Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness. It is a long-lasting and disabling problem of the brain. A child with this disorder has unusual behavior and strange feelings. He or she may suddenly start to have psychotic symptoms. Psychotic means having strange ideas, thoughts, or feelings that are not based in reality.
Schizophrenia has no single cause. A combination of genes from both parents plays a role. So do unknown environmental factors. Experts believe that a child has to inherit a chemical imbalance in the brain to develop it.
Schizophrenia tends to run in families. A child who has a family member with the disorder has a greater chance of developing it.
Behavior changes may occur slowly, over time. Or they may start suddenly. The child may slowly become more shy and withdrawn. He or she may start to talk about odd ideas or fears and start to cling more to parents.
Each child’s symptoms may vary. Early warning signs are:
Children with schizophrenia have the same symptoms as adults with the condition. But more children hear voices. Children also don’t tend to have delusions or formal thought problems until they are in their teens or older.
These symptoms may look like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
A child with symptoms of schizophrenia needs a mental health evaluation. A child psychiatrist or other qualified mental health expert can diagnose schizophrenia in children and teens. He or she does a mental health evaluation to figure out how best to treat the child.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Schizophrenia is a major mental illness. Treatment is complex. A child often needs a combination of therapies to meet the specific needs. Treatment is aimed at easing symptoms. It may include the following.
The doses and types of medicines may need to be adjusted from time to time so they can keep working well. Your child may be given:
Experts don’t know how to prevent schizophrenia. But early diagnosis and treatment can improve a child’s quality of life. Treatment works best when early symptoms are dealt with quickly.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that will require your support, patience, and attention. You are your child’s best advocate. Here are things you can do to help:
Call your healthcare provider right away if your child:
Schizophrenia may increase a child’s risk for suicidal thinking.
Call 911 if your child has suicidal thoughts, a suicide plan, and the means to carry out the plan.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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