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Childhood Mental Health: Schizophrenia


Childhood schizophrenia is a medical illness that causes abnormal thought and behaviour, usually appearing between the age of 7 and adolescence. It is an uncommon psychiatric illness in children and difficult to recognise in its early phases. The cause is unknown, although genetic, environmental and chemical theories have been proposed.
The behaviour of children and adolescents with schizophrenia may differ from that of adults with this illness. Childhood schizophrenia is more similar in many respects to schizophrenia in late adolescence/early adulthood.

Symptoms and Signs

Child and adolescent psychiatrists look for several of the following early warning signs in youngsters with schizophrenia:

The behaviour 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 For example, children who used to enjoy relationships with others may start to become more shy or withdrawn and seem to be in their own world.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 and, like in adult schizophrenia, may develop hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. The child may start to cling to parents or say things which do not make much sense.
These early problems may first be noticed by the child's school teachers.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Schizophrenia is a serious psychiatric illness. A doctor bases the diagnosis on the symptoms. No diagnostic tests are available, but children with the problems and symptoms listed above must have a complete evaluation, which includes searches for evidence of drug abuse, exposure to toxic substances, and brain injury.
Usually schizophrenic children need individual treatment plans involving other professionals. A combination of antipsychotic medication and individual therapy , family therapy, and specialised programs (school, activities, etc.) is often necessary. Psychiatric medication can be helpful for many of the symptoms and problems identified. These medications require careful monitoring by a child and adolescent psychiatrist, as children are very susceptible to the side-effects of antipsychotic medication.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Based on the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry "Facts for Families" series:

Other HON resources 
   From MedHunt

Schizophrenia in Children
    From HONselect
     (def;articles & more)   

Schizophrenia, Childhood
Antipsychotic Agents

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Schizophrenia, Childhood
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Contact Last modified: Jun 25 2002