What Parents Should Know About Schizophrenia And Teens
Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that people can develop at any age. Some studies show that not only can teenagers start showing signs of the disorder, but males who develop schizophrenia most often do so in the teen years and early 20s. Females tend to develop it in their 20s and 30s, but its possible for them to have signs earlier.
Despite the prevalence in teens, fewer than 20 percent of people who have psychosis say that their parents noticed the symptoms and did something to help. All parents can do their part to reverse this sad trend by learning about the disorder, the symptoms of schizophrenia in teens, and what to do if someone they know shows these signs.
Treatment And Medical Options For Schizophrenia
Over the past 30 years, along with identifying the more than 125 genes that may increase the risk of schizophrenia, researchers have also begun finding novel pathways and making other discoveries that may help identify new targets for drug therapy.
There is no cure for schizophrenia, and as with many diseases that can be managed but not cured, early detection and treatment are important.
Seek medical treatment if you or someone you know might be experiencing signs of psychosis or schizophrenia. Early treatment can improve a persons chance for a successful recovery. Whats more, proper treatment helps minimize symptoms and improve quality of life. Yet even after symptoms have ceased and schizophrenia is managed, most people with schizophrenia require ongoing drug and nondrug treatment.
Statistical Methods And Measurement Caveats
The prevalence rate of schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders is difficult to estimate using typical household survey methods alone. Accurate assessment of schizophrenia is best achieved using clinicians trained in the diagnosis of mental illnesses. The U.S. prevalence studies cited here were selected based on their use of U.S. population samples and use of methods that involved clinical diagnosis, either via clinical reappraisal studies or clinical record studies.3,4,5
Individuals with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders may be under-counted in prevalence estimation studies. These individuals may be under-represented in household surveys because they may reside in prisons, other institutions, or may lack a permanent address. Similarly, some people with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders may not be fully reflected in medical records data because they may not have a documented diagnosis, and/or may receive little or no health care.
Information on statistical methods and measurement caveats can be found in the papers cited on this page and listed in the reference section. Below we provide additional background information for large datasets used in two studies cited on this page.3,5
National Comorbidity Survey Replication
- For more information, see PMID: 15297905.
Also Check: What Is Ptsd Classified As
What Can I Do If A Loved One Shows Signs Of Schizophrenia Or A Similar Condition
Because people with schizophrenia often cant recognize their symptoms or condition, they often dont believe they need medical care or treatment. That can be frustrating or frightening for both the person with the symptoms and those who care about them.
If you notice a loved one showing signs of schizophrenia or a related condition, you can try helping them by doing the following:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Schizophrenia can be a frightening condition for the people who have it and their loved ones. Despite stereotypes, this isnt a condition where any thought of recovery or living a happy, fulfilling life is impossible. If you think you have symptoms of schizophrenia, its important to talk to a healthcare provider as soon as you can. Their job is to help you, and healthcare providers especially those who specialize in mental health conditions like schizophrenia have the training to help you not feel judged, ashamed or embarrassed. If you notice a loved one struggling with symptoms of psychosis or schizophrenia, encourage them gently and supportively to get care. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in helping people recover and manage this condition.
Making A Final Diagnosis
Doctors follow set guidelines to determine if someone has schizophrenia. The latest recommendations from mental health experts on how to diagnose this disease say that someone with schizophrenia:
- Must have at least two of the major symptoms
- Must have had symptoms for at least six months
- Must have had active symptoms for at least one full month
- Has had other possible causes for psychosis ruled out
Right now, observing symptoms is the only way to diagnose schizophrenia. Research is being done to find other ways. These may include brain scans or blood tests.
Recommended Reading: Is There A Cure For Bipolar Disorder
What Can I Expect If I Have This Condition
Schizophrenia is a condition where the outlook varies greatly from person to person. People who have schizophrenia tend to struggle with work, relationships and self care. However, with treatment, some are able to work, care for themselves and have fulfilling relationships.
This condition also often affects people in cycles. That means many people with this condition go through periods where the condition flares up and their symptoms get much worse, followed by a period where symptoms improve but they still have some ongoing struggles.
Despite how serious this condition is, treatment does make it possible for people with schizophrenia to live with the condition and minimize how it affects their lives.
How long does schizophrenia last?
Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition. While some people will recover from this condition after having only one or two episodes, schizophrenia symptoms can return unpredictably. People with a history of schizophrenia are in remission as long as symptoms dont return.
Whats the outlook for this condition?
Schizophrenia itself isnt a deadly condition. However, its effects on a person can lead to dangerous or harmful behaviors, to both themselves and the people around them.
Maintain Your Social Network
Try to maintain your friendships or the network of people that you have in your life. These will later become important supports as your loved one recovers. Educate them and update them on your loved one’s recovery. People are sometimes afraid to ask questions about schizophrenia and this will put them at ease.
Read Also: Can A 9 Year Old Be Bipolar
What If I Am A Carer Friend Or Relative
It can be distressing if you are a carer, friend or relative of someone who has schizophrenia. You can get support.
How can I get support for myself?
You can do the following.
- Speak to your GP about medication and talking therapies for yourself.
- Speak to your relatives care team about family intervention. For more information about family intervention see the further up this page.
- Speak to your relatives care team about a carers assessment.
- Ask for a carers assessment.
- Join a carers service. They are free and available in most areas.
- Join a carers support group for emotional and practical support. Or set up your own.
What is a carers assessment?NICE guidelines state that you should be given your own assessment through the community mental health team to work out what effect your caring role is having on your health. And what support you need. Such as practical support and emergency support.
The CMHT should tell you about your right to have a carers assessment through your local authority. To get a carers assessment you need to contact your local authority.
How do I get support from my peers?You can get peer support through carer support services or carers groups. You can search for local groups in your area by using a search engine such as Google. Or you can call our advice service on 0808 801 0525. They will search for you.
How can I support the person I care for?
You can do the following.
There is no definition for what high risk means. It could include:
Lifestyle And Mental Health Options
Psychotic symptoms and illnesses have been shown to vary quite a bit depending on the environmentthe health of our bodies, our interpersonal relationships, our mindsets. As with any illness, but particularly important in at-risk youth, healthy living is key. Regardless of the severity of prodromal symptoms, Dr. Correll says that your childs outcome can be improved by making sure your kid sticks to a routine that includes:
- Adhering to a regular sleep schedule
- Reducing stress as much as possible
- Staying away from drugsparticularly marijuana, which can interact with prodromal symptoms and increase the risk for psychosis significantly
Also, dont forget to address depression and anxiety. According to Dr. Correll, adults who eventually developed schizophrenia identified a three to five year period during which they experienced depression or anxiety before developing the prodromal symptoms of psychosis and then developed full-blown psychosis.So treating the depression early, he says, might actually interrupt the progression from depression to psychosis in some patients.
Recommended Reading: What Is Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
Getting Help For Someone Else
People with schizophrenia may be reluctant to visit their GP. They may believe there’s nothing wrong with them. This can be caused by their delusional thought patterns.
It’s likely someone who has had acute episodes in the past will already have a care coordinator. If this is the case, contact their care coordinator to express your concerns.
If someone is having an episode for the first time, you might need to persuade them to visit their GP.
For a worsening episode, you may need to go to the emergency department . A duty psychiatrist will be available.
A person having an acute schizophrenic episode may refuse to seek help. In this case, their nearest relative can request a mental health assessment. Social services will tell you how to do this.
In certain circumstances, you may have to be admitted to hospital against your will. This is called an involuntary admission.
Chemical Changes In The Brain
A series of complex interrelated chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, are responsible for sending signals between brain cells.
Low levels or imbalances of these chemicals are believed to play a role in the development of schizophrenia and other mental health conditions.
Dopamine, in particular, seems to play a role in the development of schizophrenia.
Researchers have found evidence that dopamine causes an overstimulation of the brain in people with schizophrenia. It may account for some of the symptoms of the condition.
Glutamate is another chemical thats been linked to schizophrenia. Evidence has pointed toward its involvement. However, there are a number of limitations to this research.
Complications before and during birth may increase the likelihood a person will develop mental health disorders, including schizophrenia.
These complications include:
Because of the ethics involved in studying pregnant women, many of the studies that have looked at the connection between prenatal complications and schizophrenia have been on animals.
Women with schizophrenia are at an increased risk for complications during pregnancy.
Its unclear if their children are at an increased likelihood for developing the condition because of genetics, pregnancy complications, or a combination of the two.
Recommended Reading: What Percent Of The Population Has Depression
Challenging Or Denying Hallucinations And Delusions
Many people think its best to gently counter hallucinations or delusions by saying something like, Thats not real, or I would see it, too.
Yet these symptoms are very real to them, and denying their reality often just ends up driving them away.
They may decide they cant trust or confide in you since you dont believe them. A lack of trust can make it more difficult to support them and encourage them to get help for symptoms.
Offering support doesnt mean pretending to believe in the hallucinations or delusions. You can simply say:
- It must feel so upsetting to hear those voices.
- That sounds so confusing and stressful.
What Are The Symptoms Of Schizophrenia And How Is It Diagnosed
How is schizophrenia diagnosed?
Only a psychiatrist can diagnose you with schizophrenia after a full psychiatric assessment. You may have to see the psychiatrist a few times before they diagnose you. This is because they need to see how often you are experiencing symptoms.
There are currently no blood tests or scans that can prove if you have schizophrenia. So, psychiatrists use manuals to diagnose schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
The 2 main manuals used by medical professionals are the:
- International Classification of Diseases which is produced by the World Health Organisation , or
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual which is produced by the American Psychiatric Association .
NHS doctors use the ICD-10.
The manuals explain which symptoms should be present, and for how long for you to receive a diagnosis. For example, according to the NHS you need to be hearing voices for at least 1 month before you can be diagnosed. Mental health professionals may say you have psychosis before they diagnose you with schizophrenia.
What is the future of diagnosis in schizophrenia?There are many research studies being conducted across the world on how to better diagnose schizophrenia. For example, a recent study found through looking at images of the brain, there may be different sub-types of schizophrenia.
What are the symptoms of schizophrenia?
The symptoms of schizophrenia are commonly described as positive symptoms or negative symptoms. This doesnt mean that they are good or bad.
You May Like: How Effective Is Cbt For Ptsd
Signs That A Teen Has Schizophrenia
Before teenagers show the classic signs of schizophrenia, they often go through whats known as the prodromal period. During this time, teens may exhibit signs such as:
- Steadily increasing the amount of unusual thoughts and actions
- Hanging out with a new group of friends and leaving old friends behind
- Withdrawing from normal social activities
- Making lower grades than usual
- Seeming depressed or irritable
- Sleeping too much or too little
These symptoms are too general to base any diagnosis on. For example, low grades can indicate a number of different problems and irritability can be a normal part of teenage development. However, these symptoms can act as warning signs for parents and other caregivers, who should stay alert for the symptoms of full-blown schizophrenia, including:
- A lack of personal hygiene
- Disorganized communication
- Social skills classes
In some cases, teenagers with schizophrenia need temporary residential treatment. During this time, the teen lives in the treatment facility and professionals monitor them around the clock. They also receive medication management and daily therapy sessions.
You can help your teen by seeking professional help you should not go it alone. First and foremost, you should seek immediate medical attention if your teen has suicidal thoughts or poses a risk to others.
Early Warning Signs And Symptoms
Usually, a person with schizophrenia has gradual changes in their thoughts and perceptions. Families are often the first to see early signs of psychosis and schizophrenia in a loved one.
Before the first episode of psychosis, you go through what is known as a premorbid period. This is the 6 months before the first symptoms of psychosis. During this period, you might experience gradual changes.
Although sleep disturbances are not included in the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, people with the condition consistently report them.
Early warning signs include:
Recommended Reading: What Is The Definition Of Social Phobia
Causes & Risk Factors
It is not known for certain what causes schizophrenia, but like most other mental health problems, researchers believe that a combination of biological and environmental factors contribute to its development. Research has shown that:
- The risk is higher when a close family member has the illness.
- Schizophrenia may be influenced by brain development factors before and around the time of birth, and during childhood and adolescence.
- People who have experienced social hardship or trauma, particularly during childhood, have a higher risk.
- Cannabis use increases the risk of developing schizophrenia in youth and of triggering an earlier onset of the illness in people who are genetically vulnerable.
- Being born or spending ones childhood in an urban environment, rather than a rural one, increases the risk.
- Particular immigrant and refugee groups in Ontario may have a higher risk of developing psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
Exactly how these risk factors interact to cause schizophrenia is not yet fully understood.
Why A Correct Diagnosis Is Key But Often Elusive
When an individual experiences distressing symptoms, such as hearing voices or being unable to put together a sentence, they and their doctor both want the disorder diagnosed as quickly as possible so that treatment can begin. Unfortunately, all too often, this eagerness results in an incorrect diagnosis.
In 2019, a small study was conducted on those who were referred to Johns Hopkins Early Psychosis Intervention Clinic for treatment for schizophrenia. Researchers discovered that about half of those who were referred with a schizophrenia diagnosis didnt actually have this condition. In most cases, those who were misdiagnosed with schizophrenia had symptoms of anxiety.
According to Russell L. Margolis, MD, the clinical director of the Johns Hopkins Schizophrenia Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the author of the study, these patients were likely misdiagnosed as a result of checklist psychiatry. In other words, a patient may describe their symptoms to their primary care doctor, and based on that, the doctor makes a diagnosis to get the ball rolling on a treatment plan.
Generally speaking, the first step for someone wanting to know how to deal with a schizophrenic problem and get a correct diagnosis is to set up a consultation with a mental health professional who specializes in treating complex disorders like schizophrenia.
You May Like: What Does A Ptsd Flashback Look Like
Tests That Diagnose Schizophrenia
There are no specific diagnostic tests for schizophrenia. A diagnosis must be made on a case-by-case basis. There are, however,several tests doctors might run to get a better picture of whats going on with someone from both a physical as well as a mental health perspective. They can use test results to rule out other potential conditions before determining if any specific symptoms are related to schizophrenia.
Some of these tests can include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging
Usually, healthcare providers run tests such as magnetic resonance imaging , spinal tap, and blood and urine, to rule out other conditions before diagnosing schizophrenia. There are no specific diagnostic tests for schizophrenia.