Disorganized schizophrenia (hebephrenia): A subtype of schizophrenia

Disorganized schizophrenia is a former subtype of schizophrenia, a chronic mental illness.

Disorganized schizophrenia, or hebephrenia, refers to incoherent and illogical thoughts and behaviors related to schizophrenia.

However, hebephrenia is no longer considered a distinct form of schizophrenia. The change in status happened because keeping the different types separate did not appear to help with diagnosis.

Since 2013, the American Psychiatric Association (APA)’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has defined schizophrenia as a single condition, which may or may not include disorganization.

Schizophrenia affects around 1.1 percent of the world’s population.

Fast facts on disorganized schizophrenia:

Here are some key points about disorganized schizophrenia. More detail is in the main article.

Schizophrenia is a serious, lifelong mental disorder that can involve disorganized and illogical thinking and behavior.

Disorganized schizophrenia, or hebephrenia, used to be a subtype, but since 2013, it has been included under the heading “schizophrenia.”

Treatment is available, and if a person adheres to it, it can enable them to cope with everyday life.

The complications of schizophrenia can be severe, but support from family and friends may help a person avoid some of these.


The signs of schizophrenia fall into the following key symptom categories of all psychotic disorders:

Delusions: The patient has false beliefs of persecution, guilt, or grandeur. It is not uncommon for people with schizophrenia to describe plots against them, or to believe they have extraordinary powers and gifts. Some patients may hide to protect themselves from an imagined persecutor.

Hallucinations: These involve seeing, feeling, tasting, or smelling things which are not there. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination.

Disorganized speech and thoughts: The patient is unable to form coherent or logical thoughts, and this is signified by disorganized speech. During a conversation, the individual will be unable to stick to the subject. They will leap from one topic to another. In severe cases, speech may be perceived by others as unintelligible garble.

Disorganized or catatonic behavior: Behaviors may vary from being child-like and silly, to aggressive and violent. There may be unprovoked agitation, or sexual behavior in public. Excessive movement, bizarre actions, freezing in place, or a lack of response to instructions or conversation are other ways this symptom can manifest.

Negative symptoms: This refers to the inability to function normally and can include symptoms such as a lack of personal hygiene, social withdrawal, and an inability to show emotion such as avoiding eye contact or speaking in a monotone voice.

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Causes and risk factors

Experts are not sure what causes schizophrenia, but research suggests there is some kind of brain dysfunction, probably influenced by a combination of biological and environmental factors.

Chemicals in the brain – such as the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin – may be involved in the onset of schizophrenia.

The condition could be caused by faulty cell-to-cell signaling in the brain, according to 2009 research published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Scientists in the study identified 49 genes that work differently in the brains of schizophrenia patients compared to controls.

Risk factors

The risk factors for schizophrenia include:

Genetics: Individuals with a family history of schizophrenia have a higher risk of developing the condition. If there is no history of schizophrenia, the chances of developing it are less than 1 percent. However, that risk increases to 10 percent if one parent has the condition. Research has suggested that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have the same genetic basis.

Viral infection: If a fetus is exposed to a viral infection, there is a greater risk of developing schizophrenia. There is no definitive list of viruses which pose a risk, but possible candidates include influenza, herpes, toxoplasmosis, and rubella.

Fetal malnutrition: If the fetus suffers from malnutrition during pregnancy there is a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.

Severe stress during early life: Children who experience extreme forms of stress early on in life may be at risk of schizophrenia. This could be due to childhood abuse or trauma.

Age of parents when infant is born: Children born to older parents have a higher risk of schizophrenia than children born to younger parents.

Drugs: Using substances that affect the mind or mental processes during adolescence may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia. Illegal drug use is common among those with schizophrenia, although it is not certain whether such drug use is a cause, or an effect, of the condition.


If schizophrenia is suspected, a series of medical and psychological tests will be carried out to rule out other conditions.

Such tests include:

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