What are the symptoms of schizophrenia? My teenage daughter's behavior has become strangely erratic. I'm scared because schizophrenia runs in my family. Is it possible I'm doing something to make the situation worse?
Absolutely not. Schizophrenia isn't caused by childhood trauma or bad parenting.
People used to think this mental disorder might have something to do with family dysfunction. But that idea has long since fallen out of favor – largely because health care professionals noticed that parents of schizophrenics are usually very diligent about caring for their child's needs. Such a compassionate response is completely out of sync with neglect, abuse, or severe family conflict.
Causes of schizophrenia
We actually don't know much about the causes of schizophrenia. There's some indication that a genetic component might be involved, but it's not clearly understood.
And, unfortunately, the condition is surrounded by myths and misconceptions. For example, it's not true that schizophrenics (who account for approximately 1 percent of the population) are disproportionately violent or dangerous. They also don't usually struggle with multiple personality disorder.
Signs and symptoms of schizophrenia
Schizophrenia profoundly affects the way an individual perceives reality. And that significantly impacts thoughts, feelings, and practical decision-making skills.
The criteria for an official diagnosis include:
- Hallucinations (most often auditory)
- Disorganized speech and thought processes
- Disorganized or catatonic behavior
- Lack of emotion or motivation
There's no cure for schizophrenia this side of eternity – but there is hope. Treatment and therapy can help individuals suffering from this condition live productive, fulfilling lives:
- Medication can be highly effective in dealing with symptoms. Antipsychotics can reduce delusions and hallucinations by controlling levels of dopamine and serotonin (important neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, in the brain).
- Anti-stress therapies, including stress management training and Christian counseling, can be helpful. That's because the symptoms of schizophrenia are often triggered or intensified by stress.
Research shows that the more quickly treatment starts after the first onset of symptoms, the more likely it is to be effective. So if your daughter has any of the symptoms mentioned above, we'd encourage you to see your primary care physician as soon as possible. Ask for a referral to a psychiatrist or other licensed mental health professional. They'll know best how to guide you from that point forward.
Call us for help
If you'd like to talk with a member of our staff, don't hesitate to call our licensed counselors for a free over-the-phone consultation. They'd be more than happy to speak with you about your concerns. And they can provide referrals to trained therapists in your area.
In the meantime, for more thoughts about schizophrenia, you can look at our Counseling department's information sheet "Schizophrenia: A Brief Overview."
Schizophrenia: A Brief Overview
The National Alliance on Mental Illness