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Childhood-Onset Schizophrenia: Is It Really Dangerous?

Hochwald, L. (2021, July 27). Schizophrenia Overview. Health.
"Schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood diseases on earth. It is a physical brain disease like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's and stroke but more treatable." - Bethany Yeiser

Welcome back, everyone! How's it going? It's Jeshada here! Brace yourselves, for today we are going to dive into the intriguing realm of psychology, specifically mental disorders like schizophrenia. In this article, we will tackle the question in the title: Is childhood-onset schizophrenia truly harmful to children?

Before we delve into how it affects children, we first need to cover the basics. What even is schizophrenia? Schizophrenia is a chronic neurological disorder that affects less than 1% of the adult population in the United States. Remarkably, an even smaller percentage is observed among children.

Childhood-onset schizophrenia is an even rarer condition that impacts those aged 13 and below, with an incidence rate of approximately 0.004% among children. Just because the rate is extremely low doesn't mean that it isn't severe.

✰ Understanding Childhood-Onset Schizophrenia:

Childhood-onset schizophrenia, a chronic brain disorder, manifests in children under the age of 13. It differs significantly from adult schizophrenia in several aspects, including:

1. Symptoms:

  • Childhood-onset schizophrenia may present symptoms such as developmental delays, social withdrawal, academic challenges, and unusual beliefs.

  • In contrast, adult schizophrenia often involves symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech.

2. Progression of the illness:

  • Childhood-onset schizophrenia tends to follow a more severe and chronic course due to its early onset.

  • Conversely, many adults with schizophrenia, despite its chronic nature, respond well to treatment and maintain stability.

3. Cognitive Impairment:

  • Cognitive deficits are more pronounced in childhood-onset schizophrenia and may precede the onset of psychotic symptoms.

  • Adults with schizophrenia, when provided with appropriate treatment, often lead relatively normal lives.

✰ Distinguishing Symptoms from Typical Child Behavior:

It's crucial to differentiate schizophrenic symptoms from typical child behavior.

  • Schizophrenia symptoms are consistent, age-inappropriate (such as hallucinations, social withdrawal, and disorganized thinking), and may involve peculiar fixations.

  • Age-appropriate child behavior encompasses imagination, impulsivity, and limited self-control. It's considered normal and typically does not persist into adulthood.

✰ The Complexity of Diagnosis:

Diagnosing schizophrenia is seriously complex due to several factors:

  • the influence of substance abuse, particularly drugs like methamphetamines or LSD, which can mimic schizophrenia symptoms.

  • the duration of symptoms, which can impact the accuracy of the diagnosis.

  • age of the individual, as childhood-onset schizophrenia poses unique diagnostic challenges.

Furthermore, the symptoms of childhood-onset schizophrenia often overlap with those of other mental disorders, including borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and more, adding to the intricacies of diagnosis.

✰ Impact on Children:
Yang, A., & Dooley, S. (2019, October 28). Investigators in “Slender Man” case discuss chilling interviews with 12-year-old attempted murderers. ABC News.

I want you all to take a moment and consider the case of the 'slender man slashing' in 2014. Two 12-year-olds, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, lured their friend Payton Leutner into the woods and inflicted 19 stab wounds upon her. Morgan was diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia, which led her to believe she was friends with Slender Man and required a sacrifice, in this case, her friend Payton. Additionally, distinguishing between make-believe and reality proved challenging for Morgan.

Beyond extreme cases like those above, childhood-onset schizophrenia can affect children in various ways:

1. Socially: Children with schizophrenia often struggle with social interactions, leading to isolation.

2. Emotionally: mood swings, irritability, and the influence of hallucinations or delusions can impact their emotional well-being.

3. Family Relationships: Schizophrenia can strain family dynamics and even fracture relationships.

In the end, even though childhood-onset schizophrenia is extremely rare, those who unfortunately develop it and those around them face many dangerous challenges. It is important that we educate ourselves and spread awareness about the severity of schizophrenia in general so early interventions can be made and the disorder doesn't manifest into something worse. By continuing to spread awareness, we can work towards a future where there is possibly a treatment that can cure it, so no one, especially children, would have to endure it. I hope you found this thought-provoking and interesting and that you learned from it. Thank you for reading!


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