February 12, 2007

Childhood Schizophrenia? - San Antonio Girl Talks to Angels

The following story was recently posted on a Texas web site:

"Little Kristen was only 4 years old when she says she noticed something different about the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe hanging in her family's home.

"Her eyes like opened a little more like that and she smiled at me," she says.

On that day, six years ago, Kristen's mom didn't pay much attention to her young daughter's excitement. After all, what children often see is make believe, but not many 4-year-old's beg to be taken to church. Kristen asked her mother the very next day to take her to her parish.

"As soon as we entered the chapel, she goes 'Oh, look. there they are!' says Kristen's mother, Elsa. "And I'm like, 'Who Kristen?' 'The angels! Right there! Do you see them?"

The girl is now 10 years old and still experiencing the same unusual experiences. It seems likely that psychiatrists and psychologists would identify these experiences as early symptoms of psychosis or childhood onset schizophrenia - or perhaps a child with an over-active imagination that is being encouraged by her mother. What do you think? Do these symptoms sound familiar?

We would certainly recommend that any parent with a child that is seeing and hearing angels be immediately evaluated by a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist that is familiar with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. If it turns out to be the early symptoms of schizophrenia or psychosis - its very important to get early treatment for the person, for the best possible outcome.

Read the Full Story San Antonio Girl Talks to Angels

See the discussion on the news channel's web site: Here

Additional Information: Childhood Schizophrenia


A little child seeing angels in an appropriate setting and with mood-congruent reactions seems so far-removed from the life-disruptive, devastating symptoms of a child with psychosis.

Along with hallucinatory phenomena and frank psychosis, is usually a host of other symptoms such as physical awkwardness, profound sleep disturbances, learning disabilities, temperature dysregulation (at least documented with pediatric-onset bipolar, and reported with some cases of COS as well), sensory sensitivities/issues... and the list goes on.

The hallucinations are not restricted to a culturally acceptable belief such as angels, either, and in fact, one criteria for diagnosing hallucinations as "hallucinations", or diagnosing delusions as delusional, or having odd beliefs, is to judge them within the culture the person is living.

To me, this little girl seeing angels simply sounds "precious" - at least in the way they wrote it up in the story.


Posted by: Naomi at February 12, 2007 10:50 AM


You make good points, and we don't know the full story of this girl so its impossible to say for sure. But when I looked at the list of childhood onset diagnostic criteria here: http://www.schizophrenia.com/family/childdiag.htm

It still seemed to meet the criteria (i.e. its pretty obvious she has delusions and hallucinations, or at least she says that she has). The criteria for diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia include:

The characteristic symptoms: Two or more of the following symptoms present for a significant portion of time during a 1 month period.

1. delusions

2. hallucinations

3. disorganized speech

4. gross disorganized or catonic behavior

5. negative symptoms

Social/occupational dysfunction: since the onset of disturbance there is a significant decrease in one or more of the following areas of functioning, such as interpersonal, academic, or occupational achievement.

Duration: continuous signs of disturbance must persist for at least 6 months.

The disorder is not attributed to Mood Disorder or Schizoaffective Disorder.

The disorder is not due to substance use or a general medical condition

There is no history of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, an additional diagnosis of Schizophrenia is given only if prominent delusions of hallucination are also present for at least a month (or less if successfully treated).

(American Psychiatric Association, 1994)

Posted by: szadmin at February 12, 2007 10:57 AM

Actually, it is NOT considered hallucinations or delusions when the phenomenon is acceptable within the cultural context. This girl does NOT have any symptoms listed, at least not that would be diagnosed - neither hallucinations, nor delusions.

Serendipitously ;-) in the most recent issue of Current Psychiatry Online is a write-up "Irrational beliefs: A ubiquitous human trait" from the editor about how we all have beliefs, superstitions, etc which may be "irrational" but that does not mean they are "delusions". Dr. Nasrallah says, "What does it all mean? Overwhelming evidence shows that odd, irrational, false, or bizarre beliefs are ubiquitous among people regarded as ordinary and sane."

As an example with adults, seeing ghosts, spirits, or speaking in "tongues", believing in voodoo and that someone is persecuting you remotely within that Voodoo cultural context, are all NOT considered hallucinations or delusions, etc when these things occur within the right cultural context.

A child believing in faeries, angels, etc or even insisting that their imaginary friend is present, talks to them, etc, is NOT considered abnormal nor is it even considered an hallucination.

On the other hand, to imagine what a psychotic child hallucinating is like... think of what happens with an extremely high fever - so high that the person is delerious. Got that picture in your mind? OK ... THAT is what a psychotic child is like.

Now, if that little girl started to try to kill herself because she thought the angels wanted her to die because they wanted her to become one of them, and she started reacting to the world through that veil of belief, THEN I might think... hmmm... maybe this child has delusions and hallucinations.

It takes a LOT before something in a child gets labeled with anything on that list of symptoms. And even then, before there would be even a hint that the illness might be schizophrenia, she would undergo EEGs, MRIs, blood tests, and much more.

You have an excellent point that there is a list of symptoms for schizophrenia, and taken out of context, normal people at different times can meet some of those criteria. But 1- they must interfere with the functioing of life, and REALLY meet the criteria for "what IS a... hallucination, delusion, word salad, etc, and 2- other things must be ruled out.
Neither of those items are trivial, and based on what that article wrote, I doubt that this little girl's "symptoms" would have met the criteria in #1 for any psychiatrist to have declared them to be hallucinations nor delusions... at least... not YET.

I personally believe in spirits, and personally have no problem believing that it might be possible that this child sees them. Maybe that also makes me "delusional"... but actually NOT because our society says that it is acceptable for me to believe this way.

It would be great to have a follow-up story 20 years from now to see if the child grows out of this, becomes someone like the Ghost Whisperer, or turns out to have some illness (temporal lobe epilepsy comes to mind) after all.

It is just that for now, I would hate to think that anyone would think their child may have schizophrenia simply because of angels, especially when brought up to believe in them. Again - it is not considered an "hallucination" when it is appropriate in the societal context. Therefore, this would NOT meet the criteria on that list.

Posted by: Naomi at February 12, 2007 11:49 AM

mother of my mother say spirits are in the world. she saw spirits as the child but no more. my sister also saw the spirits but no more. me too believe many the children see spirits maybe call spirits angels or maybe see angels call them spirits.

Posted by: Zieg at February 12, 2007 02:47 PM

I guess there can be a fine line between religiousity and a psychotic disorder.

Posted by: Naomi at February 17, 2007 10:30 AM

My daughter sometimes sees flies swarming around her at night. She is in a frantic state when this happens. Is she halusinaing or just had a bad dream? This happened before when she was 5 (she is now 9) when she took too strong medication. But, she hasn't been taking anything lately.

Posted by: lisa at February 21, 2007 10:49 AM


If your daughter seems to be hallucinating (seeing anything that isn't actually there) - she should definitely see a child psychiatrist for a full evaluation. You might see the list of early psychosis treatment centers list for the best centers that do such evaluations - click on the link below:

Worldwide Early Diagnosis & Treatment Centers for Psychosis & Schizophrenia

If it turns out that she is showing signs of early psychosis - early treatment is key in getting a good outcome. This is one area where it definitely pays to be aggressive in getting an evaluation - despite what others say.

Posted by: SzAdministrator at February 21, 2007 04:34 PM

i started to notice i was different when i was eight years old. i started with light signs i still have light signs today i am forty two years old today. i also hallcinate visualy and additorly. i have delusanale thinking and paranoia i have reach the point to live in what othere peoples reality and the one i was born with i speak to doctors lawyers law enforcment colleges and also family members people have said they want to know how i can do the things i do and have my symptoms happen everyday of my life to be accepted took several years of my life

Posted by: charles at February 24, 2007 12:14 AM

Interesting article. In my situation, my hallucinations started off as "seening" Jesus, saints and angels. But things started to rapidly distort. The more and more that I "saw" these "people" the more cruel that they got and I eventually was referred to a psychiatrist by my family doctor. A few years later, I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Posted by: Lindsay at February 26, 2007 12:01 PM

If anything you should send the mother to her psychiatrist for believing in angels.

Posted by: Michael S. at February 28, 2007 12:19 PM

My 3 year old Stella sees and talks to spirits and Angels.She is a very smart girl and very mature for her age.I don't think there is anything wrong with her.We are Native American and this happens alot in our culture.

Mary D.

Posted by: Mary D. at April 16, 2007 05:50 PM

In my own case it happened to me and my kid sister katerina. she was 3years at the time and I was 19. she could see things like Angels passing in the mid heaven, some evil people planing to kill and a group of people telling her to inform you to be careful.while I (Rachel) could hear people singing and dancing and calling on to me to come and so on.with this experience I think a 3 year old can Hallucinate since Hallucination involves false sensory perceptions.
I could remember asking a Doctor if a child can Hallucinate and He said at 3 the child's sensory organs are immatured, I dont know how True is that? Please I need an explanation.

Posted by: Jackson Rachel at November 13, 2007 08:17 AM

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