Schizophrenia is a severe psychiatric illness that involves bizarre thinking, feelings, and odd behavior. It is not common in children and can be difficult to identify in its early stages. The possible cause of schizophrenia is due to brain changes, biochemical causes, and genetic and environmental factors. However, research suggests the cause of schizophrenia is still unknown. Schizophrenia is an eternal disease that can be controlled but not cured with early diagnosis and medical treatment.
How schizophrenia is displayed among children and adolescents may vary from adults with this disorder. Symptoms and behaviors that can appear in children or adolescents with schizophrenia include:
- Apparent perception of seeing things and hearing voices which are not existent (hallucinations)
- Strange and bizarre behavior and/or speech
- Unusual thoughts and ideas
- Mixing up television and dreams from reality
- Disorderly thinking
- Severe mood swings
- The belief that people are out to get them or talking about them (paranoia)
- Extreme anxiety or fearfulness
- Difficulty connecting with peers, and keeping friends
- Withdrawn and increased isolation
- Deteriorating personal grooming
Children with schizophrenia may behave differently over time. For example, a child who used to enjoy spending time with friends may begin to become shy and withdrawn, spending more time with themselves. Some children may also start talking about odd ideas and fears. Children with the aforementioned symptoms must have a thorough evaluation. Parents of these children should ask their physician or pediatrician for referrals to a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who is particularly trained and skilled at assessing, diagnosing, and treating children with schizophrenia. Treatment for schizophrenia can include a combination of medication, individual therapy, family therapy, and specialized programs. Medication is found to be beneficial for many of the symptoms of schizophrenia and requires careful monitoring by a psychiatrist.
*Reprinted with permission from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, © All Rights Reserved, 2019. For full text please visit: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Schizophrenia-In-Children-049_01.aspx