Development of Schizophrenia ( Childhood to Adulthood)
By: Apoorva Goyal
Just the term Schizophrenia brings horrifying images to mind. Moreover, schizophrenia is a mental disorder that can leave the person mentally and emotionally disabled. The development of Schizophrenia commonly starts after puberty. It develops as the person ages up to the age of 45. However, in rare cases, toddlers and preschoolers can also develop this disorder.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disease. It results in hallucinations, delusions, catatonic behaviour, and also disordered thinking. In addition to that, it is directly related to the way a person thinks and perceives reality.
In Schizophrenia, the person cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination. The illness has no treatment to date. But research is underway and doctors control it with some drugs.
The complexity and unawareness about this disease have led to many misconceptions. Some people confuse Schizophrenia with Multiple-personality disorder. Although both have some common symptoms, they are completely different disorders.
Stages of Developing Schizophrenia
It is the initial phase of schizophrenia where the person becomes withdrawn. Also, the person starts having initial symptoms of the disorder such as unusual behaviour.
This is the most dangerous and scary phase of the disorder. It is when the person starts showing severe symptoms. Simultaneously they start having delusions and hallucinations. They also cannot differentiate between real and unreal experiences and have disorganized speech.
It is the final stage in which the person again shows cognitive symptoms. Therefore, one of the most common symptoms is that the person starts getting withdrawn again. They don’t want to interact with people. They also show signs of forgetfulness. In addition to that, they are unable to learn and understand others easily.
Symptoms of Development of Schizophrenia
The earliest symptom of the disorder is delusions. Immediately after these symptoms, the line between reality and imagination diminishes for them.
The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three major categories:
1. Positive Symptoms of Schizophrenia Development
It refers to the parameters which are not normally present in our body. For example, every person has a body temperature and if that rises above a certain level, then we call it fever.
Thus, temperature is a parameter that is already present in our bodies. In fact, these positive symptoms are not normally present.
These include delusions, hearing voices of commands, unruly behaviours and hallucinations. They even have different perceptions and paranoia.
- Of control
- Of reference
- Disorganized speech
- Incoherent sentences
- Mixed up words
- Disorganized behaviour
- Bizarre behavior with no purpose.
- For example, wearing a warm jacket on hot summer day.
- Catatonic behaviour
- Unguided movements and responses
- For example, moving their hands in an unruly manner.
2. Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia Development
The negative symptoms refer to the reduction in the normal processes. Additionally, there is a great reduction in emotional stability and loss of interest in any situation.
For instance, thought blocking and thought withdrawal. Subsequently, the person speaks random words which are hard to understand. Also, they may be silent since there are no thoughts in their mind.
The person starts to speak in a flat and dull tone. Then they start to lack even basic interest in daily life. These symptoms are often confusing and leave the person emotionally unstable. Therefore they are often mixed up with being sad and depressed.
1. Flat Affect
- Inappropriate responses to any situation.
- For example, in the situation of happiness, the person shows no emotion.
- Poverty of speech.
- For example, the child gives no reply even when asked a question.
- Lack of motivation and losing interest.
- Cutting off from the world.
- For example, getting withdrawn and keeping to oneself.
3. Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia Development
These are the symptoms that doctors cannot diagnose easily. They need specific testing only. These symptoms are present initially and in the later phases too. But they are more subtle than the other symptoms.
Consequently, they affect the memory, learning, and understanding of a person about the world around them.
Causes and Development of Schizophrenia
As per research, it is found that Schizophrenia usually occurs after puberty. Moreover, it can develop up to the age of 45 years. It affects males and females equally. However, as per studies, it affects males at a much younger age than females.
Development of Schizophrenia –
1. Early Childhood Schizophrenia (Babies and Toddlers)
It is extremely rare for a child to develop Schizophrenia younger than 12 years old. However, it can happen.
Less than 1% of the children around the world have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia to date. It is very rare. Also, it is very difficult to diagnose a subset of the disorder.
Some of the behavioural changes that can be seen in children developing this disorder are as follows:
- Delay in cognition and comprehension.
- Delay in talking.
- Unusual and late crawling and walking.
- Bad mood and trouble sleeping.
- Slump or a limping posture.
- Sluggishness and no activity.
- Unusual movement.
- Flapping and rocking arms and head.
2. Later Childhood Schizophrenia
Preschoolers and children usually from the age of 5 to 10 can also develop this deadly disorder. It also becomes difficult to diagnose the disorder at this stage. The children are usually experiencing a lot of changes in their life at this stage already.
Some of the symptoms and odd behaviour, one can see in preschoolers for Schizophrenia are:
- They have an intense fear of someone hurting them.
- They have auditory hallucinations such as voices and whispers telling them to do things.
- Visual hallucinations such as darkness or even bright flashes of light.
- Frequent mood swings.
- Unable to differentiate between reality and tv shows, video games, or other imagery.
- Lack of emotional expression.
- Continued period of staring and sitting in the same position.
It is important to note that not every child has schizophrenia. Some of these symptoms may be associated with normal conditions and the individuality of the child itself. Thus, it is highly recommended to seek medical attention if the parents notice prolonged unusually in their child’s behaviour.
3. Adolescence Schizophrenia
It is found that Schizophrenia generally starts after the age of 12 only. In males, it is found to occur in the early 20s. While in women it is found to develop around the age of early 30s.
Why adolescence is so vulnerable ?
The major causes of Schizophrenia are still unknown. Currently, research is being carried out worldwide to know about the exact causes. However, as per studies, it is found that adolescence is one of the crucial stages. It is also where most young adults develop this disorder.
Schizophrenia starts developing after puberty is because brains develop at an accelerated pace during puberty. A lot of hormonal a well as physical changes start occurring in the body. Consequently, these shifts in the hormonal level can trigger this disease in people who are at a greater risk for it.
This disorder remains in the dark is because people don’t often know they are ill. They don’t know the fact neither they seek out a doctor for the same reason.
The prodromal phase of the disorder is often accompanied in the life of people with normal life-changing situations. For example, teenagers who are just starting college a new job, are going through a phase where their environment is changing constantly. They are leaving behind their set of friends and people and moving to a new place. These are normal life-changing conditions. Students don’t often notice the onset of the disorder, nor can connect it to some problem.
Therefore, the loss of sleep, lowering of grades, withdrawal behaviour, having delusions about control is often perceived as normal to the person and the society around them.
4. Later Stages of Life
Late-onset Schizophrenia starts developing around the age of 40 to 45 years. In fact, people having this type of Schizophrenia are likely to have severe hallucinations and delusions. They also don’t usually have disorganized speech or negative symptoms.
People usually confuse this disorder with the multiple-personality disorder when it starts developing at a later stage of life.
The late-onset type of disorder only occurs due to certain kinds of triggers. Also, it is common in people who already have a family history of the illness.
It is more likely to occur in people at a later stage when they already have vision, cognitive, hearing problems. Also, people who have a suspicious and reclusive personality type are more prone to develop this illness.
Prevention and Cure
Schizophrenia can lead to many other problems. Therefore, it is essential to diagnose it in the early stages. Also, proper medication is required to treat it.
If left untreated, it can often lead to depression, anxiety, OCD, and even social isolation. There is no way to prevent the development of Schizophrenia. However, treatment can help in preventing any relapses.