Q: Hi I am a singer from the midlands. I recently started dating a girl who is also a singer, she is lovely, very bubbly and friendly and hugely talented. We have been going out for a month. She recently told me a secret that shocked me a little, that she was adopted and her biological mother was diagnosed schizophrenic, and her dad was depressive because of her mothers illness, which is why she was adopted.

I suffer from bad anxiety, and its started me worrying about the possibility she will become schizophrenic. She never knew her parents, and her adopted family are lovely, a few members are estranged from the family, two brothers, which does upset her now and then, but her father and mother are great, and support her singing career, help her greatly, and basically manage her ! but it is making me a little ill worth worry, and i do love her, she is lovely. The only thing is is that I am tending to look for possible signs of the illness. She talks a lot more than usual, and does get excitable and a little hyperactive at times, and worries about everything, thinks too much I think. but she is dedicated to her singing, and works very hard, she keeps saying I should relax more, I can sense she might see I am worried, but I cant really tell her ist about her, coz I don’t want to stress her out and cause anything. I am so worried, and all I wanted was to love her and enjoy our relationship. Do you think I should worry, and look for signs or just get on with life ?

A. Based on your letter, there seems to be little reason to worry. Nothing you wrote indicates that she is suffering from early signs of schizophrenia. Individuals who have a parent with schizophrenia are at an increased risk for developing the disorder but just because a person has a relative with the disorder in no way means that he or she will develop the disorder. The chances of her developing the disorder are relatively slim. Let me explain.

People who have a relative with schizophrenia are thought to have a genetic predisposition to the disorder. This means that they have an increased risk for developing schizophrenia but usually something has to occur, usually negative within their lives to evoke this predisposition. Let’s look at an example where we have one person with a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia and one person without it, and both begin abusing illegal drugs. The person with the genetic predisposition may be at a greater risk for developing schizophrenia brought on by the illegal drug use when compared to the person without the genetic predisposition.

In another instance, a person with a parent with schizophrenia is adopted into a loving, warm and friendly home. Another person, also having a parent with schizophrenia is adopted into a home where he is physically and verbally abused and ignored by his foster parents. Both people are at an increased risk for schizophrenia because they had parents with the disorder but the person who was adopted into a loving home is less likely to develop schizophrenia because she was lucky enough to be exposed to a warm and supportive environment. The other person who was adopted by the abusive foster parents has a greater chance of developing the disorder because of the very difficult environment he was placed in. In this scenario, both people had an equal chance of developing the disorder because of their genetic predisposition but one person, because of the negative environmental circumstance was more likely or more susceptible to developing schizophrenia than the other. There are many other factors at play that can affect whether or not a person develops schizophrenia but the idea of genetic predisposition is one of the more commonly believed theories.

It’s also important to note that just because a negative event occurs in the life of a person who has a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia in no way means they are destined to develop schizophrenia. It just means that he or she may be at a slightly increased risk for schizophrenia. People can be very resilient and this is essential to mention.

Since the cause of schizophrenia is not known, there is no guarantee that the disorder will not be passed down genetically from her mother. Realistically, however, it is extremely unlikely. From your letter, she has a very supportive and loving family, she is not living with her biological mother and she is not displaying any symptoms of the disorder. I hope this answer helps to decrease or eliminate your anxiety regarding this issue. Thanks for your question.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Feb 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Should I Worry About My Girlfriend’s Mother Having Schizophrenia?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/02/01/should-i-worry-about-my-girlfriends-mother-having-schizophrenia/

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