Children with Schizophrenia

by Sam Malone

Schizophrenia is a medical condition which causes unusual behavior, strange feeling and strange thinking. Schizophrenia is a rare occurrence in children and its symptoms can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages. There may also be a difference in the symptoms of schizophrenia in adults and children. Some of the common schizophrenia symptoms in children can be seen in the form of difficulty in differentiating between reality and dreams. The symptoms include hearing voices and seeing things which are not actually real, confusing reality with movies or television programs, confusions in thinking, extreme mood swings, fear of people wanting to harm them, extreme fear and anxiety, serious problem in making and keeping friends and behaving younger than their actual age. Some of the other early signs of schizophrenia in children can also include extreme withdrawal symptoms or isolation, reduction in personal hygiene, odd speech and eccentric behavior. These children will exhibit poor performance in school, strange changes in eating habits and extreme agitation. The earliest indications of schizophrenia can even be noticed in toddlers in the form of developmental problems such as delay in language skills, unusual or late crawling, late walking and strange motor behavior like flapping or rocking of the arms.

Childhood Onset of Schizophrenia

In the case of childhood onset of schizophrenia, the neurodevelopmental damage is much greater as compared to onset of schizophrenia in adulthood. Children with schizophrenia show behavioral changes gradually over a period of time. Since the earliest signs and symptoms are so vague and difficult to diagnose, most parents feel that they are simply associated with developmental phase of the child's life. However as these children grow older the symptoms start becoming more severe and more noticeable by family, friends and even school authorities. Finally the child develops psychosis symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations and unorganized thoughts. This phase is extremely distressing for both the children and their parents and often leads up to treatments and even hospitalization. Anxiety in young children with schizophrenia is not uncommon at all. In fact most children with schizophrenia suffer from anxiety disorders. Children who have a family history of anxiety disorders are more likely to suffer from anxiety themselves especially in the case of schizophrenia. In the case of schizophrenia, anxiety in young children can be seen in the form of social anxiety, obsessive compulsive behavior and even panic disorders. Panic attacks in children with schizophrenia are also a common occurrence and should not be neglected at any cost.

In fact research has shown that children who suffer from panic attacks in schizophrenia normally need more treatment as compared to the ones who don't have such panic symptoms. Similarly psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia can be one of the leading causes of sleep disorders in children. In addition to insomnia, children with schizophrenia may also experience other sleep related problems such as fatigue, sleepiness during the day and even nightmares. Such sleep disorders can make the condition of schizophrenic children even worse by causing extreme frustration, sensitivity, confusion and in many cases even depression. Sleep disorders in children with schizophrenia can also affect their treatment and hence it is very important that such children are closely monitored by their doctors and parents so that a negative impact on their treatment and overall health can be avoided. If schizophrenia is left untreated in children it can cause serious behavioral and emotional complications. Some of the negative effects of schizophrenia in such cases can be seen in the form of severe depression, suicidal tendencies, abuse of medications and drugs, as also self destructive behavior. These patients would also show declining academic performance, physical and mental inability to attend school and inability to perform routine tasks like bathing and dressing.

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