Schizophrenia is a serious condition that causes changes in thoughts, emotions and behavior. Children with this condition may:
This is almost always a lifelong disorder that can cause serious problems in day-to-day living. With medicine and good social support, however, most people with schizophrenia can lead productive lives. Often the symptoms decrease in middle age.
The exact cause of this disorder is not known.
It is very rare for this disorder to start before age 12. It tends to starts slowly, usually after the age of 19. Girls and young women often develop symptoms later than boys and young men. Symptoms usually increase over 3 to 5 years, but can start suddenly over a few weeks.
No single symptom defines this illness. Some of the symptoms are behaviors that would not be seen in people without mental illness. These types of symptoms are called positive symptoms. They may come and go, and they may be mild to severe. Positive symptoms include:
Some of the normal emotions and behaviors that people have are missing in children with schizophrenia. These are called negative symptoms. Negative symptoms are often harder to recognize and may be mistaken for depression or other mental illnesses. Negative symptoms include:
Other problems with the way children with schizophrenia think may make it very hard to lead a normal life, such as:
How is it diagnosed?
Your child's healthcare provider or therapist will ask about your child's symptoms, medical and family history, and any medicines your child is taking. He will make sure your child does not have a medical illness or drug or alcohol problem that could cause the symptoms. Your child may have tests or scans to help make a diagnosis.
A mental health professional who specializes in working with children and teens should make the final diagnosis. The diagnosis is made based on a thorough psychiatric interview of your child and other family members.
Medicines are the most important part of the treatment. Several types of medicines can help. Your child may need to take more than one type of medicine. Your healthcare provider will work with you to select the best ones for your child. These medicines may cause side effects, but you and your healthcare provider will be able to watch for them. Your healthcare provider may change how much or how often your child takes the medicine, or change the medicine your child has been taking.
It is important for your child to stay on the medicine to keep symptoms under control. If your child is thinking about stopping his medicine, talk to your child’s provider first. Medicines used to treat schizophrenia should not be stopped suddenly or without your provider's okay.
Schizophrenia changes the way your child relates to others and the way your child thinks about everyday activities. Other people may be uncomfortable with your child’s unusual or unexpected behavior and they may avoid your child. There are several kinds of therapy that can help.
Supportive therapy can help your child learn about schizophrenia, and get advice about how to manage daily challenges.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on thinking and behavior. The therapist helps your child learn how to:
Group therapy can help your child deal with school, relationships, and drug therapy and side effects. It takes place in a group of 6 to 10 people, under the guidance of a therapist.
Family therapy is often very helpful. Family therapy treats all members of the family rather than working with one person alone. It helps the whole family to make changes.
Day treatment is a special kind of school where your child goes to classes as well as therapy. It is helpful when your child's behavior is so out of control that he or she can no longer be safe or learn well in a regular school setting.
Your child may need to spend some time in a hospital if he is thinking about hurting himself or someone else.
Get emergency care if your child has serious thoughts of suicide or self-harm, violence, or harming others.
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