Could My Husband be Schizophrenic?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. My husband’s issues have really begun taking its toll on our family. We’ve been married for thirteen years and from the beginning, I knew of his temper but figured since I had suffered from depression (due to childhood sex abuse) in the past, perhaps we both could assist each other in dealing with our mental health.

I’ve since learned that his anger was actually a symptom of something ‘bigger’. My husband has severe mood swings combined with what appears to be psychotic episodes. When totally stressed from an argument or even some kind of routine life event like paying bills, he loses it. For instance: He has parked his car behind mine in the garage to keep me from leaving; kicked a chair from under me at McDonald’s; changed online banking account information to deny me access (other abusive things I care not to mention); turned off the water in the house to get our teenage daughter to get out of the shower; thrown an unopened Sprite can at a motorist because she cut him off; wiped a check with his behind and sent it to a creditor because he didn’t agree with them about a debt; threatened the life of one of his professors, etc., etc.

When he does these bizarre things, he is not rational at all…I mean, you just can’t talk to him. He becomes another person, his heart races, weird look on his face and doesn’t utter a word but just engages in destructive behavior. He usually returns to normal in about a day or so but then that’s followed up with profound elation or silliness (which is really annoying). There are times when his moods are so dark he appears to be depressed…can’t get anything done; doesn’t have the motivation to do anything, is irritable and will sleep most of the day. Our son says that he doesn’t want to be alone with him because even if his dad is in a good mood, he “flips” if our son says the wrong thing…and often our son doesn’t know what the wrong thing is. Our daughter loathes him because he refuses to recognize that it’s more than anger management issues and get himself some help. They both say that he’s too confusing when he speaks; forgets what he says two seconds AFTER saying it yet is aggressively shouting all the time; has to be RIGHT all the time, etc…which I too have witnessed.

Yet, during our stable times, we are a pretty decent family. My husband tends to distort what WE say; hold firmly to a belief even in the face of evidence to the contrary and says things that are not even remotely in line with the conversation. He often needs to be alone but ultimately doesn’t like for me to be away from him. He has said that he believes that I am poisoning his food; has told me that since I know that he can’t control his temper, I push his buttons in hopes that he will have a stroke or a heart attack and die. He also believes that I sabotage him so that he will end up in jail prompting me to ask: “Yet, you want to continue to share a bed with me?”(no answer).

His paternal uncle has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and is currently living on the streets and his father has been known to exhibit similar symptoms. He too could not keep a job, was homeless and is extremely violent according to my mother-in-law. Our marriage therapist said that my husband is a very dangerous person who has been out of control for a long time. He said that he believes he has ‘psychiatric’ injury but of course he is not qualified to diagnose him.

I have begun the process of implementing strategies to keep me and the children safe when he goes off on a tangent. Like quickly removing myself (and the children) from the line of fire when the situation is escalating. I have told him to expect that I will call the police if I feel threatened or if he looks as if he is going to be physically abusive to the children. Most people tend to stay out of his way because they don’t know what behavior to expect from him. The children and I avoid him until we know it’s safe to be around him. The sad thing is my husband is extremely bright (he’s an engineer) and high functioning. He can be witty, generous and funny but then he changes at a moment’s notice and his behaviors and attitudes become ‘extreme’ and ‘unpredictable’. Could this be schizophrenia or bipolar?

A. I am not sure if he is suffering from either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It is difficult for me to give an accurate diagnosis despite all the detailed information that you have provided. What I can say is that he is experiencing serious bouts of seemingly uncontrollable rage and this makes him dangerous. What also makes him dangerous at this time are his explosive behaviors and the fact that many of his behaviors are directed toward or blamed on you and your children. He does seem to be experiencing some form of psychosis and it does seem to be out of control. He is also extremely paranoid and his thoughts are grossly disorganized.

He is in desperate need of treatment. Does he take medication? What about a doctor? Does he see one? Will he go to one? Try to get him to consider this immediately.

The more probable situation that is occurring is that he is on the verge of needing to be hospitalized. And I would say that the behavior that he has exhibited lately would likely make him a candidate for hospitalization, maybe even involuntary hospitalization. You mentioned that you have told him that you will call the police if he is a threat to you or your children. You might want to consider this before something bad happens. Also, if you needed help getting him to go the hospital because he refuses to go, the police, or a local mental health crisis team, can assist you in this process.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Sep 2007

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2007). Could My Husband be Schizophrenic?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/09/26/could-my-husband-be-schizophrenic/