NCP Schizophrenia



295.30 Paranoid type
295.10 Disorganized type
295.20 Catatonic type
295.90 Undifferentiated type
295.60 Residual type

(Refer to DSM-IV for other listings.)

Schizophrenia describes psychotic state that at some time is characterized by apathy, avolition, asociality, affective blunting, and alogia. The client has alterations in thoughts, percepts, mood, and behavior. Subjective experiences of disordered thought are manifested in disturbances of concept formation that sometimes lead to misinterpretations of reality, delusions (particularly delusions of influence and ideas of reference), and hallucinations. Mood changes include ambivalence, constriction or inappropriateness of feeling, and loss of empathy with others. Behavior may be withdrawn, regressive, or bizarre (Shader, 1994).



Psychosis is the result of a weak ego. The development of the ego has been inhibited by a symbiotic parent/child relationship. Because the ego is weak, the use of ego defense mechanisms in times of extreme anxiety is maladaptive, and behaviors are often representations of the id segment of the personality.


Certain genetic factors may be involved in the susceptibility to develop some forms of this psychotic disorder. Individuals are at higher risk for the disorder if there is a familial pattern of involvement (parents, siblings, other relatives). Schizophrenia has been determined to be a sporadic illness (which means genes cannot currently be followed from generation to generation). It is an autosomal dominant trait. However, most scientists agree that what is inherited is a vulnerability or predisposition, which may be due to an enzyme defect or some other biochemical abnormality, a subtle neurological deficit, or some other factor or combination of factors. This predisposition, in combination with environmental factors, results in development of the disease. Some research implies that these disorders may be a birth defect, occurring in the hippocampus region of the brain. The studies show a disordering of the pyramidal cells in the brains of schizophrenics, while the cells in the brains of nonschizophrenic individuals appear to be arranged in an orderly fashion. Ventricular brain ratio (VBR) or disproportionately small brain (or specific areas of the brain) may be inherited and/or congenital. The cause can be a virus, lack of oxygen, birth trauma, severe maternal malnutrition, or cellular damage resulting from an RhD immune response (mother negative/fetus positive).

A biochemical theory suggests the involvement of elevated levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is thought to produce the symptoms of overactivity and fragmentation of associations that are commonly observed in psychoses.

Although overall occurrence is relatively equal between males and females, resources report a predominant male bias with two-thirds of young adults with serious mental illnesses being male. Boys react more strongly than girls to stress and conflicts in the family home, and are more vulnerable to infantile autism. A significantly larger number of males than females exhibit obsessive and suicidal behaviors, fetishism, and schizophrenia. Schizophrenia develops earlier in males, and they respond less well to treatment and have less chance of recovery and return to normal life than females. The incidence in females may have more familial origins. The different brain organization of men and women, and the effect of sex hormones on brain growth are likely to result in subtle differences that define the “scope and range of sex differences in the incidence, clinical presentation, and course of specific psychiatric diseases” (Moir & Jessel, 1991).

Family Dynamics

Family systems theory describes the development of schizophrenia as it evolves out of a dysfunctional family system. Conflict between spouses drives one parent to become attached to the child. This overinvestment in the child redirects the focus of anxiety in the family, and a more stable condition results. A symbiotic relationship develops between parent and child; the child remains totally dependent on the parent into adulthood and is unable to respond to the demands of adult functioning.

Interpersonal theory relates that the psychotic person is the product of a parent/child relationship fraught with intense anxiety. The child receives confusing and conflicting messages from the parent and is unable to establish trust. High levels of anxiety are maintained, and the child’s concept of self is one of ambiguity. A retreat into psychosis offers relief from anxiety and security from intimate relatedness. Some research indicates that clients who live with families high in expressed emotion (e.g., hostility, criticism, disappointment, overprotectiveness, and overinvolvement) show more frequent relapses than clients who live with families who are low in expressed emotion.

Current research of genetic and biological influences suggests that these family interactions are more likely to be contributing factors to rather than the cause of the disorder.




Interruption of sleep by hallucinations and delusional thoughts, early awakening, insomnia, and hyperactivity (e.g., pacing)


Poor personal hygiene, unkempt/disheveled appearance


History of alteration in functioning for at least 6 months, including an active phase of at least 2 weeks in which psychotic symptoms were evident

Family reports of psychological symptoms (primarily in thought and perception) and deterioration from previous level of adaptive functioning

Mental Status:

Thought: Delusions, loose association

Perception: Hallucinations, illusions

Affect: Blunted, flat, inappropriate, incongruous, or silly

Volition: Cannot self-initiate or participate in goal-oriented activity

Capacity to Relate to Environment: Mental/emotional withdrawal and isolation (autism) and/or psychomotor activity ranging from marked reduction to stereotypic, purposeless activity

Speech: Frequently incoherent, echolalia may be noted/alogia (inability to speak) may occur


Disorganized type—Fragmentary delusions or hallucinations (disorganized,

unthematized [without theme] content) common; systematized delusions absent

Paranoid type—One or more systematized delusions with prominent persecutory or

grandiose content; delusional jealousy may occur

Undifferentiated type—Delusions prominent

Behaviors: Grimaces, mannerisms, hypochondriacal complaints, extreme social withdrawal, and other odd behaviors

Negativism: Resistance to all directions or attempts to move without apparent motive

Rigidity: Rigid posture maintained despite attempts to move client

Excitement: Purposeless motor activity not caused by external stimuli

Posturing: Voluntarily assuming inappropriate or bizarre posture

Emotions: Unfocused anxiety, anger, argumentativeness, and violence


May have had previous acute episodes with impairment ranging from none to severe deterioration requiring institutionalization

Onset of symptoms most commonly occurring between the late teens and mid-30s

Correlations with family history of psychiatric illness; lower socioeconomic groups, higher stressors; premorbid personality described as suspicious, introverted, withdrawn, or eccentric



Speech disorganized, communication consistently incoherent

Behavior regressive/primitive, incoherent, and grossly disorganized

Psychomotor: Stupor, markedly decreased reactivity to milieu, and/or reduced spontaneity of movement/activity or mutism

Affect: Incoherent, flat, incongruent, silly

Social Interactions

Extreme social impairment/withdrawal; odd mannersisms

Poor premorbid personality


Chronic course with no significant remissions


(Although common several decades ago, incidence has decreased markedly with the advent of antipsychotic medications.)


Marked psychomotor retardation or excessive/purposeless motor activity

Exhaustion (extreme agitation)


Weight below norms; other signs of malnutrition


Marked psychomotor disturbance (e.g., stupor, rigidity, mutism or excitement, negativism, waxy flexibility, and/or posturing)

Speech: Echolalia or echopraxia


Possible violence to self/others (during catatonic stupor or excitement)


Possible hypochondriacal complaints or oddities of behavior


(Absence of symptoms characteristic of disorganized and catatonic types.)


Systematized delusions and/or auditory hallucinations of a persecutory or grandiose nature, usually related to a single theme


Easily agitated, assaultive, and violent (if delusions are acted on)

Impairment in functioning (may be minimal), with gross disorganization of behavior (relatively rare)

Social Interactions

Significant impairment may be noted in social/marital areas

Affective responsiveness may be preserved but often with a stilted, formal quality or extreme intensity in interpersonal interactions


May express doubts about gender identity (e.g., fear of being thought of as, or approached by, a homosexual)


Other family members may have history of paranoid problems


(This category is used when illness does not meet the criteria for the other specific types of schizophrenias, illness meets the criteria for more than one, or course of the last episode is unknown.)


Prominent delusions/hallucinations, incoherence, and grossly disorganized behaviors



Inappropriate affect

Social Interactions

Social withdrawal, eccentric behavior


History of at least one episode of schizophrenia in which psychotic symptoms were evident, but the current clinical picture presents no psychotic symptoms


(Usually done to rule out physical illness, which may cause reversible symptoms such as: toxic/deficiency states, infections, neurological disease, endocrine/metabolic disorders.)

CT Scan: May show subtle abnormalities of brain structures in some schizophrenics (e.g., atrophy of temporal lobes); enlarged ventricles with increased ventricle-brain ratio may correlate with degree of symptoms displayed.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan: Measures the metabolic activity of specific areas of the brain and may reveal low metabolic activity in the frontal lobes, especially in the prefrontal area of the cerebral cortex.

MRI: Provides a three-dimensional image of the brain; may reveal smaller than average frontal lobes, atrophy of left temporal lobe (specifically anterior hippocampus, parahippocampogyrus, and superior temporal gyrus).

Regional Cerebral Blood Flow (RCBF): Maps blood flow and implies the intensity of activity in various brain regions.

Brain Electrical Activity Mapping (BEAM): Shows brain wave responses to various stimuli with delayed and decreased response noted, particularly in left temporal lobe and associated limbic system.

Addiction Severity Index (ASI): Determines problems of addiction (substance abuse), which may be associated with mental illness, and indicates areas of treatment


Psychological Testing (e.g., MMPI): Reveals impairment in one or more areas. Note: Paranoid type usually shows little or no impairment.


1. Promote appropriate interaction between client and environment.
2. Enhance physiological stability/health maintenance.
3. Provide protection; ensure safety needs.
4. Encourage family/significant other(s) to become involved in activities to promote independent, satisfying lives.


1. Physiological well-being maintained with appropriate balance between rest and activity.
2. Demonstrates increasing/highest level of emotional responsiveness possible.
3. Interacts socially without decompensation.
4. Family displays effective coping skills and appropriate use of resources.
5. Plan in place to meet needs after discharge.