Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that manifests with strange or bizarre thinking, sight or sound perceptions, bland emotion and dissociation from reality. There Is a generic component but it is triggered by environmental factors, such as drug use and stress. Children who experience psychosis often can’t tell if something is real or not real. It is quite uncommon in young children and can be hard to recognize in its early stage.
Patients who develop schizophrenia as adults often start experiencing early warning signs during puberty or adolescence but is childhood-onset (<12) schizophrenia is rare. Those who develop it, depending on their age and communication ability, show signs of hearing or seeing things that are not there are strange or concerning. They may not easily admit these problems unless specifically asked.
In the first years of life, one-third of these children have short-term symptoms of pervasive developmental disorder, such as rocking, posturing, and arm flapping. Childhood-onset of psychosis may present with poor motor development, such as unusual crawling, and or they may be more anxious and disruptive. There may be sudden changes in thoughts and behaviors.
Early warning signs include children complaining of feeling like their brain is not working, their mind or eyes are playing tricks on them, seeing things and hearing voices that are not really like knocking, tapping, clicking or their name being called. They may complain of confused thoughts, or vivid and bizarre thoughts and ideas. They may express sudden and bizarre changes in emotions, or behave peculiarly. They may show signs of increased sensitivity to light, sounds, smells or touch. They may express their fear that people are “out to get them”. They may be withdrawn from others. Slightly older children may manifest with severe problems in making and keeping friends, difficulty speaking, writing, focusing or managing simple tasks.
The behavior of children with schizophrenia may change over time. The onset may be gradual or sudden. As one can imagine, these are debilitating signs and symptoms and renders the child dysfunctional.
Schizophrenia symptoms in teenagers are similar to those in adults, but they may still be more difficult to recognize at this age. This is primarily because some of these symptoms mimic typical developmental changes experienced during teen years, such as withdrawal from friends and family, difficulty focusing, trouble sleeping
Irritability or depressed mood, lack of motivation, strange behavior and substance use. Compared with adults, teenagers may be less likely to have delusions and more likely to have visual hallucinations.
Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among schizophrenics of all ages. If your child or teen has attempted suicide or has shown intent thereof, make sure someone stays with him or her and take your child to the nearest hospital emergency room. Overall, difficult as it may be, it is critical to detect schizophrenia in children and manage it effectively in order to prevent severe worsening and even suicide.