What Is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that causes abnormal interpretations of reality. It is a mental illness that can lead to hallucinations, extremely disordered thinking, and delusions, impacting every aspect of a person’s life.
The National Institutes of Health states that the prevalence of schizophrenia can rise considerably in the teen years, with about 0.23% of the US population between 13 and 18 years old having this condition.
There is no cure for this disease, but it can be managed when a person receives regular treatment for it. The treatment will need to be lifelong.
Although the cause of schizophrenia in teens is still unclear, some factors can increase the likelihood of a teen developing it.
One of these factors is genetics. Schizophrenia tends to run in families, though there is not a gene that scientists can point to as the sole cause of this mental illness.
Those who have schizophrenia can have brain chemistry that is different from those who do not. The condition appears to have a connection to certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin. Drugs that impact those neurotransmitters can relieve some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Complications at birth can also lead to the development of schizophrenia.
Diagnosis of schizophrenia typically happens between a person’s late teenage years and early 30s. Schizophrenia in teens can happen, and it may require teen residential treatment to stabilize the patients and help them treat the symptoms effectively. A diagnosis that takes place before the person turns 18 being referred to as early-onset schizophrenia. This mental health disorder affects women and men at about the same rate, but often has an earlier onset in males.
Different Types of Schizophrenia
There are many types of schizophrenia, each one with its individual characteristics and symptoms.
This is the most common type of schizophrenia. It can develop a bit later than the other types. The symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia include:
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
- Disorganized speech
- Preoccupation with delusions
- Trouble concentrating
- Significant behavioral impairment
The severity of the symptoms of schizophrenia can vary and can be milder in teenagers.
This type of schizophrenia involves disorganized thinking and disturbances in speech. The person often has a very flat effect or reacts to things with unusual or inappropriate emotions and facial reactions. Some of the symptoms of disorganized schizophrenia are:
- Nonsensical speech
- Flat affect
- Difficulty with daily activities
- Difficulty with personal hygiene
- Short-lasting delusions
Someone with this type of schizophrenia may have symptoms very similar to other types of this mental illness in addition to disorganized schizophrenia symptoms.
Residual schizophrenia occurs when a person is not displaying acute symptoms of their illness. The symptoms may be present for some but are not as intense or prominent. They may still have speech problems, a flat affect, and poor hygiene. The person may also continue to be socially withdrawn and have unusual beliefs.
Catatonic schizophrenia is the rarest type of schizophrenia. Someone with catatonic schizophrenia can display excessive movement, called catatonic excitement, or decreased movement, called catatonic stupor. Some symptoms include:
- Lack of reaction to stimuli
- Extreme limb rigidity
- Inability to speak
- Mimicking words
- Mimicking actions
- Remaining in strange body positions
This type includes symptoms applicable to more than one type of schizophrenia. Many different types of symptoms may occur, making it difficult to diagnose the person as having one specific type of schizophrenia.
Signs of Schizophrenia in Teens
A teen who has schizophrenia can start displaying symptoms early on. Some of the earliest signs of schizophrenia in children and teens include:
- Difficulty thinking and organizing thoughts and speech
- Difficulty concentrating
- Having unusual thoughts or ideas
- Trouble differentiating between reality and delusions
- Lack of emotion
- Inappropriate emotions
- Trouble sleeping
- Suicidal thoughts
- Difficulty in relationships with family and friends
- Change in personality
- Developing problems related to school
- Lack of interest in personal hygiene
- Substance abuse
As teenagers age, symptoms of schizophrenia begin to increase and get worse. This is when delusions and hallucinations can begin.
Delusions are false beliefs that do not have a basis in reality. Hallucinations involve seeing, feeling, or hearing things that are not there. These are examples of positive symptoms — not because they are good but because they are “added” to the person’s experience.
A teen with schizophrenia will deal with hallucinations as they would with any other experience. Hallucinations can involve any of the senses, though the most common ones are visual hallucinations.
As the condition progresses, a teen can also develop negative symptoms. Negative symptoms refer to a lack of normal behaviors or feelings. It can mean neglecting hygiene, not making eye contact, speaking with no affect or emotion, and not making hand gestures when speaking. It can also mean the inability to feel pleasure.
Teen Schizophrenia Treatment Options
Schizophrenia in a teen can be treated through a variety of treatment methods designed to minimize symptoms and educate young people about how to recognize them. While this mental illness has no cure, proper treatment from our skilled mental health experts at Zenith Behavioral Health can help teens regain control of their lives.
Behavioral therapy sessions can be vital in the treatment of schizophrenia in children and teens. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is particularly helpful.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that focuses on solving problems. It can teach teens to modify beliefs and behaviors that can lead to negative emotions.
The cognitive component of the therapy focuses on helping the teen recognize and make changes to how they think about a situation. The behavioral component helps teens change their reactions to that situation.
Other therapies that help include family therapy. Family therapy allows the family to understand the challenges their loved one faces and helps them make progress.
Group therapy can help teenagers understand how to relate to others and improve their ability to pay attention. Peer support often provides a great opportunity for those who might otherwise be inclined to isolate themselves.
Antipsychotic medications often help improve symptoms of schizophrenia in teenagers and adults. Medications are usually the first options when treating teen schizophrenia.
At Zenith Behavioral Health, we understand that it can take careful adjustments of medications to achieve the right results. Our residential treatment center allows us to monitor the effects of medications in a safe and calm environment.
Antipsychotic medications include:
Additional prescription medications may also provide benefits. These include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.
After a psychiatric evaluation, our team can decide on the treatment programs and the medications that can make the biggest difference when treating schizophrenia.
Begin Teen Schizophrenia Treatment in Phoenix, Arizona
Schizophrenia provides one of the biggest challenges when it comes to mental illness. However, there are treatment programs available that can offer the therapy and medications that teens with schizophrenia need.
At Zenith Behavioral Health, our team of experts is here to help at our residential treatment center. Call us right now for more information on teen schizophrenia treatment options.
Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Schizophrenia
Get the answers you need to your most pressing questions.
Anything that causes stress can make schizophrenia symptoms worse. This can include relationship issues, family problems, school problems, or anything else that leads to sustained levels of stress. When treating schizophrenia, one of the focuses is on teaching teens the coping skills they need.
Lack of sleep can also make symptoms of schizophrenia worse, as well as any other mental health disorders. Other factors that can affect symptoms are drugs, alcohol, and caffeine.
One of the biggest challenges in treating this mental illness is that many people who have the disorder do not realize they have an illness. It can be difficult to monitor their medication, which is why we offer medication management at our residential treatment center.
Another reason why treating this condition is difficult is that the cause of the problem is not well understood. Although science points to genetic factors and brain chemistry, many questions remain about what causes schizophrenia.
Antipsychotic medications can offer the highest level of treatment success. It is important, however, to pair medications with behavioral therapy sessions.
Behavioral therapy can help a teen with schizophrenia understand how their thoughts and actions affect their moods. At Zenith Behavioral Health, we offer a combination of these two treatment options.