World Schizophrenia Day: Does the disease occur in children?

The condition of schizophrenia in children is called childhood-onset schizophrenia (COS). Photo: iStock/Serghei Turcanu

Remember the 2001 Oscar-winning film 'A Beautiful Mind,' in which Russel Crowe played the Nobel Prize winner mathematician John Nash? At the age of 29, the genius was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, a condition that makes you experience delusions, hallucinations, emotional distress and even insomnia and restlessness. A very serious illness, it is categorized under psychosis by experts. While it is not common in children under the age of 15 and its onset usually occurs in late adolescence, kids too can develop the condition and it's difficult to diagnose it. The condition is called childhood-onset schizophrenia (COS).

How to handle COS?
COS happens before the age of 13 and the symptoms experienced are similar to that of the ones suffered by older patients. With early detection and treatment, most patients can manage the disease and lead a normal life. However, if treatment is delayed or not continued properly, the condition can become serious and disrupt normal life. Schizophrenia affects one’s thinking, behaviour, and daily life. Delusions and hallucinations are prominent features of this disorder. A delusion is a false, fixated, and unshakable belief that something unreal is true. For example, individuals might feel that others are their enemies, believe others know what they are thinking, or think that others are trying to attack them.

Hallucinations involve hearing non-existent sounds or seeing non-existent objects. Symptoms include hearing incorporeal voices and responding to them, laughing to oneself, and talking to oneself. Schizophrenia often impacts daily activities, work, and family life. Therefore, early recognition and seeking treatment from a psychologist are crucial.

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