People with schizophrenia can have a hard time telling what’s real and what’s not. They may see things that aren’t there or hold firm beliefs that fly in the face of fact. Understanding schizophrenia’s nature can help patients and their loved ones regain a sense of control.
Symptoms in teens can come on gradually over 9 months or more. They can sometimes imitate those of other problems such as anxiety or depression. Especially at first, symptoms may look like the stuff of typical teen years: bad grades, changing friends, trouble sleeping, or irritability.
But there are some early warning signs in teens that show up as changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior.
Changes in Thinking
Lack of concentration or ability to follow a train of thought
Seeing or hearing things that aren't real (hallucinations)
Confusing television and dreams with reality
Strange ideas that may not make sense (for example, thinking that parents are stealing things or that an evil spirit possesses him)
Paranoia -- thinking that people are after him or talking about him
Dwelling unreasonably on the past
Changes in Emotions
Extreme moodiness or irritability
Severe fearfulness or anxiety
Changes in Behavior
Unblinking, vacant expression
Awkward or unusual movements of the face or body
Talking to himself, using odd speech that you can't understand, or making rapid shifts in topics
Inappropriate responses, such as laughing during a sad movie
Trouble "reading" social cues in others
Problems making and keeping friends
Becoming increasingly isolated
Poor personal grooming and self-care
What to Do About Schizophrenia Symptoms in Teens
If you notice symptoms like these, your teen needs to be checked by a doctor right away. That's especially true if there's a history of schizophrenia in your family.
Your family doctor can refer you to a psychiatrist who works with teens. A psychiatrist has special training in diagnosing and treating schizophrenia.
If your child has schizophrenia, a combination of treatments may work best. These might include medication, and individual and family therapy.
A diagnosis of schizophrenia in your teen can be tough news to hear. But with the right treatment, kids with schizophrenia do go to college, hold jobs, and have a family life.