What is schizophrenia?

Learning that your child may have schizophrenia is a life-changing moment for any parent. In the midst of what feels like an onslaught of confusion, fear and exhaustion, your first instinct may be to ask: Why my child? And then—what does this mean for our family? How are we going to get through this?

It may help you to learn more about the condition. Schizophrenia:

  • is a major psychiatric illness that—while it is more common in adults—also affects children and adolescents
  • is considered “early-onset schizophrenia” when it occurs before the age of 18
  • is rooted in the biology of the brain
  • causes both physiological and psychological effects

 Schizophrenia can cause:

  • visual hallucinations of people and objects that are not actually there
  • auditory hallucinations of voices, music or other sounds that are not real
  • delusions of threats and other situations with no basis in reality
  • severe difficulty making friends and maintaining relationships
  • impaired speech and other communication skills
  • inappropriate and damaging behavior

While schizophrenia is a chronic disorder that requires lifelong management, there is hope. With proper treatment, many children with schizophrenia are able to go to college, hold jobs and have families as adults.

How we care for schizophrenia

As one of the largest pediatric psychiatric services in New England, Boston Children’s has an experienced team of expert child psychologists, psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, social workers and other clinicians with extensive experience treating schizophrenia. We will work with you to design a treatment plan that not only meets the individual needs of your child, but also supports the emotional well-being of the entire family.

Children’s has long been a pioneer in developing new ideas, advances and approaches in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Our research program is one of the largest at any pediatric hospital in the world, and we constantly analyze and incorporate the latest scientific data into our therapies—ensuring that all of our treatment methods have been rigorously tested and proven effective.

We understand the many components involved in treating childhood schizophrenia, from medically managing the symptoms of the disease to educating family members and educators and locating resources in the community. Beginning with the initial diagnosis, your Boston Children’s team will explain the treatment options available to you and your child and help you identify the medications, educational and activity programs and family support systems you need.

Schizophrenia: Reviewed by David R. DeMaso, MD
© Children’s Hospital Boston; posted in 2010