Onset of Schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia often begins gradually, with social withdrawal and declining functioning across all areas of life the common first symptoms. This prodromal phase, which typically occurs one to two years before the onset of psychosis, consists of unspecific symptoms and is often only recognized in hindsight. Some examples of symptoms during the prodromal phase are anxiety, difficulty making choices, trouble concentrating, and social isolation. The positive symptoms of schizophrenia--like hallucinations and delusions--tend to begin at the very end of the prodromal phase, leading into the psychosis that is the hallmark of the disease.

Age of onset of schizophrenia varies among people, but occurs in early adulthood for the vast majority of people--typically between the ages of 16 and 30. While schizophrenia affects men and women in equal numbers, symptoms tend to begin at a younger age for men.

Although rare, schizophrenia can occur in children under the age of 13. This childhood-onset form of the disease is garnering more attention lately, although one estimate suggests that no more than 1% of adult schizophrenics developed the disease in childhood. On the other end of the spectrum is late-onset schizophrenia, which develops in adults over age 45. In general, childhood-onset schizophrenia has a less encouraging prognosis and late-onset a more encouraging one.