What is Hebephrenic Schizophrenia?

Laura M. Sands

Hebephrenic schizophrenia, also commonly referred to as disorganized schizophrenia or disorganized type schizophrenia, is a distinct type of schizophrenic psychosis. This type differs from other forms of this disorder, as it is characterized by nonsensical speech that follows no distinct pattern, as well by erratic and extremely bizarre behavior. Hebephrenic schizophrenia also typically presents in patients during their teen years and who are younger than 25 years of age.

Hebephrenic schizophrenia typically presents in patients during their teen years.
Hebephrenic schizophrenia typically presents in patients during their teen years.

It is not known what precisely causes hebephrenic schizophrenia and, although treatment options exist, there is no known cure for its peculiar symptoms. Some research suggests that individuals with a family history of depression may be more prone to its development, however. Researchers also continue to study whether marijuana use may be related to the development of psychoses in general, including schizophrenia.

The exact cause of hebephrenic schizophrenia is unknown.
The exact cause of hebephrenic schizophrenia is unknown.

Typically occurring in young patients between the ages of 15 and 25 years old, hebephrenic schizophrenia is marked by a rapid increase in symptoms after its initial onset. One of the primary symptoms of this disorder is severely disorganized speech patterns that also appear to have no grammatical structure. Other symptoms include a seeming inability to feel pleasure, improper emotional responses, a complete loss of motivation, delusions, hallucinations and highly unusual behavior.

As schizophrenia is a chronic disorder, symptoms can be treated, but cannot be cured. Commonly, individuals who are diagnosed with hebephrenic schizophrenia are treated with antipsychotic medications, which may help reduce symptoms. In many cases, however, individuals with this schizophrenic disorder must be hospitalized to prevent harm to self and others.

Disorganized type schizophrenia may be negatively impacted by habits and behaviors such as cigarette smoking, marijuana use, and other drug and alcohol abuse. Individuals who avoid these habits, as well as continue to take prescribed medications, often do experience a relief from symptoms and some may even be able to lead productive lives. Many with hebephrenic schizophrenia, however, tend to stop taking medication after symptoms have subsided, which generally causes a relapse.

Due to its early onset, hebephrenic schizophrenia was once referred to as a dementia praecox. This term predates the schizophrenia label that is currently applied to symptoms. Certain researchers that study dementia and, specifically, study schizophrenia, believe that the broad term dementia praecox should be reapplied to describe the illness, as it appears to be a distinct form of dementia, though it differs from the type commonly found among elderly populations.

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