Childhood schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia can affect anyone at any age but it is most likely to develop between the ages of around 18 and 25 in men and possibly slightly later in women. Child-onset Schizophrenia is when the psychosis begins before the age of 13.

Schizophrenia in children is rare, affecting about 1 in 40,000 compared to around 1 in 100 adults. However, if there is a family history of schizophrenia then the odds of developing this condition are greater. So what would you look out for if you suspect your child has schizophrenia?

Symptoms of childhood schizophrenia

The symptoms of childhood schizophrenia are much the same as those for an adult and include the following:

? Seeing or hearing things that are not really there (hallucinations)
? Believing in things that obviously not true (delusions)
? Disorganised speech
? Catatonic behaviour

Other symptoms which may or may not appear along with those above are more subtle and less easy to identify as being connected with schizophrenia and include an inability or reluctance to participate in social situations, becoming withdrawn and isolated, failing at school, severe anxiety, shyness and moodiness, fearfulness, feelings of insecurity and being extra clingy to a parent.

It is important to note that the presence of any or all of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that the child has schizophrenia as these symptoms can also present with many other conditions, some that are not serious at all and some that are. Indeed it’s possible to confuse autism with schizophrenia in younger children.

An assessment of all the symptoms by a qualified practitioner is essential in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Diagnosing schizophrenia in children is fraught with difficulties for many reasons. For example, a younger child is likely to have great difficulty verbalising accurately how they are feeling and what they are thinking. Their developmental stage also needs to be taken into consideration as well as any other underlying medical condition that might be responsible for their behaviour and so on.

These problems are compounded by the fact that as childhood schizophrenia is very rare; it is highly possible that the psychiatrist and other health care professionals may never have come across it and so will have little or no experience in dealing with it.

Treatment usually consists of a combination of anti-psychotic medication and some sort of therapy or counselling.

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