Most schizophrenics manifest their first true symptoms during late adolescence or early adulthood. These are critical years for the social and vocational development of young people too. Lately, psychiatrists have begun to work on pre-onset signs that may show up years before true symptoms manifest. While these warning signs are not as well defined as symptoms of an absolute manifestation of schizophrenia, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge.
The earlier that schizophrenia is caught and treated, the greater the chance for a positive outcome. This reinforces the idea that schizophrenia might be an organic brain disease caused by an abnormal brain structure, and that the progression of this disease also causes changes in the afflicted person’s brain.
Statistics about the Onset of Schizophrenia
Consider some statistics about the onset of schizophrenia.
- The disease manifests itself before age 19 in 40% of men and 23% of women.
- About 1 out of 100 people with schizophrenia suffered from an onset of this disease in childhood. This is called early onset schizophrenia.
- The prodromal (pre-onset) phase has been diagnosed up to 30 months before the onset of schizophrenia symptoms.
- Patients with a family history of schizophrenia that suffer from transient psychotic episodes have a 20% to 40% chance of being diagnosed with schizophrenia within a year.
A paper from the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre theorized that the age of onset, during late adolescence and early adulthood, might reflect a critical period in brain development. This paper follows the course of this disease and brain development in high-risk subjects beginning in fairly early childhood. Through these studies, the paper demonstrates that seemingly subtle and specific changes during developmental age periods might influence the course of psychosis and the resultant brain structures.
The point of this study is to demonstrate that more research should be done on changes that occur before the onset of schizophrenia so more high-risk children can be treated long before any symptoms manifest themselves. That is not to say that any scientists claim to be able to currently predict exactly which children will go on to develop this disease. Most high-risk children do not ever display symptoms severe enough to merit a diagnosis. Others are diagnosed with this malady who never displayed an known prior risk factors.
What Are Symptoms For The Onset Of Schizophrenia?
These are some common symptoms of this disorder. Of course, only a trained psychiatrist can really diagnose this disease by clinical observation of symptoms. Symptoms of schizophrenia are usually grouped into both positive and negative categories. Positive symptoms might be associated with psychosis. Negative symptoms might be associated with mood or personality disorders.
- Positive symptoms: Hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, disorganized thoughts, or disorganized behavior.
- Negative symptoms: Reduction of emotional expression, loss of energy, and a lack of enjoyment.
It is obvious that many of these symptoms can also stem from other disorders. They could be found in people with depression, bipolar disorder or other illnesses. It is critical for doctors to be sure that the young person who is suffering from positive or negative symptoms actually has schizophrenia and not some other malady. Misdiagnosis can lead to the wrong medications and therapies. It can also reduce the probability of a successful outcome and lead to more suffering.
Pre-Onset Schizophrenia Symptoms
Obviously, only a trained psychiatrist or psychologist can truly diagnose a patient. But these are general signs that might be noticed before they are severe enough to merit a true schizophrenia diagnosis.
- Emotional flattening: The inability to smile or express facial emotions
- Acute sensitivity: Normal lighting might seem too bright. Noises might sound too loud.
- Mood changes: Irritability or hostility
- Performance: Deterioration of performance at work or school
Quick Diagnosis and Treatment after the Onset of Schizophrenia leads To Better Outcomes
In any case, early-onset schizophrenia is usually associated with poorer outcomes. This is partly because symptoms interfere with the education, social, and emotional development of the young person who suffers from this disease. It might also be because the disease has more time to damage brain structure during critical years.
Conversely, catching symptoms early is associated with better outcomes. This is because the afflicted person can get treatment and more help coping with symptoms.