loved one rather than jump to the conclusion that schizophrenia is always the cause of psychotic symptoms.

A diagnostic workup should include:

History and Mental Status Examination.

A review of organ systems will turn up illnesses that mirror schizophrenia.  Asking the kinds of drugs a person is using will turn up evidence of street drug use that could cause the psychiatric symptoms, or of prescribed drugs that have these kinds of symptoms as a side effect.  A mental status examination is where the individual is asked such questions as “Do you know where you are?  and What is today’s date?” As well as abstract questions like “What does the expression ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss?’ mean?”

Physical and Neurological Examinations.

Asking a patient to draw a clock or write a sentence can identify individuals with other brain diseases like brain tumors or Huntington’s disease.

Basic Laboratory Work: Blood Count, Blood Chemical Screen, and Urinalysis.

A blood test can turn up pernicious anemia, AIDS, or lead intoxication.  A thyroid function test should be ordered as well as a routine test for syphilis.

Psychological Tests.

This kind of test can be useful in early or borderline cases to rule out or confirm a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

MRI Scan.

According to E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. “An MRI scan should be done on every individual who presents with psychosis for the first time.”  Multiple diseases picked up by an MRI mirror the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Lumbar Puncture.

For patients experiencing certain symptoms such as headaches, rapid onset of psychotic symptoms, visual or olfactory hallucinations, neurological signs or symptoms of central nervous system disorder and concurrent or recent history of flu or fever.

Electroencephalogram (EEG).

This is used like the lumbar puncture to rule out or confirm other diseases.  It should be ordered for individuals with a history of meningitis or encephalitis, birth complications, or severe head injury; also for individuals that had episodic psychotic attacks with a sudden onset.

Other tests may be warranted depending on the presenting symptoms.  Make sure you or your loved one gets a full diagnostic workup.  To turn an expression on its head, all roads do not lead to Rome.  Getting an accurate diagnosis is critical in the treatment of schizophrenia or any of the other diseases that might be occurring.  Getting the right treatment right away results in a better outcome.  Forming a preconceived idea about the type of illness a person has can lead to ineffective treatment that can make things worse.

 

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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