Mental Status Examination for schizophrenia

Psychiatric History and Mental

Schizophrenia and Related Psychotic Disorders


Psychosis, a syndrome with many causes, traditionally refers to an impaired ability to distinguish between false and real perceptions and beliefs. Schizophrenia is the prototypical psychotic disorder. The most common psychotic symptoms are positive symptoms such as abnormal perceptions (including illusions and hallucinations), false beliefs, including a wide variety of delusional thoughts (e.g., paranoid delusions, delusions of reference, grandiose, somatic, etc.), and disorganized thinking. In addition, patients with schizophrenia might have prominent negative symptoms such as affective flattening, alogia (decreased thought/speech production), and avolition, together with amotivation, anhedonia and social isolation. Disorganized or bizarre behavior is a separate symptom dimension of the disorder. Affective symptoms can also be present and cognitive and social deficits are common.

This chapter focuses on primary psychotic disorders, as illustrated by schizophrenia, meaning that the clinical picture of psychosis is not deemed to be secondary to other processes. It is important to note that in addition to the primary psychoses a number of psychiatric and somatic conditions affecting the brain homeostasis can produce psychotic symptoms.

Patients with personality disorders (PDs) can present with overt psychotic symptoms in response to stress (e.g., paranoid PD, schizotypal PD, borderline PD). Schizoid PD is considered a risk factor and might precede Schizophrenia and Delusional Disorder. With regards to mood disorders, severe psychotic depression can present with mood congruent (e.g., nihilistic delusions, delusional guilt) and/or auditory hallucinations making critical and negative comments. At the opposite end of the spectrum, severe mania can present with grandiose and religious delusions, delusions of special powers, and auditory hallucinations (God’s or angelic voices). Late life psychosis can be present in the later stages of dementia disorders. Conditions that affect the brain structure, either acutely [e.g., rapidly growing brain tumors, traumatic brain injury, strokes, infectious/inflammatory processes such as tertiary syphilis, multiple sclerosis or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)], or chronically [e.g., nutrient and vitamin deficiencies such as B12, niacin deficiency (pellagra), etc.] can present with a variety of psychotic symptoms. Last but not least, a number of drugs (prescribed and illicit) can be associated with psychotic symptoms either during treatment/intoxication or withdrawal.

This chapter will first review the definitions of the different types of psychotic symptoms, as the basis for the discussion about the approach (including initial assessment as well as short and long-term treatment plans) to a patient with a generic psychotic syndrome. For the remainder of the chapter schizophrenia is used as the foundation for the discussion of clinical diagnosis, differential diagnosis, epidemiology, pathophysiology, genetics and treatment. Pertinent details of schizophrenia-related disorders will be discussed (compared and contrasted whenever the case) within the confines of the broader schizophrenia mainframe.

Clinical Manifestations and Definition of Terms[edit]

  • Positive Symptoms are thought of as an excess of normal function. Overvalued misperceptions that become illusions and hallucinations and overvalued ideas that become delusions (fixed ideas) are classical examples of positive symptoms.
  • Negative Symptoms refer to a lack of what is considered to be normal function. Normally, a degree of volitional ability is expected; therefore decreased or absent volition (avolition) is a negative symptom. Similarly, a lack of motivation (amotivation), a lack of ability to enjoy things (anhedonia), or decreased ability to engage in social activities (social isolation) are other classical negative symptoms.
  • Catatonia refers to two extreme (and fundamentally opposite) states. Agitated catatonia refers to a state of excessive, extreme behavioral agitation (not in response to internal stimuli), while catatonic immobility refers to extreme negativism (the patient actively resists any attempts to have his extremities or whole body moved) or catalepsy (waxy flexibility). Other catatonic symptoms include posturing (assuming strange body postures), grimacing, mannerisms, stereotyped movements, echolalia (where the patient repeats in parrot-like fashion the words of another person), and echopraxia (where the patient imitates in mirror-like fashion the movements of another person).
  • Disorganized thinking (formal thought disorder) refers to an alteration in the thought process. Normally the flow of thinking is coherent, linear and goal directed. In psychotic patients the associations may be loose to the point of being non-existent. The psychotic patient’s thought form may present with tangentiality (ideas are only marginally connected) or circumstantiality (the patient responds to questions moving in gradually more focused, concentric circles until eventually reaching the answer). In extreme cases, even the structure of the sentence might be lost which results in word salad.
  • Disorganized behavior refers to the patient difficulty to complete most goal oriented activities. A range of behaviors have been described: actively responding to inner stimuli (e.g., talking to oneself or shouting for no apparent reason), aimless, repetitive movements and activities, poor ability to maintain one’s basic hygiene and perform routine actives of daily living (which often results in a disheveled appearance, and poor grooming and hygiene), or uncensored public sexual activity (being naked, or masturbating in public).
  • Active phase refers to a period of time when a combination of the above symptoms are prominently manifested.
  • Prodromal and residual phases refer to periods of time of attenuated symptoms that either precede (prodromal) or follow (residual) the active phase period.
  • Cognitive Symptoms: Memory (more specifically working memory), attention, concentration, processing speed, problem solving (executive functioning), and social cognition are a few of the many cognitive domains shown to be impaired in schizophrenia.
  • Insight is a multidimensional concept referring to awareness of illness, specific symptoms and their consequences, as well as need for treatment. Insight refers to the patient’s ability to understand that some of his or her non-reality based experiences (usually hallucinatory experiences and delusional representations) are secondary to having schizophrenia rather than reality. Awareness and attribution of both current and past symptoms represent specific aspects of insight. Additional dimensions of insight include a more global understanding of the diagnosis and need for treatment.

Approach to the Patient with Acute Psychosis[edit]

The following major issues should be kept in the forefront:

  1. What is the most accurate diagnosis?
  2. Is there a treatable or reversible component to the psychosis?
  3. Is the patient safe?
  4. Can the physician help to alleviate the positive symptoms?
  5. Can the physician help to alleviate the negative, cognitive symptoms and insight deficits to improve social/functional outcomes?


The history should clarify the onset (acute versus gradual), tempo (slow/protracted versus rapid), chronology, course (persistent versus episodic), and type of symptoms.

Onset and tempo

An acute or subacute onset of psychosis may represent delirium, psychosis due to a general medical condition, or a substance induced psychosis and should trigger the search for intoxication, infection, or metabolic derangement.

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How do I schedule a mental status evaluation? | Yahoo Answers

John ... start by seeing your regular physician. They will give you a full blood workup checking for things like blood sugar disorders and glandular problems. If they don't find anything, then see a psychiatrist for diagnosis and treatment. There are very good medicines today to treat most mental disorders and well as therapy once the medication(s) take effect. Take care of yourself by eating healthy, doing cardio exercise and getting quality sleep, which are also needed for positive brain chemistry. Chip

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