Schizophrenia is not just a disease for adults — it can affect children and teenagers as well. Youngsters who suffer from schizophrenia have problems perceiving reality, and symptoms likes hallucinations, paranoia and disorganized thoughts may appear.
Early Signs of Schizophrenia in Toddlers
In toddlers, early signs of schizophrenia typically include developmental problems such as late walking, abnormal motor behaviors, language delays or unusual crawling.1 But for older children, more detailed symptoms that strongly suggest schizophrenia may manifest. According to Dr. Rochelle Caplan from the Child Mind Institute, these include:2
• Having difficulties maintaining attention
• Withdrawing from social interaction
• Anxiety due to hallucinations
• Irritability and anger issues due to what they're experiencing
• Difficulties with sleep because the hallucinations may become more common
Hallucinations in particular are very difficult for children because they may appear as scary or threatening thoughts, which may explain your child's difficulty sleeping. You may also notice some behaviors changing over time, such as a growing lack of interest in hobbies.
Problems in speech may also gradually appear. Caplan says that you may think that your child may be rebelling, but in fact, it may actually be schizophrenia in its early stages.
Should any of the symptoms outlined by Caplan appear, consult with a doctor right away who specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry. He will help evaluate your child's condition and devise a proper treatment plan for your child.3
Possible Indicators of Schizophrenia in Teenagers
Schizophrenia in teenagers usually takes nine months to develop4 and during this time, you may think that your teen is undergoing common adolescent issues such as anxiety and depression. However, the following signs may indicate your teen is developing schizophrenia, including:5
• Social withdrawal
• Drop in school performance
• Having trouble sleeping
• Irritability and depressed mood
• Lack of motivation for activities
Schizophrenic teenagers may also start to forget basic routines such as personal hygiene, as well as having problems with speech. They may also have inappropriate reactions to certain situations, such as laughing in a sad movie.6
Visit Your Doctor Immediately If Your Child Shows Any of These Signs
It is normal to worry when your child goes through behavioral changes as he grows,7 and you may think of it as just a phase that most kids go through. What's hard is finding out that your child may have a mental illness, especially at an early age. Diagnosing for schizophrenia is a serious matter that will deeply affect not only your child, but your entire family as well.
When certain symptoms of schizophrenia do appear, such as delusions, paranoid thoughts, hallucinations, disorganized speech and thinking, you should bring your child to the doctor immediately.8 Getting help early will allow you and your family to help manage your child's schizophrenia and allow him to enjoy life, just as any kid should.