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Schizophrenia is a complex illness that affects a person’s behaviour. It causes strange thinking, strange feelings, and unusual behaviours. It is uncommon in children and is hard to recognize in its early phases. The cause of schizophrenia is not known. Current research suggests a combination of brain changes, bio-chemical, genetic and environmental factors may be involved. Early diagnosis and medical treatment are important. Schizophrenia is a life-long disease that can be controlled but not cured.

Early diagnosis and medical treatment are important. Schizophrenia is a life-long disease that can be controlled but not cured.

The behaviour of children with schizophrenia may start slowly over a period of months or years. For example, children who used to enjoy relationships with others may start to become more shy or withdrawn and seem to be in their own world. They might begin talking about strange fears and ideas. They may start to cling to parents or say things, which do not make sense.

The following symptoms and behaviours can occur in children or adolescents with schizophrenia. The behaviour must persist for at least 6 months.

  • seeing things and hearing voices which are not real (hallucinations)
  • odd and eccentric behaviour, and/or speech
  • unusual or bizarre thoughts and ideas (delusions)
  • confusing television and dreams from reality
  • confused thinking (thought disorder)
  • extreme moodiness
  • ideas that people are out to get them, and/or talking about them (paranoia)
  • severe anxiety and fearfulness
  • difficulty relating to peers, and keeping friends
  • withdrawn and increased isolation
  • decline in personal hygiene


Children with schizophrenia must have a complete evaluation. Parents should ask their family physician or paediatrician to refer them to a psychiatrist, preferably a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who is specifically trained and skilled at evaluating, diagnosing, and treating children with mental health symptoms. Children with schizophrenia need a comprehensive treatment plan. A combination of medication, individual therapy, family therapy, and specialized programs (school, activities, etc.) is often necessary. Psychiatric medication can be helpful for many of the symptoms and problems identified. These medications require careful monitoring by a psychiatrist.

Links or Useful Resources on SCHIZOPHRENIA:
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry -
Canadian Mental Health Association -
Children’s Mental Health Ontario - or 1-888-234-7854
Mood Disorders Association of Ontario (MDAO) - or local 519-570-4595
Schizophrenia Society of Ontario -