Dear Dr. Sadaqat Ali,
I was in one of the finest schools in Islamabad. By the grace of Allah, I am having a wonderful married life and have three daughters. But, I am worried about my middle one, who is thirteen and is studying in 7th grade. In last few months, I have observed that she has stopped taking care of herself. She often seems lost, cries for no obvious reason and at times talks to herself. I have also observed that she stares at walls for hours. She does not seem interested in playing with her friends anymore and our mother daughter relation is suffering too. When I ask what is the matter with her she gets irritated and she spends hours reading books like Harry Porter and on social networking.
I have no idea what is the matter with her and this makes me feel frustrated. I have watched your programs on different television channels and I really appreciate your efforts for society. I seek your professional advice in dealing with my daughter.
Dear Worried Mother,
Thank you very much for your appreciation. I see that you are an observant and concerned mother. I understand the agony you are undergoing due to the behavioral changes shown by your daughter. With the onset of adolescence, children undergo a lot of physiological and psychological changes. These psychological changes get reflected in mood fluctuations and behavioral disorders. Parents need to intervene timely and effectively whenever they observe such behavioral changes in their children. Generally, the adolescence changes are part of growing up but at times severe mood and behavior disorders such as isolation, neglecting personal appearance, self talk, showing a general indifference to life, abandoning peer group activities, crying spells, depression, decline in school grades and irritability are signs of early adolescent schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder in which a patient is unable to distinguish between what is real and unreal. He/she fails to think clearly, to manage emotions, to relate to others and to function normally. In some people, it appears suddenly and without warning. But for most, it comes on slowly, with subtle warning signs and a gradual decline in psychological functioning long before the first severe episode emerges. Imbalances of important brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, genetic and environmental factors play a significant role in the early onset of schizophrenia.
You have already taken first step towards helping your daughter by observing the erratic changes in her moods and behaviors. Correct medication and structured counseling program will help you adopt a healthy therapeutic attitude towards her which would enable her to learn the art of happy living and to have a fulfilling life despite schizophrenia.
In order to achieve these goals following steps will get you in the right direction.
Educate yourself. Learning about schizophrenia will allow you to make informed decisions about how to best manage the illness and work towards recovery. Firstly, you need to understand that your daughter is suffering from an illness. This should not be considered as a defect of her personality or nature, rather as a manageable disease. In this way, you will be able to keep the identity and personality of your daughter separate from the disease she is suffering from. This differentiation is important for effectively dealing with the disease of your daughter.
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