Causes and Effects of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia, which is classified as a psychotic disorder, is a mental health condition that typically requires long-term care and maintenance in order for an individual to live a healthy and productive life. Delusions, hallucinations, odd behaviors, and incoherent speech are symptomatic of this illness, which can all hinder an individual’s ability to carry out even the most simple of tasks.

Many people believe that adults are the only age group that can be affected by schizophrenia. However, children and adolescents also battle with the debilitating symptoms of this condition as well. While the psychotic symptoms experienced by younger people are not always as severe as those experienced by their adult counterparts, youth who suffer from schizophrenia do require effective treatment in order to meet developmental milestones and live healthy lives. With appropriate treatment, a girl or boy will be able to function appropriately at school, with peers, and at home with minimal disruption.

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Statistics

According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the percentage of the population that grapples with schizophrenia is said to be between 0.3% and 0.7% percent. Additionally, this same source also reports that negative symptoms, which include lack of facial expression and decreased motivation for enjoyable activities, are more common among males, while females are more likely to experience mood-related symptoms. Lastly, it has been reported that less severe symptoms are equally found among both males and females.

Causes and Risk Factors for Schizophrenia

In order to understand why and how a youth comes to suffer from schizophrenia, one must consider various causes and risk factors. The following causes and risk factors are those that are widely agreed upon by mental health professionals, and are those that can explain how a person can come to experience the symptoms of schizophrenia:

Genetic: Through extensive research, it has been realized that a person’s genes can greatly affect the onset of schizophrenia symptoms in young people. If a youth has a family history of psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression, or autism, he or she is at greater risk for experiencing symptoms synonymous with schizophrenia.

Environmental: Experts in the field of mental health agree that certain environmental factors can influence the onset of schizophrenia symptoms. Exposure to chronic stress, living in an unstable home environment, or residing in an urban setting can all impact the manifestation of this disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Being born during late winter or early spring
  • Growing up in an urban area
  • Having parents of older age
  • Complications during pregnancy
  • Lack of oxygen during childbirth, also known as hypoxia
  • Exposure to stress, infection, malnutrition, maternal diabetes, or other medical concerns during gestation

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

The telltale signs that a young person is struggling with schizophrenia are likely to vary in comparison to adults who are suffering from this illness. Children and adolescents may not display the severe symptoms that adults do, which could make a diagnosis of schizophrenia among that age group more difficult. However, the following are the signs and symptoms that may be observed by those closest to a youth who is suffering from schizophrenia:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Disorganized behavior
  • Catatonia
  • Discussing topics that do not appear to make any sense
  • Inability to perform daily activities without the help of caregivers
  • Acting out at home or at school
  • Stereotyped movements
  • Staring, smiling, or repeating what others are saying
  • Not speaking

Physical symptoms:

  • Little to no facial expression

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory disturbances
  • Difficulty learning new information

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Decreased interest in or motivation to participate in things that were once enjoyed or self-directed activities
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Schizophrenia

Seeking treatment to learn to manage the symptoms of schizophrenia is crucial in order for a young person to live a healthy and productive life. Failing to seek care, however, can render numerous adverse effects, which can include the following both in the youth’s present life and in his or her future:

  • Worsening of schizophrenia symptoms
  • Development of additional mental health concerns
  • Substance abuse, which could lead to addiction or chemical dependency
  • Inability to perform well at school
  • Academic failure due to poor performance
  • Difficulty forming relationships with peers
  • Homelessness
  • Emotional and behavioral disturbances
  • Motor delays
  • Difficulty in learning language
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Attempts at suicide
  • Death as a result of suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Because schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition, it is possible for a youth to suffer from additional mental illnesses at the same time. Especially if a young person does not receive care earlier in his or her life, the following are likely to impact the individual in late adolescence or adulthood:

  • Tobacco use disorder
  • Panic disorder and/or other anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Schizotypal or paranoid personality disorders (though these disorders can precede the onset of schizophrenia)
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