Schizophrenic Children

Schizophrenia is a fairly rare disorder, affecting about 1% of adults, and it is even more rare in children. Children with schizophrenic family members have an increased likelihood of developing schizophrenia; those with a schizophrenic sibling have a 7 to 8 percent chance of being diagnosed, and for those with a schizophrenic parent the risk is 10 to 15 percent. However, most schizophrenics will experience the onset of symptoms sometime between the ages of 16 and 30; only in rare instances do children younger than 12 develop schizophrenia, although awareness of childhood-onset schizophrenia has increased in recent years.

Schizophrenia in children is often difficult to diagnose, especially in its early phases. Behavior often changes slowly over time, with schizophrenic children often becoming more withdrawn and showing developmental distubances such as a lag in language or motor development. They may seem to be in their own world, showing symptoms like poor social skills and flattened emotions. Schizophrenic children may talk about strange fears, say things that do not make sense, and begin to cling to their parents. Children with schizophrenia often experience auditory hallucinations, and generally don't experience delusions until they reach mid-adolescence or older.

Schizophrenia in children is often mistaken for other disorders, particularly the much more common autism-spectrum disorders. However, autism is typically diagnosed in toddlers or pre-school aged children, while childhood-onset schizophrenia generally develops in children older than 6.

Treatment of childhood-onset schizophrenia is difficult, and children tend to have a poorer prognosis than schizophrenics diagnosed as adults. However, there are some newer antipsychotic medications that seem to hold promise for treatment of children with schizophrenia, and researchers are continuing to learn more about the disorder and how to address it.

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