Schizophrenia is a psychiatric illness that leads to altered perception of reality. Although found mostly in adults, this condition can also impact children and adolescents. It strikes generally around the age of thirteen, although the early onset of the disease affects children from an even younger age.
Most of the disease characteristics remain the same for all ages. However, for people with childhood schizophrenia, the symptoms of the disease are more severe during their adulthood.
Although similar in representation to autism, schizophrenia is an entirely different disease and parents should not be confusing between the two. Therefore, any suspicions much be shared with the best child specialist in Islamabad for a proper diagnosis rather than relying on imprecise hunches.
What are the signs of schizophrenia?
The symptoms of the disease progress with the age of the child, and thus manifest accordingly.
Early symptoms of the disease
Schizophrenia leads to development problems in children. It especially leads to delayed development of motor skills in children like crawling, walking, moving arms etc. Another milestone that is not reached in time are the language skills.
Symptoms in Adolescents
As the child grows, the symptoms also vary and present differently. In teenagers, schizophrenia leads to sleep problems, social isolation, bad performance in school. Schizophrenics also have lack of motivation to do better.
Schizophrenic children also have irritable disposition and suffer from depression. Erratic behavior is also common. Some teenagers also develop the habit of substance abuse as well.
However, it is very hard for the parents to place these symptoms, as an average, teenagers, due to the bodily changes and social pressures, also displays similar tendencies.
Following signs of schizophrenia become more apparent and pronounced as the children age:
Children suffering from schizophrenia experience hallucinations. It involves hearing or seeing things that do not exist in reality. However, if your child has an imaginary childhood friend or partakes in make-belief play, it does not mean they have schizophrenia, there are other symptoms to watch out for as well.
Lack of coherent thoughts and speech:
Children often can be ineloquent, however, those suffering from schizophrenia are not able to produce coherent thoughts. Due to the haywire thought process, their speech is similarly incoherent as well.
This then has a negative impact on their communications skills as well. They also are unable to then properly respond to the questions presented to them.
Some children are even unable to put together words, due to which they either utter complete gibberish or their sentence is put together by very random words that make no sense. However, this pronounced incoherence is a little rare.
Schizophrenia also causes children to act out of character and therefore have outbursts of improper behavior. Patients also do no exhibit age-appropriate behavior. Similar to their disorganized thoughts, their behavior is also all over the place and they are not organized in life as well.
It is very hard to discipline schizophrenic children as they do not respond well to commands, on the contrary, they retaliate against any form of instructions given to them. Whereas sometimes they are agitated and restless, other times they are completely placid and fail to give any response.
Schizophrenics are also subjected to delusions, whereby their mind makes up things that are not true and far from reality. For example, some patients believe that they are being hurt by someone else, others fear for their life as they are deluded about being harmed.
Similarly, some also consider themselves to be very famous and others misconstrue some love or bond with another person. These sorts of delusions are presented by children as well.
Types of symptoms of the disease
Symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into different categories, based on their impact on the child. These include:
The positive symptoms of schizophrenia
Positive symptoms of schizophrenia include the behavioral changes resulting from psychosis. These include delusions and hallucinations. Thought process of the children is also impaired; they have trouble controlling and organizing their thoughts as a result.
The negative symptoms of schizophrenia
These types of symptoms result in the lack of normal functioning in child. These impact not only thinking, but behavior of the child as well. In schizophrenic children, negative symptoms include speaking problems, whereby the child either speaks very little or not at all.
Similarly, they also do not display emotions, are devoid of happiness, do not get pleasure from anything in their lives. They also become withdrawn and isolate themselves from others.
The cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia also has a grave impact on cognition. It prevents the child from understanding the information presented to them. It also makes the decision-making task rather challenging for the child as well.
Moreover, schizophrenic children also suffer from inability to focus on the task at hand. They also have short attention span, all of which severely affects their cognitive skills, making school extremely difficult place for them.
It is not very easy for the parents to identify a case of schizophrenia, but they should be vigilant and talk to the best child specialist in Lahore if the child is presenting symptoms as mentioned above. Not only is it a medical condition that requires treatment, but schizophrenic children are also at risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts as well.