Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that causes a variety of symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, and a lack of emotional expression. It is relatively rare in children, as only 1 in every 100 adults with schizophrenia developed the disease before the age of 13. Symptoms of childhood schizophrenia are categorized as being positive, negative or cognitive.
Here is what each symptom type means:
• Positive Symptoms: These are the symptoms that should not be occurring normally, such as hallucinations that cause children to hear, see, smell, or feel something that isn’t real.
• Negative Symptoms: These symptoms appear in a child who is lacking certain characteristics that should be there, such as emotional expression, interest in life, social interactions, pleasure in doing activities, and the ability to start and finish activities.
• Cognitive Symptoms: These symptoms are more difficult to identify because they describe a person’s thinking process. A child may not be able to absorb, interpret or act on information.
Treatment for children is similar to that of adults: medications, therapy and support groups. Medications include many of the anti-psychotic medications that are used for adult schizophrenia. “But children are different,” says Dr. Citrome, director of the clinical research and evaluation facility at the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research. “They are more vulnerable to the side effects of the drugs and the earlier the onset of schizophrenia, the worse the outlook; it doesn’t go away. They need all the treatment and support we can provide to keep them as functional as possible. Our goals aren’t just to get rid of hallucinations and delusions, but to increase their satisfaction with life.”