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All About Schizophrenia In Children

 

Does your child complain about hearing and seeing things nobody else is doing? Do they hold strange beliefs and behave in gatherings and the public uncomfortably?

Such behavior is hard to understand. But that might indicate diseases like schizophrenia.

 

What is Schizophrenia (Psychosis)?

 

Schizophrenia is a rare but chronic psychiatric disease in which children abnormally interpret reality. It distorted their thinking and led them to hear and visual hallucinations, delusions, and irrational conduct. Because it is quite uncommon in children under 12, the early signs of this disorder may often be missed by medical professionals. It is also difficult to recognize the symptoms at the early stages of this disorder because children are still growing and developing both mentally and physically. 

Pediatric schizophrenia is substantially the same as adult schizophrenia but it occurs at an early age and can have a significant impact on children’s behavior. Special diagnostic, therapy, education, emotional and social development challenges are therefore available. Schizophrenia is a condition that requires lifelong therapy but that can significantly improve your child’s long-term outcome by identifying the disease and starting treatment early. 

 

What is schizophrenia in childhood?

 

When schizophrenia occurs in children under the age of 13, it is called early-onset schizophrenia (COS).  It is different from early-onset schizophrenia during adolescence (between 13 and 18 years of age).

Schizophrenia Causes In Children:

 

Research suggests that the development of this condition is led by a combination of factors. It is not known why some people start earlier than others. The reasons for COS are as follows:

1. Genetics:

In children, the hereditary factor appears to play a role in schizophrenia. A child who has a schizophrenic parent or sibling has about 10 percent chance of becoming schizophrenic. Alternatively, a child with no schizophrenic first-degree relatives has a 1% chance of developing the condition. Genetics is not a cause of great concern because it does not determine the disease, but it simply influences it. Just because your family has a history, it doesn’t have to mean that your child will definitely get the disease, even if it’s predisposed. So you can easily rest. 

2. Abnormal structure of the brain:

Abnormal brain psychosis structure in children may also be due to abnormal brain structure. Research has shown that brain ventricles have been enlarged by schizophrenic patients. This basically means that the brain’s volume of tissue is reduced and its frontal lobe has little activity, which is the area responsible for planning, making, and reasoning. Researchers also found abnormalities in temporal lobes, hippocampus, and amygdala in a few studies. However, since schizophrenia is the result of complex interactions, it will be illogical to assume that one single problem in the brain of your child is the cause.

3. Identical twins:

If one twin develops COS in the case of identical twins, the other child has one out of two chances of getting it. In the case of non – identical twins, one out of seven chances.

4. Environment:

Even if your child is predisposed to this disorder, environmental factors will ultimately be responsible for triggering schizophrenia. Based on some research, findings show that stress causes the stress hormone cortisol to increase sharply in the body of the mother during pregnancy or at a later stage. This level increase is said to be the cause of the child’s schizophrenia. Another stressful situation that this disease can trigger are:

  • Physical & Sexual abuse in childhood
  • Virus infection exposure in the womb
  • Low levels of oxygen during birth, due to premature prolonged laboratory
  • Losing or separating at an early age from a parent

Signs and Symptoms:

 

Symptoms of schizophrenia are divided into negative and positive in children.

Positive:

These are more apparent than negative symptoms. For example, the child is hallucinating or delusional, there is a gradual change in the behavior or thoughts of the child. The positive symptoms are:

  • Beliefs that are distracted and unconnected have no relation to reality.
  • Threat deception or other critical situations.
  • Visual hallucinations, seeing non-existent people or objects.
  • Auditory hallucinations, sounds or non-existent voices.
  • Inappropriate or weird behavior in social or even private situations.
  • Apprehensive of the wrong reference; patients often think they’re being discussed somewhere, but in truth, it’s not.
  • Having disorganized speech where the child may not be very expressive or have poor movements of the hand or eye.
  • Abnormal motor functions as sitting in a strange posture or doing things.
  • Moodiness.
  • Fearfulness and anxiety. 

Negative:

These symptoms don’t seem to be there, but they’re there. The child is found withdrawn from both basic and emotional work.

  • Problems with people connecting, making friends, or building confidence.
  • No apparent reason for suspicions or hostility towards others.
  • Extreme moodiness and nature that is irritable.
  • Inability to display emotions.
  • There is no interest in any activity.
  • Loss of pleasure.
  • Poor school performance.
  • Cognitive issues such as issues of remembering or correctly using information. 

Positive symptoms are urgently needed because they are too visible to be ignored, while adverse symptoms may be misunderstood when the child’s stubbornness or mood changes. You must, therefore, be alert because unspecified schizophrenia may lead to complications.

Schizophrenia in Children Diagnosis:

 

The diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia always begins with the elimination of other mental health conditions associated with similar symptoms, such as autism spectrum disorder, and the determination that the symptoms are not caused by substance abuse or medication.

1. Physical Examination:

This can be done to exclude other symptom-causing problems and to check for any complications associated with them.

2. Tests And Screenings:

These include drug and alcohol screening tests to rule out other medical disorders and tests. An MRI or CT scan may also be done by the doctor.

3. Psychological Evaluation:

this involves performing a complete psychological analysis–observing the appearance of the child, asking about feelings and behavioral patterns of thoughts (including self-harming thoughts or harming others), evaluating the ability to think and function at the age-specific level, noting anxiety and psychotic symptoms, and discussing family history. 

4. Schizophrenia Diagnostic Criteria:

The doctor may use the criteria published by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose schizophrenia in the child.

 

Risk Factors For COS:

 

The risk factors are the same as those causing schizophrenia in childhood. Some of them are the following:

  • Schizophrenia’s family history
  • Deletions of chromosomes 1, 8, 15 and 22
  • Autoimmune diseases that cause increased immune system activation
  • The father’s older age
  • Complications that may affect brain development during pregnancy, such as poor nutrition or exposure to toxins
  • Parents ‘ use of psychoactive drugs during their adolescence

Look for the symptoms of schizophrenia if your child has a combination of these causes or risk factors.

 

Complications:

 

It can cause severe emotional, health and behavioral problems if childhood schizophrenia is left untreated. Mental illness – related complications may arise in childhood or later, for example –

  • Suicide, suicide attempts, and suicide thoughts
  • Self – injury Disorders such as OCD and panic disorders
  • Family disputes
  • Inability to live independently
  • Acute depression
  • Unable to lead an independent life
  • Isolation from society and family

Taking medical assistance at the right time can avoid such serious problems.

Schizophrenia In Kids Treatment:

 

The therapy is aimed at eliminating COS symptoms as there is no total cure. It could be lifelong and complex. The treatment includes a combination of therapies and, depending on their specific symptoms, may vary from one child to another. Usually, it’s a combination of:

1. Antipsychotic Drugs:

Physicians are usually prescribing antipsychotic medications also known as neuroleptic drugs, such as:

Fluphenazine (brand name: Prolixin). Fluphenazine (brand name: Prolixin) Trifluoperazine (Stelazine) Loxitane (Loxapine) Chlorpromazine (Thorazine). Most antipsychotic drugs, however, have side effects. Therefore, be alert and let the doctor know if the child faces any problem. 

2. Psychotherapy:

In children psychiatric treatment psychotherapy is integral; it is essentially a speech therapy. Through these sessions, your child’s psychiatrist will help him or her:

  • Better understand the symptoms of the disease. 
  • Manage yourself to be vocal about your fears and feelings. 
  • Easily perform daily tasks
  • Dealing with society and questioning people in life

In addition to medication and talk therapy, much can be done at home to help your child become less anxious and more easily get through it.

Prevention:

 

  • Before serious complications develop, early identification and treatment will help to control symptoms of childhood schizophrenia.
  • Early treatment is also imperative in avoiding and limiting psychotic episodes that can be very frightening for a child and parents.
  • Continued treatment with appropriate treatment plans can help improve the long-term outlook of a child on the disease. 

While it is devastating to find out that your child has schizophrenia, early diagnosis and treatment will improve the prognosis and life outlook of the child. You can also join a support group to help your child better prepare for the situation and to live a normal life. 

A child has a mental disorder, which is difficult for a parent to accept. Maybe you want to refuse the situation, scrap the reports and prove that everyone is wrong. The truth takes time, but you don’t delay in providing proper treatment and care for your child.

Also Read: How to deal with anxious kids?