Questions & Answers

Is it my fault my child has schizophrenia?

No. Contrary to old ways of thinking, we now know that schizophrenia cannot be prevented or caused by bad parenting. It has been proven that there is a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia. Parents should not blame themselves for not spotting the problem and preventing it, because it can run in families without parents being aware of it. Normal behavior has a wide range, and it is only over a period of time and with professional help, that an accurate diagnosis is made. Some of the warning signs include problems negotiating routine developmental tasks, social isolation and ostracism by peers. Keep in mind that often the disease presents itself with full force in the teen years.

How long does an episode of schizophrenia last?

Schizophrenia is a disease, and in many ways it is like diabetes or asthma in that there is no cure; rather it must be managed throughout life. Depending on the compliance with, and response to, treatment the symptoms can get better or worse.

Does my child have to take medication or are there any alternatives?

Medication, called psychopharmacological management, is the most effective treatment to ameliorate the most severe symptoms of the disorder, such as delusions, hallucinations or behavior disturbances. It is likely that medication will be necessary at various points throughout a person's life. Physicians are now better able to tailor medications and adjust dosages according to an individual's specific symptoms, thus minimizing side effects such as fatigue and dry mouth. The advent of newer medications has allowed more individuals to live in the community rather than in isolation.

The introduction of neuroleptics, or antipsychotic medications, has greatly improved the day-to-day functioning of individuals with schizophrenia. Thus they are able to gain the most benefit from such non-pharmacological treatments as cognitive behavioral therapy or vocational training.

Besides medication, are there other forms of treatment?

A variety of treatment programs exist for youngsters with schizophrenia, ranging from inpatient hospital settings to outpatient independent living facilities and day treatment centers. The younger child may require a program that includes special education to address particular language and learning needs. The older child or teen will need a program that addresses peer relationships, social skills training, and education about warning signs and management of the disorder.

What can help me parent a child with schizophrenia?

It is important for parents to realize that when their youngsters have delusions or hallucinations they experience them as real. Therefore, it is unproductive to try and talk them out of it. It certain can be frustrating to be unable to get someone to recognize reality. A better approach would be to listen to them, be supportive and get professional help immediately to assess the need for medication to keep them safe. Psychotherapy for the youngster as well as for the whole family is helpful for managing the stress that schizophrenia can cause in the whole household.