As a severe and long-term mental illness that has a deep impact on a person’s ability to live a satisfying life, It’s important to recognize the early signs of schizophrenia.
The only way to manage this illness is to identify it, diagnose it, and undergo professional and ongoing treatment.
Schizophrenia affects millions of people in the U.S. About one percent of the population lives with this condition1, which impacts friends and family as well. It can occur at any age, but the average age of onset of symptoms is in the teens for men and early 20s for women.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness and brain disorder that impairs one’s ability to recognize reality. It causes hallucinations and delusions, as well as abnormal thinking and behavior. The symptoms of schizophrenia can be very disabling, making it impossible for a person to stay in school, hold down a job or manage relationships. It can be treated effectively, but only if the signs are recognized and a professional diagnosis is made. Genetics, environment and brain chemistry are thought to be contributing causes of schizophrenia.
There are various symptoms that are attributed to schizophrenia. These symptoms are usually not seen in healthy people, so they are called positive symptoms, meaning they did not have them before the onset of the condition.
The negative symptoms of schizophrenia are categorized together, they are disruptions from normal behavior or mood.
Schizophrenia also affects mood and the way a person thinks and sees the world and even oneself. The mood and cognitive symptoms are not always as recognizable as the positive and negative symptoms.
For men, the onset of schizophrenia most often occurs in the teens, but for women not until their 20s. However, it is possible for anyone to begin to experience signs of schizophrenia at any age, even in childhood. Some of the earliest signs of schizophrenia in young children2 are delays in language, unusual crawling habits, delayed walking and any unusual physical behaviors, like rocking.
Teens may experience any of the typical symptoms of schizophrenia that adults do, but they are also likely to exhibit some specific early signs of the condition. These early indications may include social withdrawal, difficulty sleeping, irritability, depression, difficulties at school, poor motivation, substance abuse and any unusual behaviors or changes in behavior. Compared to adults, teens are less likely to experience delusions but more likely to have visual hallucinations.
Because it is very common for someone with schizophrenia to be unaware they are behaving or thinking in an abnormal manner, it is important for family to be aware of the signs of schizophrenia, especially early signs. Recognizing the signs can lead to a quicker diagnosis and getting the help a person really needs to feel better, sooner. Early signs of schizophrenia include:
Diagnosis of schizophrenia should be done by a trained mental health professional. Early identification and treatment of a mental health disorder is key to getting schizophrenia symptoms under control. To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a person must exhibit at least two of the characteristic symptoms and the symptoms must persist for at least six months and cause significant impairment in a person’s life. Medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy and social skills training are just a few of the methods used to treat schizophrenia.