Despite recent efforts to educate the public about schizophrenia, many misconceptions about the disease still persist. Schizophrenia is a chronic disorder that often has its first onset in the late teens or during early adulthood. Its symptoms can be disorienting and even frightening both for the affected person and for those around him or her; typically, the earlier the first onset of symptoms, the more severe the case of schizophrenia is likely to be. More men than women are affected by this chronic mental condition, and men are usually more seriously affected than women on average. Fortunately, there are effective treatments that can reduce symptoms and provide real help for teenagers who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia; by identifying the symptoms of schizophrenia, parents and educators can help teens get the help they need to control their illness.
Teens with schizophrenia often become withdrawn and suspicious, and may even become hostile to those closest to them. The first onset of schizophrenia often produces many of the same symptoms as depression, with loss of interest in daily activities, poor personal hygiene, and forgetfulness; since depression is also a serious mental condition, teens exhibiting these symptoms should be seen by a physician in order to diagnose the cause of their difficulties. Other early symptoms include odd speech patterns or vocalizations and inappropriate laughing or crying without an obvious stimulus. Ironically, the lack of all emotional reaction is also a classic sign of schizophrenia; flatness of affect and reduced facial expressions are often exhibited during the first stages of schizophrenia. Many teens react in an extreme fashion to criticism or comments directed at them, and some may make irrational or nonsensical statements in response to questions. While none of these symptoms is direct evidence of schizophrenia, teens who exhibit a number of these behaviors should be examined by a physician in order to determine if schizophrenia might be the cause.
Classic symptoms of schizophrenia include visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech and behavior, and the absence of certain common behaviors present in healthy individuals. Characteristics like slurred speech, strange and unsupported beliefs, an unrealistic level of belief in conspiracy theories, and paranoia are all positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Negative symptoms include the absence of facial expressions, lack of eye contact, severe reduction in frequency of speech and movement, and loss of verbal fluency. Medication can reduce or temper the frequency of some symptoms of schizophrenia, while psychotherapy can help teens deal with the adverse affects of their condition as well. By recognizing the early symptoms of schizophrenia, parents and other adults can help teens get the help they need to control their illness and regain control of their lives.