Childhood Schizophrenia - Look out for the Warning Signs

By Medically reviewed by Dr. Duyen Le

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a condition characterized by distorted thinking, hallucinations, intense fear, and paranoia, all of which can result in erratic behavior. Children and young adults with schizophrenia often feel like something is wrong and they cannot tell what is real and what is just in their mind. Schizophrenia is rare in children and is also hard to diagnose.

Childhood onset of schizophrenia

It’s uncommon for symptoms of schizophrenia to surface before the age of 12. However, those with schizophrenia may experience several warning signs during puberty or adolescence. The period of time when one experiences these early warning signs is referred to as prodrome. During this time, the child has a feeling that what they are experiencing is not normal and it is a cause for concern. However, they may not be willing to admit it.

What are the common warning signs of schizophrenia during childhood?

The first warning sign is probably the developmental delays in language ability and other functions. Other early signs include rocking, posturing, and arm flapping, accompanied by poor motor development (unusual crawling), anxiety, and disruptiveness.

Your child may experience the onset of schizophrenia if they:

−Feel like something is wrong with their brain
−Cannot tell what is real and what is not
−Seeing and hearing imaginary things and voices
−Hearing unusual sounds or hearing someone calling their name
−Have delusional thoughts
−Suddenly change their behavior and emotion
−Are more sensitive to light, sound, smell, or touch
−Believe that other people want to hurt them
−Have irrational fear and suspicion
−Experience social withdrawal
−Cannot connect with other people
−Have difficulties speaking, writing, focusing or carrying out simple tasks.

Children with early onset of schizophrenia may start to talk about strange fear and try to cling to their parents for safety. What they talk about often does not make sense. Those who were once sociable may shy away from people and seem to enjoy being in their own world.

Treatment for childhood schizophrenia

It’s important for children to receive early diagnosis and treatment. They will need a combination of medication, therapies and specialized programs to manage their condition. Medications for schizophrenia are also concerning since they often come with side effects. Although second-generation (atypical) antipsychotic drugs have fewer side effects, they are reported to cause weight gain, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Until now, the FDA only approve the use of Risperidone (Risperdal) and Aripiprazole (Abilify) in children between the age of 13 and 17.


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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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