Early Onset Schizophrenia or Childhood Schizophrenia is similar to that of Schizophrenia in adults, but begins earlier in life impacting behavior and development. While Schizophrenia begins in the mid to late 20’s, Early Onset Schizophrenia starts before the age of 18 and Very Early Onset Schizophrenia begins before the age of 13.
Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis
Early symptoms can include language delays, late ability crawl, late walking ability, and abnormal motor behaviors. Symptoms that are often seen in teens include: isolating, poor grades, insomnia, irritability, depression, lack of drive, odd behaviors, and substance abuse. Symptoms that show later in the progression of the disorder include: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thoughts, disorganized behaviors, negative symptoms, suicidal thoughts, and paranoia. The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown but problems with neurotransmitters such as dopamine contribute to some of the symptoms that present in the disorder. Diagnosis is well managed by psychiatric providers and includes physical exams, blood tests to rule out drug causes, tests such as MRI and CT scans to rule out medical causes, and psychological evaluation.
Early Onset Schizophrenia is a disorder that affects the child’s ability to interpret reality the way others do and is chronic condition requiring lifelong treatment. Early recognition and treatment may improve long term outcome. A team approach is usually help and can include Psychiatric provider, psychologist, therapist, social worker, family members, pharmacists, and case managers. Treatments range from medications to psychotherapy, life skills training, and hospitalization. If the child’s safety or that of others is in danger, short term hospitalization may be necessary to ensure safety, sleep, hygiene and nutrition is quickly reached.