What is childhood-onset schizophrenia?
Childhood-onset schizophrenia is a severe, rare mental disorder that is characterized by an abnormal perception of reality. Children can experience hallucinations, disordered thinking and behavior, and delusions.
What are the symptoms of childhood-onset schizophrenia?
This condition is characterized by issues with emotions, behavior, and thinking. Children experience delusions, an impaired ability to function, hallucinations, and disorganized speech.
The first symptoms to appear include late or unusual walking and crawling, abnormal motor behaviors, and language delays. These effects progress as children age, and when they are teenagers they may experience trouble sleeping, issues at school, a lack of motivation, withdrawal, substance use, strange behavior, and trouble sleeping. The older they get, the more symptoms they will show. These are hallucinations, delusions, very abnormal motor behavior, disorganized thinking, and an inability to function normally.
Complications are common, and they include self-injury, depression, anxiety disorders, being victimized, aggressive behavior, suicide or suicide attempts, family conflicts, social isolation, an inability to live independently, substance abuse, and legal or financial issues.
What causes childhood-onset schizophrenia?
Medical professionals are unsure as to why exactly this disorder occurs, or why it impacts some children at a younger age than others. The theory is that a combination of genetics, environment, and brain chemistry cause schizophrenia. Research has shown that problems with brain chemicals, like dopamine, may contribute to this disorder.
There are also risk factors, which include a family history of schizophrenia, issues with pregnancy or birth, taking mind-altering drugs while the brain is still developing, increased immune system activity, and the father being of older age.
How is childhood-onset schizophrenia diagnosed?
A diagnosis of childhood-onset schizophrenia comes after ruling out other conditions. This process will consist of a physical exam, psychological evaluation, using established diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, and tests, like an MRI. This diagnostic process can be long and difficult, due to the similarity of symptoms to other mental health disorders.
What are the treatments for childhood-onset schizophrenia?
Treatment for this condition is life-long. It consists of antipsychotics, psychotherapy, hospitalization, and life skills training. It is best if the diagnosis comes early, so that the proper treatment can be given before symptoms progress.