Childhood onset schizophrenia is when symptoms and diagnosis happen before the age of 13.  Usually schizophrenia starts to occur in the later teen years and early twenties.  Childhood onset schizophrenia is very uncommon.  It is said to only affect one in every forty thousand children. 

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder.  Childhood onset schizophrenia is very similar to adult schizophrenia, symptoms just start sooner.  This early onset of the condition can cause challenges in diagnosing, treatment, education, emotional and social development. 



Symptoms can come on rather suddenly or they can happen slowly over time.  Some children may experience the prodromal phase, where they will start to withdraw from life, have increased anxiety, and be less interested in school and friends.  Not all children will go through this phase.  This phase can also look like other conditions or problems. 

Babies and toddlers may have some other signs or symptoms of schizophrenia than older children.  They may have long periods where they are sluggish or not active.  Their legs or arms may be floppy.  There might be delays in crawling, walking, or talking.  A baby or toddler may have odd movements such as rocking or flapping their arms.  Another sign is a limp or slumped over posture.  

Symptoms that children may have at a later age are trouble telling dreams from reality, confusing television with reality, having detailed and strange thoughts and ideas, or fearing and believing someone will harm them.  Childhood onset schizophrenia can also cause hallucinations, delusions, disorganized behavior, and flatness just like adults with schizophrenia. 

Children may also experience extreme moodiness, lots of anxiety and fear, lack of emotions while speaking, school performance decline, social withdrawal, or sudden agitation or confusion.  Many children with childhood onset schizophrenia will have similar symptoms to other people who have schizophrenia later on.  Children tend to hear voices more often, audible hallucinations.  They also may experience long lasting delusions up until their teen years.  



The cause of schizophrenia is unknown.  It is thought to be a combination of physical, genetics, psychological, and environmental factors. 

Schizophrenia seems to run in families.  Some people with schizophrenia have an imbalance of neurotransmitters. 

Having inflammation in the body, having a family history, having pregnancy or birth complications, or recreational drug use can all increase the likelihood of developing schizophrenia.  



Diagnosing a child will take a thorough exam.  The exam will be a full medical and mental health evaluation.  Diagnosing schizophrenia means to rule out other possibilities of health conditions.  So diagnosing may contain physical exams, blood tests, brain imaging, and psychiatric evaluations. 

It is important for a child to see a child psychiatrist so they will be the best to diagnose the condition. 



Treatment for childhood onset schizophrenia is very similar to adult treatment.  It focuses on medications, therapy, life skill training, and hospitalization. 

Medications such as antipsychotics can help manage delusions and hallucinations.  It is important to talk about side effects of these medications with your doctor.  It is also important to talk with your doctor before taking other medications while on antipsychotics, sometimes other medicines will counteract or not mix well with them. 

Psychotherapy with a child psychiatrist can help teach your child how to manage their symptoms.  Family therapy and group therapy are options to help families learn more about the condition, as well as get help with things they may be struggling with. 

Life skills training can help a child with social skills and daily tasks.  Life skills training can also help them learn strategies to overcome challenges in school. 

Hospitalization is left for when symptoms are severe.  The safest place for your child when their symptoms are extreme may be at the hospital, where they can be monitored and watched closely while their symptoms are being managed.  



Childhood onset schizophrenia can bring with it a lot of challenges.  It can lead to other mental disorders.  Raise the risk of your child causing self harm or suicide.  It can lead to drug or alcohol use disorders.  Schizophrenia can also cause a child to be isolated from their friends and family.  It can cause legal or financial trouble, trouble living alone, going to school, or keeping a job. 

Diagnosed and treated early are the best thing you can do for your child with schizophrenia.  It will help them learn to manage their condition into adulthood.  Many people with schizophrenia can live a full, rich life with a job and living on their own.  As long as they are getting the treatment they need to manage their symptoms. 




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