In children with schizophrenia, behavior changes may occur slowly, over time, or have a sudden onset. The child may gradually become more shy and withdrawn. They may begin to talk about bizarre ideas or fears and begin to cling more to parents. One of the most disturbing and puzzling characteristics of schizophrenia is the sudden onset of its psychotic symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of schizophrenia. However, each child may experience symptoms differently.
Early warning signs of schizophrenia in children may include:
distorted perception of reality (difficulty telling dreams from reality)
confused thinking (i.e., confusing television with reality)
detailed and bizarre thoughts and ideas
suspiciousness and/or paranoia (fearfulness that someone, or something, is going to harm them)
hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not real such as hearing voices telling them to do something)
delusions (ideas that seem real but are not based in reality)
severe anxiety and/or fearfulness
flat affect (lack of emotional expression when speaking)
difficulty in performing schoolwork
social withdrawal (severe problems in making and keeping friends)
disorganized or catatonic behavior (suddenly becoming agitated and confused, or sitting and staring, as if immobilized)
odd behaviors (i.e., an older child may regress significantly and begin acting like a younger child)
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The symptoms of schizophrenia are often classified as positive (symptoms including delusions, hallucinations, and bizarre behavior), negative (symptoms including flat affect, withdrawal, and emotional unresponsiveness), disorganized speech (including speech that is incomprehensible), and disorganized or catatonic behavior (including marked mood swings, sudden aggressive, or confusion, followed by sudden motionlessness and staring). The symptoms of schizophrenia in children are similar to adults, however, children, more often (in 80 percent of diagnosed cases), experience auditory hallucinations and typically do not experience delusions or formal thought disorders until mid-adolescence or older. The symptoms of schizophrenia may resemble other problems or psychiatric conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
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Mr. X, is this you? Are you schizophrenic?