Your Guide to Disorganized Schizophrenia

Medically Reviewed By Francis Kuehnle, MSN, RN-BC
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Disorganized schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia. It affects the way you think and speak, causing your speech and thoughts to become jumbled up. It can also affect the way you act. Disorganized schizophrenia is also known as hebephrenia. Disorganized schizophrenia most likely occurs when you are 15–25 years old. Alongside symptoms of disorganized thoughts, speech, and behavior, you will also experience episodes of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions.

Disorganized speaking may make it difficult for other people to understand you. Behaviors affected by disorganized schizophrenia may also result in you acting inappropriately in some situations. For example, you may begin laughing in a serious environment.

It is possible to treat disorganized schizophrenia. Read on to learn more about treatments, symptoms, and possible causes of the condition.

What is disorganized schizophrenia?

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Disorganized schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia. Alongside episodes of psychosis experienced in all types of schizophrenia, disorganized schizophrenia causes your thoughts, speech, and actions to become jumbled or unusual.

It is important to know that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) decided to drop the subtypes of schizophrenia in favor of one individual diagnosis. This is mainly due to the fact that schizophrenia in general is a complex mental health condition. As such, experiences and symptoms can vastly differ from one individual to the next.

However, you may still see references to disorganized schizophrenia as a subtype in the existing literature about schizophrenia. Individuals with an older diagnosis may also use this term.

The other subtypes of schizophrenia included: paranoid schizophrenia, residual schizophrenia, undifferentiated schizophrenia, and catatonic schizophrenia.

Learn more about the different types of schizophrenia.

What are the symptoms of disorganized schizophrenia?

Symptoms of disorganized schizophrenia exist in three categories: positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and disorganized symptoms.

Positive symptoms

Positive symptoms of schizophrenia refer to symptoms that exist outside of reality. This can include hallucinations and delusions.

Negative symptoms

Negative symptoms of schizophrenia affect your motivation and the way you feel. This can include:

  • changes to your sleeping patterns
  • slow movements
  • difficulties with planning future goals
  • talking less than usual
  • changes in your body language
  • lack of interest in usual hobbies
  • reduced range of emotions
  • low attention span

Disorganized symptoms

Disorganized schizophrenia causes your thoughts and actions to become jumbled up. This means that you may switch between topics when having a conversation with somebody, or you may provide an unrelated answer to a question.

Your behaviors can also be disorganized or unusual. This might include age-inappropriate behavior, unpredictable agitation, or unexplained, repeated movements. This can cause you to act in ways that are not necessarily appropriate at the time, such as responding to a serious situation with silliness.

Disorganized symptoms can also include catatonia. This is where you may only move a little or not at all, as if in a daze. You may not be responsive to your surroundings or to anybody who repositions your body.

It is possible to experience disorganized symptoms if you have a different subtype of schizophrenia. Before the DSM-5 merged the subtypes of schizophrenia into one diagnosis, these symptoms were not unique to disorganized schizophrenia. For example, catatonia was prevalent in catatonic schizophrenia diagnoses.

How do doctors treat disorganized schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is typically treated with a combination of therapy and medication.

Antipsychotic medication

Your doctor may prescribe antipsychotic medication. This includes first-generation and second-generation antipsychotics.

Antipsychotic medications help to reduce the severity of hallucinations and delusions. In some cases, they may prevent them from occurring. It can be trial-and-error to find the right kind of medication for you, so you will work closely with your doctor to make sure you are on the right type and strength of medication.

Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can often help individuals with schizophrenia. Your doctor will refer you to a therapist who specializes in CBT, and they will work with you to help you to better manage your symptoms. This can also help you understand your condition and your feelings about it.

How do doctors diagnose disorganized schizophrenia?

As the DSM-5 no longer refers to schizophrenia by subtypes, it is more likely that a doctor will diagnose you with schizophrenia than disorganized schizophrenia.

Your therapist will work closely with you over a period of months as they find out more about you and your symptoms. In order for them to reach a diagnosis of schizophrenia, at least two of the following symptoms must be present during a 1-month period:

  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • disorganized speech or thoughts
  • catatonic behavior
  • reduced daily functioning

A doctor may also order physical tests to rule out any underlying conditions that may be causing your symptoms. Tests can include blood tests to rule out any substances in your body, while an MRI scan provides a detailed structure of the brain.

Find out more about how schizophrenia is diagnosed.

Learn more about schizophrenia

Summary

The DSM-5 previously categorized schizophrenia into different types. Disorganized schizophrenia, or hebephrenia, was a subtype of schizophrenia where symptoms of disorganized thoughts and speech were prevalent.

With disorganized schizophrenia, the way you think and speak can become jumbled. This may make it hard for people to follow what you are saying. Your actions can also be affected. For example, you may behave inappropriately in serious situations, or you may appear catatonic and unresponsive to others around you.

It is possible to treat disorganized schizophrenia with a combination of medication and therapy. Medication can help to reduce the severity of symptoms, while CBT can help you better understand and manage your condition.

Contact your doctor if you are experiencing signs of disorganized schizophrenia. They will be able to refer you to a mental health team, and they may arrange for additional tests.

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Medical Reviewer: Francis Kuehnle, MSN, RN-BC
Last Review Date: 2022 Apr 12
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