Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder characterized by usually by severe delusions and hallucinations. Someone with schizophrenia struggles with reality on a serious and profound level. The severity of the disease can differ according to the individual, but sometimes it can be so encompassing that it prohibits a teen from functioning normally, and it may cause them to be a danger to themselves.
What Does Schizophrenia Look Like?
- Hallucinations are common. These are experiences that are not real. Hearing voices is the most common hallucination, and the voices may order the teen to do things, warn them about imagined things, or analyze the teen’s behavior.
- Aside from seeing things and delusional thoughts, teens may also exhibit “thought disorders”, wherein they lose the ability to connect thoughts in a logical way, speaking in a jumbled manner, or suddenly losing train of thought completely.
- “Movement disorders”, characterized by agitated body movements that a teen may exhibit. Sometimes this appears as repetitive movements, jerky movements, or extreme, persistent lack of movement.
The Different Types of Schizophrenia
Disorganized Schizophrenia – Characterized by inability to speak coherently because of disorganized thoughts, emotional instability, and neglect of personal hygiene. Hallucinations and delusions are less pronounced in this type of schizophrenia.
Catatonic Schizophrenia – Characterized by impaired movement, such as contortions of the body of face, mimicking other people’s body movements or behaviors, and awkward movements. Catatonia refers to such erratic movement, ranging from little to no movement/response to stimuli, to excessive and peculiar movement.
Paranoid Schizophrenia – Characterized by delusions and hallucinations involving people plotting in conspiracy against them, causing the teen to be defensive, moody, irritable, anxious, and untrusting. This is the most common subtype of schizophrenia.
Undifferentiated Schizophrenia – Characterized by a teen exhibiting symptoms in more than one of the subtypes. Alternatively, it’s a form of schizophrenia that cannot be accurately attributed to any given subtype. As schizophrenia is more commonly seen as a spectrum, it’s possible for many cases to be undifferentiated.
What Causes Schizophrenia?
The exact cause of schizophrenia is not known, but there are risk factors that help explain why the disorder may have occurred in the first place.
Brain chemistry – the brain relies on the interplay of different chemicals, called neurotransmitters, to send signals from cell to cell and affect the way we think, move, function, and live. Sometimes, in some people, the interaction between these neurotransmitters can be flawed or different from normal, leading to a number of possible psychological consequences, including schizophrenia.
Genetics – if both parents suffer from a form of schizophrenia, the offspring has between a 30% to 40% chance of developing the disorder as well. If a teen has had a family history of schizophrenia, it is possible that this accounts for most of why they developed the condition.
Environmental factors – many different things can trigger schizophrenia, aside from age. Traumatic experiences are the most common trigger for psychotic breaks, although other environmental factors for schizophrenia include problems during birth, pre-natal malnutrition, and exposure to certain viruses, including the influenza virus, rubella virus, bovine disease virus, and herpes simplex virus.
How Can I Help My Teen with Schizophrenia?
Living with schizophrenia can be incredibly challenging, and it’s not easy to support a loved one going through the effects of a disorder with kind of severity. Yet no matter how your teen might react, they ultimately need your help and may rely on it to live. It’s impossible to give accurate advice to any one parent without understanding what their teen is struggling with, but there are a few things every parent should do.
Learn more about schizophrenia – while schizophrenia is a chronic disorder, it can be comforting to know that it varies in intensity and is composed of various flareups or psychotic breaks within an active or “florid” state, rather than a continuous struggle with hallucinations and/or delusions. Better understanding what symptoms your teen struggles with and how severe their schizophrenia is will help you better figure out how to provide for your teen and keep yourself sane as well.
Help them seek training – patients with schizophrenia are, depending on the severity of their condition and the extent to which their symptoms can be controlled through therapy and medication, still capable of going to work and contributing at home and to society. However, it may take some special skills training to help your teen find a way in the world after school. Academic skills training and social skills training programs can help your teen better fit in with other kids and help avoid troubled relationships with the teens at school. Supported employment and vocational rehab can help your teen develop the skills needed to look for and keep a job, alongside a support system to help them when their condition flares up.
Work with their therapist – aside from individual therapy sessions, which can help tremendously once a therapist has gained a teen’s trust, family therapy sessions can help both of you learn how to cope with the disorder and find a better way to live.
What Types of Teen Schizophrenia Treatment Are Available?
Teen schizophrenia treatment involves treating a teen as a whole. A condition like schizophrenia is pervasive and can affect every aspect of life, and leave behind a whole list of other symptoms and issues that must be dealt with. Getting a teen to agree to therapy alone can be a challenge sometimes, as is helping a teen control psychotic flareups during the active phase of their condition. In general, treatment is a combination of medication and highly individualized and specialized talk therapy, as well as group therapy sessions with others or with family.
Medication – First- and second-generation antipsychotic medication may be prescribed for teens with schizophrenia in order to help treat and lessen the severity of their symptoms. These medications also help a teen gain the ability to manage their symptoms more successfully, as other treatment approaches are taking effect. Side effects vary from drug to drug and teen to teen, so it’s important for your teen to discuss possible side effects with their doctor and understand the risks and benefits of using these medications. As a parent, it is critical that you understand and know all possible counter indications for your teen’s medication, so you know what they can and cannot take for other illnesses or for nutritional purposes, including vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements.
Talk Therapy – Talk therapy for teens utilize different techniques, including cognitive behavioral therapy, to help address a teen’s different symptoms. Therapists work with teens to help them recognize their illness and its symptoms, learn to cope with those symptoms, and learn to begin returning and re-engaging in activities and relationships. Daily life is challenging as it is for most teens, but with schizophrenia in the picture, they will need extra help to find a feasible path through it all.
Within the scope of behavioral approaches, therapists also teach teens helpful techniques to address any stress or anxiety related with their illness, how to support themselves to succeed, and how to regain a sense of confidence, while disengaging negative thought patterns.
Family Therapy – Group therapy and family therapy sessions can also be extremely helpful, for the teen and the family, as schizophrenia is very difficult for parents and family members as well. Therapists can help to provide a safe, open environment where productive conversations can take place, while addressing the experiences of the teen and the family members.
Teen and Young Adult Schizophrenia Treatment at Paradigm Treatment
Paradigm Treatment’s locations are set in nature, designed to be pleasant residences where teens come to find a place dedicated to psychological healing. Each location has something unique to offer, but they’re all a great fit for parents who want their teens to spend time in a residential treatment center, to help them adjust to life with schizophrenia.
Dedicated Treatment – Managing schizophrenia is not easy, especially for a teen struggling with social interactions, school and home responsibilities, and thoughts of the future. Many teens struggle with depressive thoughts because of how debilitating and disabling their symptoms can be. But the right treatment plan can set them straight and give them the opportunities they need to grow and flourish as individuals in their own right. A dedicated treatment facility helps a teen focus entirely on getting better, putting everything aside to work on learning how to manage their symptoms.
Learning to Interact – Paradigm Treatment works with several teens at a time keeping groups small and helps manage interactions through careful facilitation of group activities and meetings. A controlled and healthy environment for social interaction can help teens with schizophrenia learn how to better integrate themselves with others, make friends, and learn how to build the kind of support system they will need in time.
When I first went into Paradigm, I believed that showing emotion was a sign of weakness, but quickly learned that it is truly a sign of courage and strength. I was extremely lucky to have Rob, Jay, Jess, Shannon, and Jeff’s help. Their advice and kind words have stuck with me for over two years already. Paradigm helped me make changes in my life and break several bad habits. These changes have stuck and will continue to stick for the rest of my life. The Paradigm staff is fantastic, kind, funny, and overall a group of sincerely caring people who are more than willing to listen to your life story, and offer advice if you want it. The help the staff and other teens provide will help you create a more healthy and stable lifestyle.
Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Schizophrenia
Is residential teen treatment necessary?
That depends on a teen’s condition, and the severity of their disorder. We recommend intensive therapy, especially during the onset of the illness, for teens with schizophrenia. This is because residential treatment focuses on maintaining close supervision and encompassing support as therapists and doctors work with teens to treat their symptoms, provide teens with understanding and support, and prepare them to live life by managing their illness.
How will a diagnosis of schizophrenia affect my teen’s life?
Every case of schizophrenia is a little different. Because the disorder happens on a spectrum, how your teen’s life will change is entirely dependent on the symptoms they exhibit and how those might change.
Milder forms of schizophrenia can still come with codependent disorders like anxiety or depression and dealing with them can mean that your teen might feel encouraged to become a recluse at times. A social life can be very difficult with schizophrenia, but it’s never impossible. Some teens are actually relieved to discover that they have schizophrenia, because having a name for it is worse than spending a good portion of their life struggling with thoughts and feelings they can’t place or understand.