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Childhood Schizophrenia

What is Childhood Schizophrenia?
Childhood schizophrenia is a disturbance in children that is characterized by deterioration of thinking, motor, and emotional processes in children and young adults under the age of 18.  Symptoms include auditory and visual hallucinations, strange thoughts/feelings, and abnormal behavior.  These symptoms may jeopardize the child’s ability to function and sustain normal interpersonal relationships. Schizophrenia is especially rare in children under the ages of 7–8 years old.  Diagnosis can only be made by a licensed psychiatrist or licensed psychologist.

The cause of schizophrenia is not entirely clear, and can include several risk factors, including biochemical, environmental (including parenting, attachment) and genetic. Premorbid abnormalities in the language, behavioral or social areas may be noted.  The most notable correlating risk factor is genetic; there is a higher rate of childhood schizophrenia in children of schizophrenics.  

Childhood schizophrenia is not curable, but it can be well controlled with the help of the proper combinations of therapies and medications.

What are the Symptoms of Childhood Schizophrenia?
There are many symptoms and behaviors that can occur in children or adolescents with schizophrenia.  Many of the symptoms are similar to those in adults.  Prior to making a diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia, other psychiatric disorders must be ruled out.  Symptoms need to be present for at least 6 months.  

Symptoms include:
• seeing things and hearing voices which are not real (hallucinations) 
• odd and eccentric behavior and/or speech 
• unusual or bizarre thoughts and ideas 
• confusing television and dreams from reality 
• confused thinking 
• extreme moodiness 
• ideas that people are out to get them or talking about them (paranoia) 
• severe anxiety and fearfulness 
• difficulty in school or in relating to peers, and keeping friends 
• withdrawn and increased isolation 
• worsening personal grooming

The behavior of children with schizophrenia may change slowly over time. For example, children who used to enjoy relationships with others may start to become more shy or withdrawn and seem to be in their own world. Sometimes youngsters will begin talking about strange fears and ideas. They may start to say things that do not make sense. These early symptoms and problems may first be noticed by the child's school teachers.

What is the best treatment for Childhood Schizophrenia?
Children who present with symptoms must have a complete evaluation. The evaluation must be done by a licensed child or adolescent psychiatrist, or by a licensed psychologist.  Parents should take their child to a child and adolescent psychiatrist, or a licensed psychologist who is specifically trained and skilled at evaluating, diagnosing, and treating children with schizophrenia. 

The treatment of childhood schizophrenia can involve a combination of medication, individual psychotherapy, family therapy, and specialized programs (school, activities, etc.).  Psychiatric medications, which include anti-psychotic medications similar to those given to adults, can be helpful for many of the symptoms of this illness. These medications require careful monitoring by a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

At OHEL we can help.
The diagnosis and treatment of childhood schizophrenia in children and adolescents can be done by one of our licensed psychologists or by one of our licensed psychiatrists.  OHEL’s competent mental health professionals can provide the help needed to empower children and teens impacted by childhood schizophrenia and allow them to regain control and improve their quality of life.

Remember, at OHEL, we are only a phone call or a click away from your road to recovery.

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