Schizophrenia is a medical illness that causes strange thinking, strange feelings, and unusual behavior. It is an uncommon psychiatric illness in children and is hard to recognize in its early phases.

The behavior of children and adolescents with schizophrenia may differ from that of adults with this illness. Child and adolescent psychiatrists look for several of the following early warning signs in youngsters with schizophrenia:

  1. trouble telling dreams from reality,
  2. seeing things and hearing voices which are not real,
  3. confused thinking,
  4. vivid and bizarre thoughts and ideas,
  5. extreme moodiness,
  6. odd behavior,
  7. ideas that people are “out to get them,”
  8. behaving like a younger child,
  9. severe anxiety and fearfulness,
  10. confusing television with reality,
  11. severe problems in making and keeping friends.

The behavior of children with schizophrenia may change slowly over time. For example, children who used to enjoy relationships with others may start to become more shy or withdrawn and seem to be in their own world. Sometimes youngsters will begin talking about strange fears and ideas. They may start to cling to parents or say things which do not make much sense. These early problems may first be noticed by the child’s school teachers.

Parents should ask their family physician or pediatrician to refer them to a child and adolescent psychiatrist who is specifically trained and skilled at evaluating, diagnosing, and treating children with schizophrenia.


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Copyright © 1997 by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

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