Childhood schizophrenia is a rare psychological state illness. Childhood-onset schizophrenia (COS) is a rare, chronic mental disease that’s diagnosed in children before the age of 13. COS is a controversial diagnosis among clinicians and may be very difficult to diagnose for a variety of reasons. Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder characterized by delusions, hallucinations, limited motivation, flat affect, and anhedonia. The psychotic nature of this disorder is disruptive to the child’s emotional regulation and behavioral control. It may reduce the child’s ability to perform daily tasks that are crucial to adaptive functioning. Children often develop premorbid abnormalities, before the onset of schizophrenia, which impacts a child’s functioning, and alarm warning signs.
These disturbances can manifest in behavioral ways and can include introversion, depression, aggression, suicidal ideation, and manic-like behaviors. Gaps within the literature are identified, and directions for future research are discussed. Very early-onset of schizophrenia starts before an individual reaches 13 years of age.
Apart from the age of onset, childhood schizophrenia is analogous to adult schizophrenia. Within the future, the symptoms could also be more severe in people that develop them early.
In cases of COS, there are often disturbances within the child’s psychosocial functioning before the onset of the illness, which are mentioned as premorbid abnormalities. Premorbid abnormalities can include a variety of behaviors like shyness, introversion, loneliness, depression, aggression, suicidal behavior, theft, and manic-like or bizarre behavior. One of the foremost commonly reported initial presenting issues in children is that they’re struggling in class, which can be an immediate result of the behavioral difficulties that arise in COS.
Problematic behaviors are typically noted upon entering the school at age 5 or 6, although families often report that the disruptive behaviors began before schooling. As adult-onset of schizophrenia develops between the ages of 16 and 30, premorbid abnormalities aren’t observed in these patients. However, some patients do experience prodromal symptoms before the active phase of schizophrenia, which is simply light hallucinations or delusions.
Childhood schizophrenia vs. autism
Schizophrenia is rare among children, and a few of the symptoms and risk factors may overlap with that of autism. Additionally, some family and genetic studies have identified similarities between autism and childhood schizophrenia.
As a result, in some rare cases, it can take time to get an accurate diagnosis of schizophrenia in children.
The symptoms of schizophrenia in children are almost like those in adults, but they will have different implications.
The symptoms include psychosis, delusions, auditory hallucinations, during which the kid hears voices, developmental delays, language difficulties, difficulty dealing with school work and social relationships, trouble expressing or recognizing emotions referred to as ‘flat affect.’
The flat affect could also be noticeable during social interactions, emotional films, and cartoons. It also can affect the power to spot another person’s emotions by watching their face.
In more than half the youngsters who continue to develop childhood schizophrenia, unusual features are present from the first months of life. The American Academy of kid & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) note that changes may slowly occur over time. Children who previously made friends quickly or did well at college may start to seek out this stuff challenging.
The AACAP add that their old family members and caregivers may notice that their child:
Has unusual behavior or speech
Have strange or bizarre thoughts and concepts
Confuses television and dreams with reality
Seems confused in their thinking
Experiences severe mood changes
Shows changes in their personality
Believes that somebody is after them or talking about them (paranoia)
Appears anxious and fearful
Has difficulty concerning peers and maintaining friendships
Becomes withdrawn and increasingly isolated
Neglects their personal grooming
The child might not always remember that their experiences are different than those of people.
Lastly, evidence suggests that the negative symptoms of schizophrenia are linked to a dysfunction of the brain’s lobe, indicating a deficit in executive functioning, like memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and planning. Positive symptoms, on the opposite hand, appear to be linked to a dysfunction within the lobe of the brain, which can indicate deficits in memory, executive functioning, verbal expression, and abstract thinking.
Typical antipsychotics are generally referred to as having the foremost adverse side effects, the foremost severe of which are the motor and movement disorders, which will cause involuntary movements of the face, tongue, limbs, and hands. Additional side effects may include weight gain, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, and drowsiness. Thanks to the severity of those side effects, typical antipsychotics are one of the last treatment used with childhood schizophrenia.
While it’s clear that there are distinct abnormalities within the structure of the brain with COS, the factors which will trigger this abnormal development remain a mystery. Research suggests that schizophrenia symptoms could also be more severe in children than in adults.