Schizophrenia is a serious psychiatric condition characterized by unusual perceptions, thoughts and behaviors. The onset of schizophrenia typically occurs in early adulthood, but it may develop during adolescence. Adolescent schizophrenia if of concern, as a poorer prognosis is typically seen with earlier onset of schizophrenia, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Adolescents with schizophrenia may engage in bizarre behavior or speech. For instance, they may walk backwards or move repetitively. Bizarre, repetitive behavior is more characteristic of adolescent schizophrenia when compared with adult schizophrenia, as noted by a review of research by Dr. Chris Hollis in the May 2000 issue of "Advances in Psychiatric Treatment."
Sometimes adolescents with schizophrenia exhibit confused thinking. They may mix up what is seen on television or in their dreams for reality, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. When trying to convince them of the mix up, teens with schizophrenia will defend the confused belief.
Disorganized Thinking or Speech
Adolescents with schizophrenia may speak in nonsensical or disorganized ways, similar to an adult with schizophrenia. When speaking, they may have difficulty staying on topic or combine words and phrases that do not make sense. Also, they may talk slowly, utter a few words or provide no reply when responding to a question. Sometimes a teenager with schizophrenia will stop talking in the middle of a sentence.
Hallucinations include seeing objects, hearing sounds, smelling odors, feeling sensations or tasting flavors that are not real. Examples of hallucinations include seeing pink elephants and hearing voices when no one else is present. Sometimes teens with schizophrenia will talk to themselves or burst out laughing for no reason. According to a classic review of research in the May 1977 issue of "Psychological Bulletin," the person with schizophrenia may be responding to hallucinated voices. Although hallucinations occur in adolescent schizophrenia, it is less frequent than in adults, as reported in the March 2000 issue of "Advances in Psychiatric Treatment."
A delusion is an odd or fanciful belief that is clearly false, but the person with the delusion is convinced that the belief is real. This belief is not justified by a person’s religious or cultural background. Some examples of delusions are being convinced of being famous when one is not and being poisoned by a family member or teacher.
Flat or Inappropriate Affect
Expressing little or no emotions may be seen among teens with schizophrenia. They may have a blank expression on their faces or seem to be emotionally flat. Expressed emotions may be inappropriate to a situation. For example, a teen with schizophrenia may laugh at the news of a loved one’s death. Adolescent schizophrenia is characterized by more flat or inappropriate affect when compared with adult schizophrenia, according to a report in the May 2000 edition of "Advances in Psychiatric Treatment."
Adolescents with schizophrenia may show a decline in personal hygiene. They may have body odor from not bathing or bad breath from not brushing their teeth. Sometimes they may appear disheveled from not brushing their hair or ironing their clothes.
Social Withdrawal and Inability to Make and Keep Friends
Social withdrawal and an inability to make and keep friends are common among adolescents with schizophrenia. They may begin to avoid or ignore others or maintain poor eye contact when conversing. In addition, adolescents with schizophrenia may lack interest in engaging in enjoyable activities, as they may have difficulty with experiencing pleasure. Social withdrawal and ineptitude often occur before the onset of schizophrenia among teens and may be an indicator of impending psychiatric disturbance, according to a study in the April 1998 issue of the “British Journal of Psychiatry.”
- Advances in Psychiatric Treatment; Adolescent Schizophrenia; Chris Hollis; 2000
- British Journal of Psychiatry; Premorbid Adjustment and Personality in People with Schizophrenia; Aslog Malmberg, Glyn Lewis, Aisha David and Peter Allebeck; 1998
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition Revised; American Psychiatric Association; 2002
- Psychological Bulletin; Social and Cultural Aspects of Hallucinations; Ihsan Al-Issa; May 1977