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Schizophrenia in Children and Teenagers

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  • In toddlers, early signs of schizophrenia typically include developmental problems such as late walking, abnormal motor behaviors, language delays or unusual crawling
  • Schizophrenia in teenagers usually takes nine months to develop and during this time, you may think that your teen is undergoing common adolescent issues such as anxiety and depression

Schizophrenia is not just an illness that affects adults — it can affect children and teenagers as well. Children or adolescents who suffer from schizophrenia have problems perceiving reality, and symptoms likes hallucinations, paranoia and disorganized thoughts may appear.

Early Signs of Schizophrenia in Toddlers

Early signs of schizophrenia in toddlers 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
  • Difficulties with sleep because the hallucinations may become more common
  • Irritability and anger issues due to what they're experiencing
  • Anxiety due to hallucinations

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 you may think your child may be rebelling but, in fact, their actions may actually be schizophrenia in its early stages. Should any of the symptoms outlined by Caplan appear, immediately consult with a doctor who specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry. They 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 develops over a period of several months4 and during this time, you may think that your teen is undergoing common adolescent issues such as problems in school, irritability anxiety and depression. However, the following signs may indicate your teen is developing schizophrenia, including:5,6

  • Social withdrawal
  • Drop in school performance
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Irritability and depressed mood
  • Lack of motivation for activities
  • Confusion as to what is reality and what is not
  • Paranoia and strange ideas that don't make sense

Teenagers with schizophrenia 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 during a sad movie.7

Visit Your Doctor Immediately if Your Child Shows Any of These Signs

It is normal to worry when your child goes through behavioral changes,8 and you may think of it as just a phase that most kids go through. It’s much more difficult to discover that your child may have a mental illness, especially at an early age. A diagnosis of schizophrenia is a serious matter that will affect not only your child, but your entire family as well.

When certain symptoms of schizophrenia do appear, such as delusions, paranoid thoughts, hallucinations and disorganized speech and thinking, you should take your child to the doctor immediately.9 Getting help early will allow you and your family to help manage their schizophrenia and allow them to enjoy life, just as any child should.

 

MORE ABOUT SCHIZOPHRENIA

Schizophrenia: Introduction

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia Types

Schizophrenia in Children

Schizophrenia Causes

Is Schizophrenia Hereditary?

Schizophrenia Symptoms

Schizophrenia Diagnosis

Schizophrenia Treatment

Famous People With Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia Prevention

Living With Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia FAQ

 

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