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Schizophrenia is a severe and chronic mental illness that affects how a person thinks, behaves, and expresses their emotions. People with schizophrenia have difficulty separating reality from fantasy. They may hear voices or see things that are not there; they may believe that others are reading their mind and controlling their thoughts. Their speech and behavior can become so disorganized that others have trouble understanding them.  Some subtle signs may be apparent earlier, such as lack of motivation, difficulties at school, and trouble with relationships.


Symptoms, which usually appear in early adulthood, can include:

  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or smelling things that are not real)

  • Delusions (false beliefs that don't change when presented with facts)

  • Unclear or confused thinking and language

  • Agitated or unusual body movements.

  • Loss or lessened sense of please in everyday activities

  • Emotional unresponsiveness (speaking in a dull, flat voice; flat facial expression)

  • Difficulty beginning or completing tasks

  • Trouble understanding information and using it to make decisions

  • Difficulty focusing or paying attention

  • Lack of motivation

  • Social withdrawal  

  • Lack of insight


Childhood Schizophrenia

Childhood schizophrenia - also known as very early onset schizophrenia - is a rare and serious mental illness that affects how a child thinks, behaves, and manages their emotions. It is often hard to recognize in the early phases; the changes in behavior may emerge slowly over time. In the initial phase, a child might demonstrate a drop in grades; they could appear to be more irritable and have trouble falling or staying asleep. A child who used to enjoy playing with friends might start to become more withdrawn and appear to be in their own world. They may begin to talk in ways that don't make sense or express bizarre ideas.  

The symptom picture with children and adolescents may be different than the symptoms and behavior demonstrated by adults.


The following may be seen with children and adolescents with schizophrenia:

  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or smelling things that are not real)

  • odd and eccentric behavior and/or speech

  • Delusions (false beliefs that don't change when presented with facts)

  • confusing television and dreams with reality

  • confused thinking

  • problems at school

  • extreme moodiness

  • personality changes

  • ideas that people are out to get them or talking about them (paranoia)

  • severe anxiety and fearfulness

  • difficulty relating to peers and/or keeping friends

  • withdrawal and increased isolation

  • lack of attention to personal grooming



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