Mental Illness & Schizophrenia

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. My uncle had a mental illness and since it happened when he was around 21 and many years ago, we do not have a report from the hospital he was admitted to in order to confirm whether he had Schizophrenia or some other mental disorder. My true question is: Can a very high fever trigger a mental illness such as Schizophrenia? My mother said that her brother (my uncle) was sick for a couple of days and he had a fever was so high that there was steam coming from the palms of his hands. He had hallucinated and had actually walked out of the house and into town in his bare feet in the snow and didn’t think anything was strange. The bizarre behaviour continued even after the fever broke. He would start laughing for no reason and then became afraid because he couldn’t stop. My mother would wake up in the middle of the night and he would be standing over her reading from the bible. And one day, for no reason, he had the urge to punch his mother (my grandmother) in the face but stopped himself at the last minute and hit the wall beside her instead and he had cried over this because he couldn’t explain why he felt the urge to do such a thing. It soon became obvious that he needed professional help and was admitted to a hospital where he received shock treatment and eventually he was released on medication but was never the same person again. Is it possible that this fever triggered the mental illness and do those examples sound like possible symptoms of a type of Schizophrenia?

A. Since the cause of true schizophrenia is unknown, I am not sure if it is possible for his fever to have triggered his mental illness. My educated guess is that it is possible but we can never truly know for sure. I have heard other similar accounts of people having suffered a fever and later suffering psychotic episodes but knowing the true cause of the psychosis in most causes is extremely difficult. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Sep 2006

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2006). Mental Illness & Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/09/25/mental-illnessschizophrenia/