Schizophrenia is a severe mental health condition that can affect how a person thinks, feels, and interacts with others. The schizophrenia spectrum includes various disorders that display similar symptoms.

Although schizophrenia was once set into different subtypes, many professionals today consider schizophrenia to be a spectrum disorder. This means it is an umbrella term for various disorders that share similar symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations, but may vary in intensity.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), schizophrenia affects 1 in 300 people worldwide. Getting treatment will depend on which specific diagnosis a person has.

This article will explain the schizophrenia spectrum and its different types. It will also explore treatment for the different symptoms that arise on the spectrum.

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Schizophrenia can encompass different disorders that share similar symptoms. Disorders on the schizophrenia spectrum include:

A person experiencing one of these disorders can experience symptoms, including:

There is no biological marker or specific medical test for diagnosing schizophrenia. Health professionals must diagnose based on the individual’s experience and observations of symptoms.

Learn more about schizophrenia here.

Health practitioners widely use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) to diagnose and support the treatment of mental disorders.

In previous editions, there were different types of schizophrenia, for example, paranoid schizophrenia. The current version describes schizophrenia as a psychotic disorder with a range of symptoms that fall on a spectrum. This change is partly due to medical advances, neuroimaging, and observed changes and differences in the brain.

Another common tool for diagnosis is chapter 6 of the International Classification of Diseases, 11th revision (ICD-11) by the World Health Organization (WHO). Schizophrenia and related mental disorders have a classification as distinct types in this manual rather than falling on a spectrum dependent on symptoms.

Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders included on the spectrum include the following.


This is a common lifelong condition characterized by a combination of delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behavior or catatonic behavior, and negative symptoms. Two or more of these symptoms must be present for at least 6 months for a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia can have symptoms relating to:

  • positive symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions
  • negative symptoms, such as a lack of movement, motivation, or withdrawal
  • cognitive symptoms, such as memory impairment
  • mood symptoms, such as depression

Schizophreniform disorder

This is a condition with similar symptoms as schizophrenia but lasting for less than 6 months.

Schizoaffective disorder

Symptoms include psychosis with additional mood issues, which can be manic or depressive.

Delusional disorder

For this diagnosis, a person must have delusions or false beliefs for 1 month or longer. There may also be evidence of hallucinations that relate to those delusions.

Brief psychotic disorder

This is a temporary condition with symptoms including delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, such as frequent derailment or incoherence, and grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior. These symptoms must not continue for more than 1 month for this diagnosis.

Shared psychotic disorder

A doctor diagnoses this condition when they find the symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations, or both, to be a direct physiological result of a general medical condition, and they cannot better explain the symptoms by any other condition.

Substance-induced psychotic disorder

A person receives this diagnosis when symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations, or both, develop during, or within 1 month of, substance intoxication or withdrawal, and a doctor cannot better explain the symptoms by any other diagnosis.

This diagnosis is inappropriate if the person is aware that the substance causes the symptoms.

A spectrum disorder is a set of symptoms that, while similar or similarly experienced, vary in severity. They may, for example, have a genetic or environmental cause.

Understanding schizophrenia as a spectrum disorder may be helpful, as it is a condition with symptoms that can, in some people, substantially impact their daily life. In other instances, its impact may be milder.

Doctors can recommend treatment plans for managing the symptoms of schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Developing a plan will involve multiple practitioners, including psychiatrists and social workers.

The plan may include both pharmaceutical and lifestyle support, including talking or occupational therapy.


A doctor may prescribe antipsychotic drugs. These drugs can treat an acute psychotic episode, including delusions and hallucinations, lasting for a short period, and support long-term management of symptoms. There is no test to determine which antipsychotic medication best suits an individual. If, after 4–6 weeks, there is no improvement in symptoms, a doctor may prescribe an alternative drug.

Following one psychotic episode, antipsychotic treatment may continue for 1 year. For multiple psychotic episodes, doctors may recommend treatment with antipsychotics for 5 years.

Antipsychotic drugs may have unwanted side effects, and reducing or removing their use can be beneficial with other care support, such as talk therapy.

Learn more about antipsychotic medications here.

Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition that can substantially impact day-to-day life. In recent years, experts recognize it as a spectrum disorder. This is because individuals may have similar symptoms that stem from different causes, with symptoms including delusions and hallucinations.

There is no biological marker or specific medical test for diagnosing schizophrenia. Doctors will work to develop an individualized care plan for supporting individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders, with antipsychotic medications alongside other therapies, such as talk therapy, to improve symptoms.