What To Know About Schizophrenia in Children – Top Questions Answered

Photo by Francisco Gonzalez on Unsplash

In this blog post, we unravel the layers of schizophrenia, a complex mental health condition often overshadowed by stereotypes, misconceptions, and stigmas. 

What is schizophrenia and what are its primary symptoms?

Schizophrenia is a very serious psychiatric illness that requires attention by a professional as soon as possible. A person with schizophrenia typically has a distorted sense of reality and thought processes that can affect their ability to make decisions, perform daily tasks, and manage emotions. They often exhibit significant changes in thinking and feeling as well as unusual speech and behavior. 

Primary symptoms that are experienced include:

– Delusions or bizarre beliefs that are not true
– Auditory hallucinations where they believe they are hearing things
– Visual hallucinations or seeing things that are not actually there
– Tactile hallucinations or feeling something that’s not actually happening to them
– Olfactory hallucinations or smelling something that is nonexistent
– Confusion and distorted sense of reality 
– Withdrawn and isolated behavior
– No affect or facial expressions during social interactions

What causes schizophrenia? 

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown but it seems to be caused by a combination of brain changes, genetic factors, and biochemical imbalances where researchers have observed abnormal activity of dopamine production (a key neurotransmitter) in the brain. 

There is also research that shows constant and frequent drug abuse – specifically cannabis and amphetamines (cocaine)  – can lead to increased risk of schizophrenia.

Is schizophrenia demonic possession?

This is a misconception that has been promulgated by the media. Schizophrenia patients who have hallucinations, especially bizarre hyper-religious hallucinations, may really seem like they are demon-possessed or trying to “fight a demon.” However, schizophrenia seems to be mainly caused by dopaminergic imbalances in the brain. 

In the book of Mark in the Bible, there actually is an account of a demon-possessed man. This demon-possessed man lived in isolation in the tombs where day and night he would cry out in agony and cut himself on the stones. When Jesus saw him, He ordered the legion of demons out of the man into a herd of pigs which then stampeded into the lake and drowned. From that day forward, the man was no longer possessed and was restored to his own spirit. Schizophrenia and other mental illnesses do not work like this. 

Those with schizophrenia learn how to manage it through consistent therapy, medication, and loving support systems. By actively seeking out therapy and taking medication consistently, individuals with this condition are not only able to manage the symptoms of schizophrenia but actually thrive and help others afflicted with the same condition. 

One thing to note is that Satan can use that illness as a tool to maintain a distance between them and God. He uses this illness to sow doubt and hatred in their hearts against God. 

Is there a cure for schizophrenia?

The bad news is there is not a cure for schizophrenia where you take medication and it goes away forever. The good news is that the symptoms are VERY treatable and people can learn how to manage and thrive despite the circumstances. 

Schizophrenia is treated with a combination of medication and therapy. Typically, patients are prescribed antipscyhotics that help rebalance dopamine activity in the brain. In addition to medication, schizophrenia requires therapy to help patients talk through their delusions, hallucinations, and other negative symptoms they experience. 

Support from family members, loved ones, and friends are essential to treating a patient with schizophrenia. Patients often wholeheartedly believe in their hallucinations and delusions and may not understand that something is wrong with their condition. They may therefore be unwilling to take medication or get treatment. Gentle reminders and going with them to appointments can go a long way in their path to treatment. 

Don’t forget about prayer. If someone is going through any psychiatric issues whether it be schizophrenia or depression, Satan can utilize that to create a chasm between them and God. Satan can use their struggles to make them forget about God’s promises and the Gospel. Pray with them and encourage them that God is right there when they feel despondent or hopeless. 

How common is schizophrenia in children?

It is not very common for very young children to have schizophrenia. The average age of onset, or the first appearance of signs and symptoms, is late teens to early 20s.

Although it is uncommon, how can we recognize schizophrenia in children?

During the early phases of schizophrenia, which we call the prodromal phase, it is very difficult to see signs and symptoms. 

However if you notice these symptoms in your child and it begins to get worse or more frequent, then perhaps it may be time to speak to a child psychiatrist: 
– Feeling or looking confused
– New academic or behavioral problems
– Mood changes (elevated moods for no reason or deep depression)
– Thoughts that seem strange or paranoiac thoughts
– Confusing dreams or television with reality
– Hearing and seeing things that are not there*

*Of course, young children may have imaginary friends when growing up but they are typically able to tell the difference.

What can parents and teachers do when we feel a child may suffer from this illness?

As is the case with most mental disorders, seeking evaluation early on from a clinician, skilled pediatrician or psychiatrist is the best thing you can do. Do not try and diagnose on your own. A professional will know developmentally what to expect from a child or teenager at their age. They will also provide and ensure a safe and judgment-free zone for your child when evaluating possible symptoms. 

If your child is diagnosed and already getting treatment for this condition, try and continually learn as much as you can about schizophrenia. There is training your mental health provider can recommend or readings they can provide. Be a reliable, consistent, support system for your child and make sure they have regular therapy sessions and stick to prescribed medications. 

Schizophrenia is a serious illness but with the right treatment, your child will be able to manage their symptoms and even thrive despite the circumstances. 

Lastly, some Christians who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia may feel that their faith is so minimal because of this disorder. That is far from the truth. Once a child of God, always a child of God. No one can judge someone’s faith and salvation based on a medical or mental illness. Just as one would not judge someone who’s suffering from diabetes, the individual with a brain illness deserves the same respect.

You can watch the accompanying Anchor of Hope video here.

Do you find yourself succumbing to negative thought patterns? We are licensed psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and psychotherapists that believe in integrating the Gospel message into mental health treatment and counseling, as well as reducing the stigma and prevalence of mental health disorders. Contact us now to learn more about treatments, or just to receive a brief consultation about the need for treatment.

Found this post useful? Please consider donating to Oak Health Foundation, which is a 501(3)c nonprofit dedicated to providing resources regarding holistic mental healthcare and subsidized treatment for those in need.

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