Does My Daughter Have a Specific Disorder?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My daughter, Sally, is 14 years old and she has been experiencing some unusual things for about 1 year now. She see shapes floating in the air, she will actually hear music, radio static, footsteps up and down the hallway, and people whispering. She will talk about these “thoughts” that are in her head of something talking about things she’s doing or that me and my family are doing, upsetting things, and really random things. They cause a lot of anxiety and agitation and stress. She also has depression sometimes. She will also have a hard time communicating with people and seeing things from another perspective other than her own. She has always been paranoid throughout childhood but I never really noticed much of it really. Things became worse and she was put on Prozac, a low dose of Risperidone, and Clonidine but it’s not really working. Diagnostically are there any ideas?

A. It’s difficult to know what may be wrong. The fact that she sees, hears and feels things that are not there might indicate a psychotic disorder, potentially schizophrenia, but a diagnosis can only be determined after a thorough evaluation.

It sounds as though she has been in contact with mental health professionals, given that she has been prescribed psychiatric medication. I’m curious about their opinion.

I’m wondering if she has undergone medical testing to rule out a physical cause of her symptoms. If not, it would be prudent for her to be evaluated by a neurologist. It’s always wise to rule out a physical cause before the confirmation of a psychiatric diagnosis.

Schizophrenia in children is rare. Illness onset typically occurs between the ages of 17 and 25. It’s unusual to develop the disease before the age of 14 or after 30. Males tend have an earlier onset than females.

The fact that she has trouble communicating and finds it challenging to empathize with others, might indicate autism. Children who currently receive a diagnosis of autism, might have historically received a diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia. Autism, as a diagnosis, should potentially be considered as well.

My recommendation is to have her evaluated medically to rule out a physical cause. If you feel that the treatment you are receiving is substandard, then you may want to seek a second or third opinion. Choose mental health professionals who specialize in psychotic and/or autistic disorders.

Also consider contacting local universities to determine if there are ongoing studies of childhood psychiatric disorders. She may be eligible for one of those studies or they may be able to direct you to clinics who specialize in childhood psychiatric disorders. University researchers are often testing cutting-edge treatments, which may be beneficial to your daughter. I wish you well. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Apr 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). Does My Daughter Have a Specific Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/04/03/does-my-daughter-have-a-specific-disorder/