Schizophrenia

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is an uncommon but severe, serious and disabling chronic psychiatric disorder where adolescents (before the age of 18 year, rare for children younger than 13 years of age) and young adults (mid to late 20’s) interpret reality abnormally, have strange thinking, (cognitive difficulties) and feelings (psychotic symptoms), and unusual behavior and emotions. These, with delusions and hallucinations, make ordinary daily functioning difficult.

What causes schizophrenia?

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Some combination of environmental, behavioral, and inherited genetic factors probably play a role.

What are the signs/symptoms of schizophrenia in children and teens?

Signs and symptoms may vary. Early indications include developmental delay like language delay, late crawling or walking, rocking or flapping arms (and other abnormal motor symptoms).

​Symptoms in teengagers may resemble other medical or psychiatric conditions and may include:

  • withdrawal from friends or family
  • extreme moodiness
  • paranoia (feeling “people are out to get them”)
  • poor school performance
  • hearing voices and seeing things which are not real
  • eccentric behavior and/or speech
  • confused thinking
  • sleep disruption
  • poor motivation
  • substance abuse
  • severe anxiety and fearfulness
  • become agitated and confused or becoming immobilized
  • poor personal hygiene/dress

What are schizophrenia care options?

Treatment is complex and includes medications to reduce symptoms, individual and family psychotherapy, specialized education programs which aim to improve speech, social and other skills, self help and support groups.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: November 20, 2019 12:19 PM

Psychiatry for Children

The Pediatric Psychiatry team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital uses a multidisciplinary and family centered treatment approach for a variety of behavioral disorders and conditions.

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Weekly Support Programs

​F.O.C.U.S. Program

8 week program. This group therapy program is designed for children ages 7 to 17 with behaviorial issues, including but not limited to ADHD. The weekly sessions teach innovative techniques to assist children with managing feelings, developing organization skills, maximizing their concentration abilities and socialization skills. Learn more.

Social Skills Group

8 week program. Children and teens ages 7 to 17 are invited to join this small discussion group to learn how to make, cultivate and maintain friendships. Participants will learn basic conversational skills, and discuss the use of appropriate humor, how to electronically connect with others, and how to manage disagreements. Learn more.

Calm Kids

8 week program. Calm Kids is a weekly group therapy course designed to teach children strategies on how to take control over anxiety symptoms. Children will learn how to cope with fears and worries, identify anxiety triggers, how to relax the mind and body and maximize their self-confidence. Learn more.

Pain Management Group

8 week program. This program is specifically designed to empower children ages 7-18 through complex sensory experiences. Each session is created to teach participants evidenced-based techniques to better manage pain and improve overall quality of life. Learn more.

Teen Sleep Group

8 week program. This program is designed for teens ages 13-16 experiencing difficulties related to sleep, including daytime sleepiness, trouble waking in the morning, difficulty falling asleep and waking in the middle of the night. The goal of this group is to give teens the tools and strategies they need in order to get more sleep and better quality sleep. Learn more.

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Psychotic Disorders

Severe mental problems that interfere with a child or adolescent’s ability to think clearly, respond emotionally, communicate normally, cause unusual perceptions or delusions, are known as psychotic disorders. Learn more

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a form of therapy and counseling that is conducted by a mental health professional, for example a psychologist, a licensed mental health counselor, social worker or a psychiatrist. Learn more

Psychiatric Evaluation

A psychiatric evaluation is an evaluation process with a mental health professional, designed to diagnose and treat (using both medications and other therapies), emotional, behavioral or developmental conditions or disorders. Learn more