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Learning About And Coping With Childhood Schizophrenia

Updated on August 18, 2016
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A mother and a dedicated nurse who values children and family. A passionate writer aiming to help others by sharing my own experiences.

My Child Hears Voices

Presuming there are no voices your child is having a hallucination. Hallucinations may be more or less vivid and by themselves, hallucinations do not define schizophrenia or psychosis. They can be found in normal children suffering from anxiety responding to acute stress or deprivation and mood disorders. In childhood schizophrenia, about eighty percent of cases report auditory hallucinations making it the most frequently reported symptom. They may include command hallucinations conversing voices or voices making comments about the child. Hallucinations appear to be rare in children younger than six or seven years of age. Children may have difficulties accurately describing the location of the hallucinations. Sometimes the child may be found talking to himself. Visual hallucinations are less frequent and are usually about monsters scenes or scary figures.

Is My Child Insane?

First, let us define the word insane. It is actually very old a word in English and the dictionary definition is a deranged state of mind usually occurring as a specific disorder It is now the primarily legal term used in court to indicate being unable to control or understand the illegality of one's actions. Insane is not a term used in regular speech. Many changes have been made in the way childhood schizophrenia has been described and diagnosed. At first, only adults were considered to have schizophrenia.

Defining Childhood Schizophrenia

It is tough to be a parent to a child with schizophrenia. What is clear is that schizophrenia is a chronic severe mental illness that can be very debilitating. Making the diagnosis is difficult enough but there was confusion about whether childhood schizophrenia is different from adult schizophrenia. The disorder is defined by psychotic symptoms psychosis deficits in social functioning and duration of at least six months. The active psychotic symptoms include positive or negative symptoms. Positive symptoms are delusions which is a false belief based on faulty judgment about one's environment. Hallucination are the perception of something such as a sound or visual image that is not actually present other than in the mind. Negative symptoms include not showing emotions and lack of initiative. If delusions are bizarre or if the auditory hallucination consists of a voice running a commentary about the person’s thoughts or if there are two or more voices having a conversation with each other then only one active phase symptom is necessary for the diagnosis. Social or occupational dysfunction is usually present and is defined as the failure to achieve the expected level of self-care interpersonal academic or occupational achievement.

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Can Schizophrenia Be Treated Without Medication In Children?

Absolutely not. People with schizophrenia who take medications will definitely relapse back to psychosis if they stop their medications. The relapse may not occur for several weeks or a few months. This period of doing well after stopping antipsychotic drugs may give the false impression that the patient can do well without medications. However, psychosis will return and that is a serious matter because psychosis is associated with loss of brain tissue. With every psychotic relapse, the brain deteriorates more. In addition, it may be harder to induce a remission after a relapse due to the medication being stopped. No adherence to medications is common in schizophrenia for many reasons. Not realizing that one has an illness. This may apply to the child and to the parents.

  • Lack of motivation which is one of the deficit symptoms in schizophrenia
  • Memory difficulties
  • Alcohol and drug abuse which impairs judgment about the need to take one's medicine
  • Fear of side effects

Parents should assist children to put in place a mechanism to ensure that their child takes his or her medications as prescribed. This can be challenging but is absolutely necessary.

Schizophrenia Inherited Or Not

There is some genetic predisposition to schizophrenia as the rates of with the disease among the first-degree relatives of children with schizophrenia are higher than normal. Rates of schizophrenia are elevated in relatives of adults with schizophrenia. Ten percent of the parents of children with schizophrenia have some kind of psychotic disorder. There may be an increased rate of mental retardation in the siblings of children with the disease. After a person has been diagnosed with schizophrenia the chance of a sibling also being diagnosed with the disease is up to nine percent. If a parent has schizophrenia the chance of a child having the disorder is up to fifteen percent. Risks increase as the number of affected family member’s increases. No two patients are the same and a diagnosis can have a very different meaning to different people. Most people are referred to a genetics counselor by their physician following a diagnosis. In the case of schizophrenia as there is no genetic testing available a good history of the mental illnesses in the family will be for the geneticist to evaluate the risks. The needed counselor may be able also to give recommendations on reducing the risks by better pregnancy plan how to avoiding stress during the pregnancy and getting involved during the pregnancy and after the birth of the child activities that will maximize the children in mental health.

Helping Your Child Cope

 
 
Exercise
Exercise causes the body to release endorphins which help one feel calm and happy. Exercise is also very helpful in reducing the risk of becoming overweight while the child is treated with antipsychotic medications as some of them produce weight gain.
Eating
Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is useful. A daily multivitamin may help cover the nutritional bases.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
Many adolescents with schizophrenia try to find relief from their strong emotions by drinking alcohol or using drugs. Some even use these substances in place of their medication. This approach is very dangerous. Drugs and alcohol tend to make mood episodes worse and quitting medication almost guarantees relapse. Substance abuse can be treated effectively. Obviously this requires communication and an honest relation your child. As with all children remember that kids learn much by copying.
Developing A Daily Routine
Research suggests that a regular routine and sleep schedule can help schizophrenic children. This includes setting a reasonable and regular bedtime while sticking with it. Getting up at the same time every day with fairly regular mealtimes and TV times will help your child to avoid unnecessary pressure by setting reasonable goals. He or she may need not to take a full schedule of classes in school particularly when symptoms are not in complete remission. See if there are ways to decrease stress at home as well as at school.
Any particular strategies or pointers healthy lifestyle reducing stress and understanding the condition can help prevent relapse. Most of these points apply to everybody not just people with schizophrenia.

Reminder

Take medications regularly and do not skip doses

People with schizophrenia confuse real and imagined events. Get a special plastic pill boxes that contain medications for the week divided by day compartments which can be cheaply purchased in the drug store.

Individual Psychotherapy

Individual psychotherapy may be very useful when they are stable enough to accept the reality of the disease. Learning to go through the complexities of daily activities and life transitions and learning to socialize and reach attainable goals. Psychoeducational therapy will include ongoing education about the illness and treatment options such as social skills training relapse prevention and basic life skills .

Family Therapy

Families are in turmoil when one of their members has a serious mental illness. In the past parents were blamed for the child’s illness. Families need to be educated about the illness of the child so that they can be more supportive and because they may need help with the management of schizophrenia in the home. Improving communication between all family members is helpful to the sick child who gets frequently confused the therapy for the family will increase and understanding of the illness treatment of developing strategies to cope with the patient.

Indication Of Schizophrenia In Early Childhood

Deficits
Difficulties
Language Deficit
Reading and comprehension difficulties
Motor Functioning Deficit
Poor coordination and delays in developmental milestones.
Social Functioning Deficit
Social withdrawal and aloofness.

Medicating Preschoolers With Strong Drugs

An increasing number of very young children are taking psychotropic drugs. Deciding to give psychotropic medications to a very young child is always a very difficult decision in which the balance between benefits and risks has to be weighed. If it is needed the young child will be followed frequently in a therapeutic nursery and carefully monitored by professionals. At this point, little is known about the effects of the psychotropic medications on the young child’s developing brain. Current theories suggest that brain growth may be modified by various environmental factors including medications. This may be good or bad. Antipsychotic medications have been very helpful in controlling compulsive behaviors and helping the children to be more receptive to other therapies and to learn new coping skills. Fortunately, schizophrenia is very rare in this age group. Try to have treatment or at least an opinion from a tertiary or academic center where there is experience in medicating preschoolers.

Force Medications Against Your Child’s Will

First talk to your doctor and the treatment team about your concerns. Once a child is over the legal age he or she has legal protections and it may not be possible to force medication without legal intervention. Usually, young children do not refuse the medications if they know that their parents agree on the treatment. Adolescents with psychiatric disorders refuse medications for many reasons such as lack of awareness of the illness as they do not believe they are sick.

Childhood Schizophrenia

For the entire family the disease schizophrenia can be truly overwhelming that will essentially require long term care and treatment. It is very upsetting to the entire family and will be financially exhaustive. Search for a good treatment team to support child and there is a very good chance that your child will recover Continue your unconditional love and support and your child can do very well and may even recover sooner than you think. It will not happen on its own because it will need your involvement. Parents should not do this alone but instead get a support group behind you.

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