Schizophrenia in Teens: A Guide

Schizophrenia in Teens: A Guide

Schizophrenia can be a terrifying diagnosis. The stigma surrounding mental health issues and people’s general response to schizophrenia is indifferent at best and demeaning at worst. Although schizophrenia is not an easy diagnosis, it is also not the end of the world.

Through meetings with doctors, mental health professionals, and a strong support system, people can survive and thrive with their diagnosis.

What Is Schizophrenia?

The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) cites schizophrenia as “a mental disorder characterized by disruptions in thought processes, perceptions, emotional responsiveness, and social interactions.” Studies show that schizophrenia can be a product of genetics, environment, or even abnormalities in brain structure and function. Schizophrenia often onsets in the late teens. However, most diagnoses with schizophrenia happen in early adulthood, but they may show signs as children that lead to more prominent symptoms in adolescence and early adulthood. For many, diagnosis is the beginning of healing and finding healthy ways to deal with intrusive thoughts.

Schizophrenia is experiencing delusions, hallucinations, and cognitive impairment, which feel very real to the person diagnosed. There is a wide range of symptoms of schizophrenia. Many hear voices they think are real or have thoughts that don’t align with reality. Others suffer full-blown audio-visual hallucinations. Those with milder symptoms may cognitively assess the intruding thoughts and process what is real and what is not. These people can function with school, jobs, and regular daily life. However, it does not mean that those who can function with schizophrenia have it easy or those with more severe symptoms can’t function at all; schizophrenia takes considerable energy to manage symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

There are many signs of schizophrenia, but a diagnosis will not be possible until the client displays many prominent symptoms at once. The three main categories of symptoms of schizophrenia include:

1. Psychotic Symptoms: These symptoms display an altered perception of the senses, hallucinations, and intrusive thoughts.

  • Hallucinations are hearing and seeing things that are not there.
  • Delusions are firm beliefs not backed up by facts or reality. Some common examples of delusions include extreme paranoia, irrational fears, and a belief that every bit of information consumed is a secret message in some capacity to warn of imminent danger.
  • Thought disorders can include unusual thinking or unorganized sleep. Thought disorder could lead caretakers to believe there may be cognitive impairment.

2. Negative Symptoms: Such symptoms can mirror depression symptoms, including hopelessness and loss of enjoyment in things the client enjoys.

  • Reduced motivation and difficulty planning, beginning, and sustaining activities
  • A diminished feeling of pleasure in everyday life
  • Flat effects are reduced expressions or reactions to social situations

3. Cognitive Symptoms: These symptoms affect the brain and the cognitive ability to sustain everyday life.

  • Difficulty processing information to make decisions
  • Problems using information immediately after learning it
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention

Since schizophrenia shares many symptoms with other mental health disorders, a person must have had at least one true episode of psychosis to be diagnosed with and get treated for schizophrenia. In this way, it seems that schizophrenia must get worse before getting better.

Treatment Methods

Treating schizophrenia is no walk in the park, and this disorder is particularly difficult for both the client and caretakers. People diagnosed with schizophrenia will likely need help their whole lives. However, individuals who seek treatment early can live with relative independence as they continue lifelong treatment.

There are medications available that can help reduce the intensity and frequency of delusions and hallucinations. A common complaint among those taking medications for schizophrenia is brain fog or cloudiness they wouldn’t otherwise experience as the medication suppresses the unwanted thoughts. The client, caretakers, and doctors will need to work together to find and manage a medication that fits. To do so, clients may need to stick with a medication that causes a few unwanted symptoms for a while to find out what the next steps should be.

Another treatment method includes psychosocial treatment, including therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Most people who have schizophrenia will engage in therapy concurrently with their medication. They will be encouraged to share their feelings and how things work, learn how their brains operate and explore unwanted thoughts. Some people can “talk back” to their thoughts and pull themselves out of their hallucinations. Specialty care, family education, support, and medical support are crucial for schizophrenia. Therefore, consistent treatment is key to helping a person limit the adverse effects of their disorder.

Your teen may not have a schizophrenia diagnosis, they may instead have significant trauma that can amplify certain signs or symptoms, like irritability or difficulty processing information, making their behaviors hard to manage. Though Havenwood Academy can help teens with trauma, mental health issues, and behavioral issues stemming from trauma, Havenwood Academy cannot help a teen with schizophrenia. Parents should enlist help from mental health professionals and be open with their children about their treatment, diagnosis, and further educational materials. If you’re hitting dead ends with your child’s emotions and behaviors, and you’re not sure what to do for your child, Havenwood Academy can help. We are a long-term residential treatment center dedicated to helping your teen daughter work through trauma, mental health disorders, and even get back on track with their education. Our professional and experienced staff can lead your child through various therapies and help with medication diagnosis and management. Learn more by calling (435) 586-2500.


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