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Early warning signs of schizophrenia

By Emily Anthes
Globe Correspondent / September 6, 2010

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These symptoms, alone or in combination, do not necessarily mean that a child has psychosis or psychosis risk syndrome. But they may indicate a need for evaluation.

■ Mild hallucinations or delusions, often accompanied by the awareness that the experience is not real. Teens may feel as though they are being followed, for instance, even though they know that’s probably not true.

■ Strange bodily sensations, such as the feeling that one’s brain is bouncing back and forth inside the skull.

■ Difficulty focusing mentally, especially if this is a new problem. A sudden diagnosis of attention deficit disorder in an older teen or young adult can be a red flag.

■ Other cognitive difficulties, such as trouble remembering. People with psychosis risk syndrome often complain that their minds aren’t “working right.’’

■ Social withdrawal and isolation.

■ Trouble sleeping.

■ Blunted facial expressions or a blank gaze.

■ Any other sudden changes in interest, activity, or functioning.

Screening children for mental illness

In 2008, Massachusetts began requiring doctors to offer mental health screening to all children on MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, during checkups. The number of children screened has been steadily increasing, reaching more than 60 percent of those who had checkups in the first quarter of this year. Of those screened, 8 percent to 10 percent might need further attention, says Emily Sherwood, director of the state Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative.

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