hallucinating child - schizophrenia?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by frepretch, Oct 27, 2009.

  1. frepretch

    frepretch New Member

    hi everyone. i'm new here, and i have a scary new problem in my world that maybe someone here can help me with.

    i have a 10 year daughter and about 4 days ago she started freaking out. let me explain.

    she woke up and started screaming. we ran to her bed, and she was up, wide eyed and started talking loudly and gesticulating - going on about how she was poisoned and that we needed to call the police. then she was start whispering, and then she'd get loud again. the lights were on, she was awake, looking us in the eye and assuring us that this is real and she needs help NOW.

    we convinced her to go back to sleep. an hour later, the same thing happened. this time it was about water and some people and something or another.

    again, she went to sleep, and again woke up in a craze about an hour later.

    this is the 4th night in a row that this cycle has happened. she talks about "breathing trees" and desperately asks us, pleads with us, to verify that she "has a face" and that it's not missing.

    when she was little, she had night terrors. we know what those are - and this is very, very different. she is completely awake and remembers everything the next day. she is relatively functional during the day, but she refuses to eat and never wants to be alone because she says she is scared of being alone.

    i dont know what's going on. no fever, no medications. she hasn't hit her head, she hasn't been sexually molested, she hasn't been exposed to dangerous chemicals.

    her pediatrician has no idea, the blood work came back negative for substances.

    we have an appointment with a child psychiatrist next week, but i'm not sure we're going to make it. my wife and i are fried after 4 nights of this - she now sleeps in our bed and every hour or two she wakes up completely panicked over some bizarre thing.

    ok, so any ideas what's going on? i know child onset schizophrenia is rare, but what else could this possibly be?

    i can't believe this is really happening.
  2. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    There's also a form of BiPolar disorder that can include a psychotic element.

    in my opinion, this poor kid is in a really bad way. Is there any way you can scoop her up while this is happening and take to the nearest ER?
  3. Josie

    Josie Active Member

    Is it possible she could have Lyme Disease? I recently met a woman whose son had hallucinations from Lyme. They went away when he was successfully treated with antibiotics.
  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi there and welcome. Sorry you have to be here, but we'll try to help.

    We don't have much info. How old is your daughter? Is s he experimenting with drugs? Do you have schizophrenia on either side of her family tree? Anything else? What about her history? Is she on medication? Has she ever seen a psychiatrist? Has she told you she sees things that aren't there or hears things that nobody else hears? Is she just this way at night? How's school for her?

    Hang in there, but please tell us more. We'll be able to help better. One thing though...we are not doctors. Your guess is as good as ours. I would make an appointment. ASAP with a Child Psychiatrist. If she gets like that tonight I'd take her to ER. She sounds terrified, poor kid.

    Even if you're tired, it makes no sense not to take her to the psychiatrist. She is having delusions, at the very least (not sure she has a face) and my gut tells me it's a psychiatric issue, not a medical one. But a psychiatrist can run medical tests to rule things out.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2009
  5. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    Has she had a recent strep infection?
  6. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Hi and welcome -

    We are not medical professionals and of course can't diagnose, but we do have a large collective experience and can toss out ideas. ;)

    Because childhood schizophrenia is relatively rare, I'd rule out everything else first. Also, having these episodes only at night would make me think it's not schiz. Did the pediatrician do a full physical exam and blood work? Has anything at all changed recently, at school or home, her daily schedule, friends moving, death in family, etc? Any new medications (flu shot)?

    In my purely lay opinion, I'm wondering if it might possibly be a sleep disorder? I really am not sure I would immediately jump to a psychiatric condition, especially if she's been doing well up to this point at home/school/in the community (of course depending on family history, etc.).

    In the meantime, how to survive the nights? Maybe changing nighttime routine, focusing on relaxing activities - hot bath (possibly scented), quiet time with- family maybe reading or doing other calming activities. I would try to think outside the box with the goal being to get her as relaxed as possible before going to bed, as well as reasurring her that she is safe. Back rub, foot rub, whatever works for her. Music playing softly in her room at night? Maybe a nightlight in her room, or a small light left on? Something next to her bed to remind her that you and your wife are there and watching over her? (I used a very small stone (pebble actually) many years ago with- my anxious son - told him that it took millions of years for that stone to form, starting as a mountain, etc., etc. I told him that as long as it took for that stone to arrive here in our hands, is how long and how strongly I love him - got that from a board member here (thanks, Rita) a long time ago, and that stone was occasionally comforting for my son.)

    In the short term, you and your wife may have to tag team parent so that you're not both run ragged at the same time - one of you stay with daughter while the other one tries to get a good night's sleep, and then trade off.

    I can't imagine how terrifying this is for you and your daughter... I hope that you are able to get to the bottom of it quickly.
  7. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    Night terrors are more typical of younger children but can occur in older children. During a night terror a child may appear to be awake and aware but is not actually awake.

    Does your daughter recall the night terror the next day?

    Generally night terrors are considered a sleep disorder. My first priority would be getting a sleep study done ASAP. This will confirm whether the night terrors are a disorder of arousal during REM sleep or something else.

    One unlikely possibility is seizures but these generally last only briefly - 30 seconds to a few minutes.

    If she is not having any symptoms during the day I would second the person who suggested it is unlikely that she is having psychotic episodes.

    I too would suggest that a psychiatrist may not be the specialist to start with here. I would consider a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders or a pediatric neurologist as my first step in figuring out what's going on here.

    If there has been a recent trauma to the child or within the family like a death of a relative then this may be part of the problem.

    Tag teaming it is a very good idea. When our difficult child 2 was having night terrors this was one of our strategies for dealing with it. His gradually reduced in frequency and then just went away. He does still talk and shout out in his sleep fairly often but does not have night terrors anymore.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I'm going to gently disagree that if she seems ok during the day she's not hallucinating at night, although I'm not saying to rule anything out. I spent three weeks in a really severe psychiatric hospital once (It was my choice to find out what was wrong with me by going to a hospital that takes the most sever cases of all) and the psychotic patients were often ok during the day but their demons came out at night. Maybe they were distracted during the day, but many mental illnesses are worse at night. Sometimes patients wandered during the night, once into my room. It freaked me out.

    This doesn't mean she HAS schizophrenia or psychosis, but it sounds like she has delusional thinking, such as not believing she has a face or thinking the trees are breathing. in my opinion only (I could be wrong) this is too severe for a sleep disorder. A good psychiatrist will rule out all possible "other" causes. When I was in the hospital I had everything done to me from thyroid tests to a complete blood work up to a seven hour blood fasting test. These things are unlikely to cause psychosis, but it's good to rule everything out WHILE your child is in treatment with a psychiatrist.

    This is just my opinion and I could be wrong, but I think your very first stop should be with a psychiatrist who has a good reputation around town. Waiting will probably only make things worse. You could take her to a neurologist at the same time. Likely, like with me, the neurologist won't find anything, but it never hurts to dig deep. But no reason to delay the psychiatrist. JMO with my own long history of mental illness, plus my son's problem.

    TAke care and good luck, whichever path you take.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2009
  9. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    I agree that I'd consider night terrors, medical reasons, sleep disorders, seen any horror films or commercials for such flicks, etc. before considering schizophrenia.

    Have there been any recent upsets in her life? When I was ten I started having bad dreams/night terrors shortly after my parents split up. I was terrified that my dad was coming to take me away from my mom and I was living it every night in my sleep for awhile there.
  10. whatamess

    whatamess New Member

    Night terrors sound applicable and maybe she remembers more because she is older. Stress-related? Can you get into a sleep study? Did she have night terrors as a small child and now just this week she is waking again?
  11. frepretch

    frepretch New Member

    thanks everyone for sharing your ideas, questions and thoughts.

    we DO have an appointment with a psychiatrist for next week.

    last night went so-so. we only have 1.5 episodes of full blown crazy, and about 4 freakouts that we shutdown pretty quick (less than 30 seconds.)

    i'll set up a sig, but here's the background info people were asking about:

    - she's 10 years old.
    - never used illegal drugs or alcohol.
    - she's NOT on any medication.
    - no family trauma or events
    - she's got normal pre-teen troubles (worried about friends, homework, etc.)
    - no family history of schizophrenia or BiPolar (BP).
    - some thyroid issues in the family though.
    - when she was younger (about 5-6) she DID have night terrors, but nothing even close to this.
    - she DID have a fever last week for several days, possibly swine flu. the hallucinations started 3 days after the fever broke and all flu symptoms went away. (NO, she wasnt on tamaflu..)

    on the night terror hypothesis - these are so severe, and last for like 5-10 minutes and she seems like she is wide awake, walking around, looking us in the eye - and she remembers everything the next day. can a doctor hook something up to her to prove that she is indeed asleep, or not?

    ok - the lyme disease idea is interesting. we live in a thickly wooded area in the mountain states, and even though lyme disease is mostly back east, our state website says that there are cases of lyme disease in our state. i will look more into this.

    i agree trading off with my wife would be the smart thing to do, but neither of us can bear not to be there while she is having an episode. eventually we'll fall apart, we know, but for now, we're going to both stay with her all night.

    again - thanks so much for everything you've written - it is all so helpful. please post a reply if anything comes to mind, and i'll keep everyone updated on how things progress. again - thank all of you so much.
  12. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    She needs to be tested for strep. Please call your pediatrician to set up an appointment ASAP for a throat swab and an overnight culture. Strep has been known to cause strange sudden episodes of anxiety.

    Here's a link to the phenomenon called PANDAs:
  13. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    Gosh, that sounds awful for her (and you and your spouse!). I hope you can find an answer. you have some good suggestions here. I'm glad you have docs appointments etc.
    A sleep test can help identify sleep issues causing it for sure. They can even in some sleep clinics send you home with the gear then review the data, so that a child is more comfortable sleeping in their own bed. If it is a overnight sleep at a clinic, they aren't frightening and the staff are usually very kind.
    I would highly doubt schizophrenia in a child her age without any signs ahead of hallucinations. Especially since they are night time oriented and she is fine during the day.
    There are other sleep disorders aside from night terrors. Similar, where the terrors are there but recalled the next day when awake. Often people will truly believe they were awake the whole time, especially since they can remember it all the next day. It can feel so real. If she is very vividly dreaming, it is quite possible she appears awake but the dream still feels active and she is responding to the dream while appearing awake, Also, it is possible that she would remember it all the next day.
    I had one experience like this,b ut I was paralyzed. It's as if my brain woke up but my body stayed frozen? It lasted for hours. I thought I was dying. I would fade in and out of sleep (this was AFTER a good 9 hour sleep) and have crazy dreams/visions of things happening. But I couldn't get up out of bed, couldn't call for help etc. It was the most terrifying thing I've had happen in my life. All in all, it went on for about 5-6 hours. I was in a fog/daze for a good 2 days after. Its never happened again. I was told by doctor it was a weird sleep phenomenan that isn't much talked about, uncommon, but not actually rare.
    I do hope you can get to the bottom of this. It sounds traumatizing for all of you. I hope that it passes and just never happens again. Might not answer the "why did that happen?" question but wouldnt happen again either!!
  14. M0M

    M0M New Member

    I am not a psychiatrist, but I am a mom and teacher. If it were my daughter, I would have her come sleep in my room until the next appointment. The "9 year change" affects some kids differently. I would consider if there have been any changes in what she has been watching on tv, at school, friends, church members, etc. Sometimes the fears could be related to anxiety disorders, PTSD, or other things not necessarily psychosis. Often times there is a "range" of hallucinations/imagination associated to normal childhood behavior. I would not panic, and I am sure even if the "worst" happens, you are the parent, and you love her. Just keep assuring her that and not to worry. Everything will be ok and there is always a solution or support. I would try not to over-react emotionally because if it is serious, there needs to be as much stability and routine as possible. Prayers to you and your family.
  15. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    This is an older thread, I think...the OP never returned.