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General overview

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder which is characterized by certain positive and negative symptoms which need to be present for at least 6 months.

The cause of schizophrenia is due to a disruption of the usual balance of thoughts and emotions

The prodromal phase exists, which can be present for up to 30 months before onset of symptoms of this condition. This phase is characterized by self-limiting psychotic symptoms as well as other non-specific symptoms which may include the following:

  • Irritability.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Clumsiness.
  • Dysphoria, which is an intense state of unease or dissatisfaction. 

Demographics and hereditary traits

The greatest risk factor for developing schizophrenia is having a first-degree relative (father, mother or sibling) who is diagnosed with this condition. If one parent is diagnosed with schizophrenia then the risk of developing the condition is around 13%, and if both parents are schizophrenic then the risk increases to nearly 50%. 

Many genes are thought to be involved in the development of schizophrenia which involve both common and rare risk variation. There also seems to be a genetic overlap in the genetics of schizophrenia and bipolar mood disorder.

Teenagers as young as 15 have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and it occurs in more boys than girls. Very rarely has this condition been noted to develop in children. Unfortunately, the prognosis of the patient tends to be worse the younger they are diagnosed.

In 40% of men and 23% of women, schizophrenia was diagnosed before the age of 19

In men, schizophrenia usually develops in their mid-20's and in women, this condition usually will develop in their late 20's. It's not common for patients to be diagnosed with this condition after the age of 45.

Patients with a family history of schizophrenia, who have had an episode of psychosis, have a 20–40% chance of being diagnosed with this condition after one year.

Signs and symptoms

Positive signs and symptoms

  • Hallucinations - may be visual, auditory, gustatory, tactile and olfactory.
  • Delusions - these may be of paranoia or grandeur.
  • Abnormal motor behaviour - these can include inappropriate behaviours or movements, lack of response or abnormal postures.
  • Disorganized thoughts and speech - the disorganized thoughts are derived from the disorganized speech. 

Negative symptoms

These symptoms may suggest a poorer quality of life and may include the following:

  • Lack of emotions.
  • Poor eye contact.
  • They lack the use of hand movements or gestures during speech and are monotonous.
  • Inability to experience pleasure and lack of interest in activities.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Neglect personal hygiene.
  • No desire to form relationships.

Symptoms and signs in teenagers

The signs and symptoms in teenagers needs to carefully assessed as they may be similar to normal developmental aspects. These may include the following issues:

  • They isolate themselves from family and friends.
  • There's a drop in school performance.
  • Irritable.
  • Feelings of depression.
  • Trouble sleeping - either too little or too much.
  • They lack motivation.

As opposed to adults, teenagers are less likely to suffer from delusions and are more likely to experience visual hallucinations.

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