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When is schizophrenia diagnosed?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
The usual age at which schizophrenia is diagnosed depends on whether you are male or female. For reasons not well understood, men tend to show symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thoughts earlier than women do. Men will often start showing symptoms in their late teens (around age 16 to 19) or early 20s. Women tend to show these symptoms later, in their late 20s or early 30s. Whether you are male or female, the diagnosis is made when you meet criteria established in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). If a mental health professional determines that you meet criteria for schizophrenia, he or she will make the diagnosis and can begin working on a treatment plan to help control the symptoms of the disease.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Schizophrenia symptoms most commonly manifest themselves between the ages of 16 and 30. It is rare for individuals who cannot drive (under age 16) and those 45 or older to show signs of the disease, though. And it’s important to note that symptoms in men tend to appear earlier than in women.

If your family or friends are concerned that you are acting odd or have strange ideas, definitely make a date with your doctor and dish the details. Your doctor may tell you that you are fine, but if you do have a mental illness like schizophrenia, you can benefit greatly from an early diagnosis.

It is unlikely for schizophrenia to be diagnosed in either early or late life. Most schizophrenia diagnoses come in early adulthood. Generally, the diagnosis for men comes a bit earlier, around age 18, than for women, who are often diagnosed in their mid-twenties. This can be problematic, as signs of schizophrenia often mimic signs of drug use. For this reason, doctors must rule out this cause of symptoms before diagnosing the disorder. Childhood schizophrenia can occur, although it is rare. Generally, children with schizophrenia begin to show symptoms between the ages of seven and their teenage years.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.