How is childhood schizophrenia diagnosed?

How is childhood schizophrenia diagnosed?

Schizophrenia in children is difficult to diagnose. Many healthy, nonpsychotic children have hallucinations or delusions. For example, a young child may talk to an imaginary friend.

Also, other psychiatric illnesses can cause symptoms that may be mistaken for schizophrenia. These conditions include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder.

No one test can tell whether a child has schizophrenia. To make a diagnosis, a doctor must rule out other diseases or conditions, and consider other psychiatric illnesses, developmental disorders or drug toxicity.

Doctors diagnose childhood schizophrenia with a combination of mental and physical tests. To check for physical causes, your doctor may use:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) : This test uses radio waves and strong magnetic fields to help doctors see whether there are any abnormalities in the brain.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT): A radioactive chemical called a tracer is injected into the bloodstream to allow the doctor to see blood flow in the brain.