Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Schizophrenia

Understanding Schizophrenia

Learn More About Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder that has an` impact on all areas of an adolescents or adults life and causes them to suffer from significant misinterpretations of the world around them. They have a hard time distinguishing between what is real and what is not real. This complicated disorder causes both adolescents and adults to experience hallucinations, delusions, and distorted thinking. Those with schizophrenia have difficulty thinking clearly, difficulty acting appropriately in social situations, and have abnormal emotional responses to various circumstances. While schizophrenia in childhood is similar to adult schizophrenia, there are some variations. With adolescents, there may be a gradual shift in behavioral patterns. For example, they may go from having predictable behaviors to displaying unpredictably bad behaviors. While schizophrenia is a chronic illness, with proper treatment and appropriate psychotropic medications, the symptoms can be managed allowing those who suffer from it to lead happy lives.


Statistics of Schizophrenia

It has been estimated that schizophrenia affects 1% of the American population. Up until recently, schizophrenia was not diagnosed in children and adolescents. While many mental illnesses tend to affect one sex more than the other, schizophrenia appears to affect both men and women equally. However, there has been growing awareness of the fact that schizophrenia can present its onset in childhood, with children younger than 5 years old having been documented as experiencing symptoms. Fortunately, being diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child is rare, with only 1 in 40,000 children experiencing the onset of symptoms before the age of 13.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Schizophrenia

The exact cause of the development of schizophrenia in adolescents or adults is not clear. It is also unknown why some individuals develop this disorder in early life, while others develop it much later. The most commonly noted factors that are believed to play a role in the development of schizophrenia include:

Genetic: It has been known that schizophrenia runs in families, which leads mental health professionals to believe that there is a strong genetic component to this disorder. While schizophrenia is said to only affect 1% of the U.S. population, about 10% of those individuals have a first-degree relative who also suffers from this disorder. Scientists have found that people with schizophrenia have higher rates of rare genetic mutations that disrupt their brain development.

Physical: Research has shown that those who suffer from schizophrenia have an imbalance of the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, both brain chemicals responsible for communication among brain cells. When there are problems with these naturally occurring neurotransmitters, it may contribute to the development of childhood schizophrenia.

Environmental: There are likely many environmental factors that contribute to the development of schizophrenia such as prenatal exposure to viruses, problems during birth, and maternal malnutrition before birth.

Risk Factors:

  • Taking mind-altering substances
  • Having an older father
  • Family history of schizophrenia or psychosis
  • Family history of other mental illnesses
  • Exposure to viruses or toxins before birth
  • Existence of autoimmune diseases

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The signs and symptoms of schizophrenia tend to be different depending upon the age of the individual with schizophrenia. When schizophrenia begins in early life, the symptoms tend to build gradually. The initial signs and symptoms may be so vague that parents don’t know what is wrong. As time goes on, symptoms may become more severe and noticeable. Some of these symptoms may include:

Symptoms in adolescents:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Drop in school performance
  • Lack of motivation
  • Irritable or depressed mood
  • Strange behaviors
  • More likely to have visual hallucinations and less likely to have delusions

Symptoms in adults: It is important to note that some of these symptoms can be seen in children, however it is rare.

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Thought disorders
  • Movement disorders
  • Disorganized thinking and speech
  • Isolation
  • Speaking as little as possible
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Poor executive function
  • Significant problems with one’s working memory
  • Lacking the ability to begin and/or maintain continued involvement in activities
  • Having a flat affect (e.g. speaking in monotone, lacking any form of facial expressions, etc.)
  • Lacking the ability to articulate one’s thoughts
  • Lacking the ability to concentrate
  • No longer caring for personal hygiene
  • Abnormal motor behavior
  • Lacking emotions or not making eye contact


Effects of Schizophrenia

If left untreated, schizophrenia in adolescents and adults can result in severe emotional, behavioral, and health problems. These complications may occur in childhood or can occur later in life. The effects of schizophrenia can range from minor to severe and may include the following:

  • Inability to attend school or work
  • Inability to live independently
  • Health problems
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Inability to perform daily activities like bathing
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Self-injury
  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Anxiety and phobias
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Homelessness
  • Family conflicts
  • Suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders & the Complexity of Schizophrenia

Adolescents and adults who suffer from schizophrenia may also suffer from symptoms of other mental health disorders. The most prominent type of co-occurring disorder is substance abuse and addiction, but other examples can include:

  • Panic disorder
  • Social phobia
  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Schizotypal disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
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