Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that can also occur in children. Read out the following article to know which signs and symptoms are responsible for schizophrenia in children.
Schizophrenia is the most chronic and severe brain disorder that causes strange thinking, strange feelings, and unusual behavior. It is an uncommon psychiatric illness in children, having an altered perception of reality, frequently a significant loss of contact with reality. This mental disorder is related with abnormalities of brain structure and function, disorganized speech and behavior, delusions, and hallucinations. Sometimes, it is also called as psychotic disorder or a psychosis. This challenging disorder creates difficulty to differentiate between what is real and unreal, think clearly, emotional responsiveness, and relate to others.
The signs and symptoms of schizophrenia may differ in children and adolescents from that of adults. Sometimes, it is also called as split personality disorder. It is hard to diagnose childhood schizophrenia in its early phases. Schizophrenia symptoms emerge slowly in children, frequently preceded by developmental disturbances, for example lags in motor and speech/language development. Such problems have a tendency to be related with more pronounced brain abnormalities. When symptoms of schizophrenia appear prior to age 12, it is not easily diagnosed because of its ability to mirror symptoms of autism.
The functionality of the brain is affected when someone suffers from the schizophrenia. It can trigger hallucinations, depression and paranoia. People who suffer from insomnia are frequently unable to process information correctly without medication and commonly they have a severe distortion of reality. Symptoms of schizophrenia can be overwhelming and sometimes quite scary, especially for children, because patients with childhood schizophrenia are frequently too young to understand from where their symptoms are coming.
Schizophrenia is of different types, including paranoid schizophrenia, disorganized schizophrenia, catatonic schizophrenia, undifferentiated schizophrenia and residual schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenia is the most common type of schizophrenia which causes individuals to have many disrupting thoughts that are scared, as well as voices that are frequently threatening in nature.
Causes of Schizophrenia:
The causes of schizophrenia are of many types according to different medical opinions but none of the causes have been officially proven. Probably, the mental illness is rooted in genetics as one’s chances to develop schizophrenia are considerably advanced if individuals have a sibling or parent with the condition.
According to some medical opinion, the sickness may be associated to problems during pregnancy, for example malnutrition or being exposed to a viral infection. During pregnancy, such problems can cause harm to an unborn child’s nervous system. So, this mental disorder is developed during pregnancy.
Warning Signs of schizophrenia in children:
- Confused thoughts
- Extremely moody
- Odd behavior
- Delusions of persecution
- Vivid and bizarre thoughts and ideas
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Inability to make and keep friends
- Confusing television or movies with reality
- Behaving younger than chronological age
- Anxious and fearful
- Difficulty knowing the difference between dreams and reality
Childhood Schizophrenia Symptoms:
The schizophrenia cause different symptoms in children. Though parents and caregivers may misconstrue some symptoms as the product of a child's imagination or the child may have a difficult time verbalizing his (or her) experiences or thoughts. Some schizophrenia symptoms are unique to children that include:
- Easily distracted
- Extreme moodiness
- High anxiety levels
- Impaired motor skills
- Nearly constant fear
- Uneven motor development (i.e., odd crawling behavior)
- Delays in the ability to learn language
- Socialization problems, such as problems maintaining friendships
As the time goes on, the behavior of children may change. Children may start to discuss peculiar fears and ideas. They may withdraw from the real world and move away into their own world. In children, schizophrenia symptoms tend to develop and intensify over many years, as opposite to schizophrenia in adults, which is marked by a dramatic, easily identifiable onset of symptoms.
Diagnosing Childhood Schizophrenia:
Because of wide range of symptoms of schizophrenia, it is a hard condition to diagnose regardless of age. This psychiatric condition is even more intangible in children. Sometimes children found difficulty to describe their feelings and fears. Adults may disregard symptoms of schizophrenia in children.
When you start to observe any of the above symptoms in your child, consult therapist or psychiatrist who specializes in schizophrenia for an instant and thorough evaluation. Schizophrenia is diagnosed by specialists through evaluating whether a child exhibits the DSM-IV diagnosis criteria, as set forth by the American Psychiatry Associated (APA). These criteria are:
- Absence of other mental disorders
- Absence of drug abuse and sleep disorders
- Socialization problems (e.g., difficulty making and keeping friendships)
- Children who fall into each of these categories are diagnosed with schizophrenia
- Presence of developmental disabilities, such as autism and pervasive developmental disorder
- Typical symptoms, for example delusions and paranoia. At least two of the typical symptoms of schizophrenia must persist for at least six months for a diagnosis.
Schizophrenia treatment in Children:
Schizophrenic children can be treated depending on the type and severity of the schizophrenia. Commonly, the treatment of schizophrenia includes:
- Antipsychotic medication: Psychiatrists prescribe medications such as clozapine and risperidone.
- Therapy: Either individual, group therapy or family therapy will be recommended, depending on child's specific case.
As a common practice, parents have to bring their child to a pediatrician and ask him/her to refer a psychiatrist who is good in diagnosing, assessing and treating children with schizophrenia. To take part in different school activities, parents should also encourage the child which aim to treat the mental disorder. For schizophrenic children, early treatment is important as it helps to learn how to live a healthy, productive life.
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