Is Schizophrenia in Children Possible?

According to the NIMH, “Schizophrenia rarely occurs in children, but awareness of childhood-onset schizophrenia is increasing.” It is estimated that 1% of Americans are living with this mental illness, and some of them begin to experience symptoms at a very young age.

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What is Childhood Schizophrenia?

Childhood schizophrenia, though not as well-researched as the adult disorder, is problematic and can lead to the unhealthy development of a child if it goes untreated. This disorder causes a person to experience reality in an atypical way and to exhibit issues with cognition, behavior, and emotions. It is similar to adult schizophrenia in that it causes many of the same symptoms, including:

  • Hallucinations 
    • Schizophrenic patients often hear voices.
    • Seeing things and objects as well as smelling odors are also common.
    • Feeling the sensation of fingers touching one’s skin is another frequently described hallucination.
  • Delusions 
    • Delusions can include believing things that are untrue (even when they are explained) and experiencing severe paranoia.
  • Thought disorders
    • Disorganized thinking as well as speech that stops suddenly (also known as thought blocking) is another symptom.

A child with this disorder may also show physical signs, including delays in walking or crawling or making strange movements like flapping their arms. Developing schizophrenia at a young age can also cause

schizophrenia onset signs

Auditory hallucinations are one of the potential warning signs of schizophrenia in children.

  • Frequent, agitated movements
  • Emotionless speech
  • An inability to feel pleasure
  • A reduced desire or ability to speak
  • Problems focusing
  • Angry outbursts or violent behavior
  • Strange rituals in the way they eat, sleep, etc.
  • A refusal to participate in necessary daily activities including baths

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Diagnosis of Schizophrenia in Younger Individuals

Schizophrenia should be diagnosed by a doctor. According to the NLM, “Medicine can help control many of the symptoms” of this disorder, although there is no cure. Unfortunately, it can be extremely hard to diagnose the disorder in children and teenagers because the signs are not always as clear as those exhibited by adults. For example, younger individuals are more likely to experience visual hallucinations as opposed to auditory ones. Delusions are also a symptom that doesn’t occur in younger children but can begin to occur in older ones.

Depression, irritability, and apathy are all signs of schizophrenia in teenagers. However, many individuals at this age experience symptoms such as these without the presence of the disorder. Because schizophrenia is an extremely intense and involved disorder, doctors are hesitant to diagnose someone with it based on these symptoms alone. In some cases, schizophrenia occurs at a young age and goes undiagnosed and untreated until the individual gets older.

Is My Child Schizophrenic?

If you notice that your child

  • Is developing much slower than other children their age
  • Exhibits strange behavior
  • Is struggling in school
  • Has become isolated from other children or has extreme difficulty socializing
  • Exhibits delusions, paranoia, or violent tendencies
  • Has begun speaking in a way that does not make sense

you should seek medical attention. In many cases, it can be truly difficult to determine whether a child has schizophrenia or if they may have another disorder such as an autism spectrum disorder. In addition, some children may just be experiencing a difficult time in their lives, resulting in certain behaviors. However, schizophrenia in children is possible, and signs and symptoms like these should be diagnosed by a professional clinician. For help finding children’s mental health treatment call 800-598-5053 (Who Answers?) toll free anytime.


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