Schizophrenia is a serious medical condition that can be challenging to diagnose. Although symptoms generally begin to manifest in the late teens and early adulthood, there have been cases of schizophrenia occurring in children as young as six or seven years old. While schizophrenia occurs equally in males and females, teenage males typically exhibit symptoms earlier and more clearly than females do.
What Is Schizophrenia?
The general symptoms of schizophrenia include being unable to think logically or tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, difficulty having normal emotional responses to others and a serious inability to behave or interact normally in social situations, according to the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD).
Why Is It Difficult To Spot In Teenage Boys?
These general signs can be difficult to pinpoint in teenage boys, since the onset of puberty can bring about personality changes and the stress of teenage life might make it harder to tell if the symptoms are schizophrenic, some other mental condition or just your teenager being a typical teenager.
Unfortunately, schizophrenia can manifest the symptoms of bipolar disorder, depression and certain panic disorders, according to NARSAD, which makes it even more difficult to tell what the symptoms are exactly. It is important to pay close attention to your teenager to determine what is going on, and bring him in for evaluation immediately if you feel something is wrong.
While there is no chemical test to assess schizophrenia, there are methods to check for schizophrenic behaviour early on. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), when a patient is observed for schizophrenia, his or her symptoms are divided into three categories---Positive, Negative and Cognitive.
The positive symptoms are the easy ones to spot, like delusions and hallucinations. These symptoms occur when the patient has clearly lost touch with reality. If your teenage boy begins to talk about situations that sound surreal (like something out of a dream) he might be hallucinating events that did not happen. If he begins to talk about circumstances that could not exist, such as being followed, spied on or threatened, he might be suffering from delusions.
The negative category of schizophrenic symptoms might be as easy as the positive to distinguish, because they include personality characteristics. If your teenager suddenly begins to display an unusual lack of personality (lack of emotional response or incorrect responses in social situations), begins to disengage from normal day to day activities or generally has a sudden shift of personality, he might be displaying the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. NAMI points out that "negative" does not refer to attitude, but to a lack of normal characteristics that should be present.
Finally, the third category of schizophrenic symptoms is cognitive, or dealing with the ability to think. If your teenage boy is struggling to prioritise tasks, organise thoughts or has serious memory issues, this might be caused in part by the onset of schizophrenia. This category is generally the most difficult to distinguish and is often confused with "stubbornness" or "laziness."
What Can You Do?
There is no known cause or cure for schizophrenia. Researchers believe it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Schizophrenia is treatable and manageable, however, and what seems to help is a combination of medication and therapy, which appears to work best the earlier the symptoms are caught. If you believe your teenager is exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia, contact your doctor and arrange an evaluation immediately.
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