Psych Central

Is My Mom Abusing Me?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I visited (and stayed with) my Mother, at Christmastime, and was kicked out of her house, as she thought I was having sex with her boyfriend, who was staying at her house, at the same time that I was.

She continues to abuse me by saying that I have taken her boyfriend away from her, which has no basis of truth. I had no relations, with him, other than seeing him, while I was with her, at her house.

My Mom has been diagnosed (about 15 years ago) as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. She was hospitalized, in 1992, when her husband passed away, when she completely lost touch with reality, by thinking that my Dad was still alive and they were going to take a charter flight to Hawaii. When hospitalized, she could not recognize who I was, which was ‘very’ upsetting. At that time, she was placed on Risperdal, which turned her around in about a 2 week time.

I have no contact, with Mom, because of her abusive behavior. She thinks (now) that I am living with her boyfriend and I am living with him, having the time of my life, which is false. I live in a completely different state and have since 2003.

I’m having a very hard time dealing with this abuse, from her.

I was told by her Psychology Counseling – Case Managers, that Mom has signed a form to have me taken off her contact list, in case of emergency and/or I cannot have any input into her care.

Mom has gone as far as changing her cell phone…and…home phone number, so that I cannot call her.

When this ‘abuse’, first started, her caretaker (Case Mgr), told me that it was possible that she had a stroke. I tried to convince the Case Mgr., that she needed to be checked out medically, but nothing was done. Her Case Mgr., then told me that her medication had been reduced. That’s when the “problems” started, when her medication was lowered.

What can I do to help my Mom? Also, what can I do to stop worrying about her and stop feeling guilty, although I have done nothing wrong?

I feel, at a loss, as she has restricted my knowledge of her medical care. This is just part of her illness.

If something should happen, to her, I don’t want our relationship to end with her “truly” believing these disgusting things about me, her only daughter.

I am at a total loss and would like some advice on what I can do next, to obtain help for Mom.

Thank you very much for your time.

A. What you must realize is that you are dealing with an individual who because of her illness may be unable to think logically and rationally. You believe that she is abusing you and perhaps some of her behavior may in fact constitute abuse but what complicates this matter is the fact that she has schizophrenia.

Unfortunately, the experience you describe with your mother is common. People with schizophrenia often incorporate close family and friends into their delusions and paranoia. They do not do it deliberately. It is the nature of the illness. Friends and family can sometimes be viewed by a schizophrenic individual as enemies. It is not uncommon for an individual with schizophrenia to believe that the people who are trying to help them are trying to harm them.

Let me explain by using an example. I am familiar with a family in which the mother has had schizophrenia for over 25 years. She is married and has three adult children. She has been hospitalized for severe psychotic episodes at least 30 times but still does not believe that she has schizophrenia.

During the course of the illness, every time that she had a psychotic episode, she became extremely paranoid and delusional. The paranoia and delusions always seemed to center on her husband. As the psychosis progressed, she would become increasingly convinced that her husband was conspiring to harm her. For instance, during one episode she became so convinced that he was attempting to take the children away that as a way to ensure that he could not, she told the police that he had molested the children. During other psychotic episodic occasions, she told the police that he dealt drugs, stole vehicles, robbed banks, brainwashed the children, poisoned her food, planted listening devices in her legs, and so forth. None of it was true but she absolutely believed it to be.

Generally, each psychotic episode required hospitalization. The hospitalizations were involuntary meaning that she was always committed to the hospital against her will. Her husband was usually the individual who signed the commitment papers. While at the hospital, it was not uncommon for her to tell the hospital staff many negative things about her husband and ask that he not be allowed to visit or have a say in her medical care. Her husband thus always became her enemy.

The truth is that her husband helped her tremendously during her many psychotic episodes but she continued to believe that he was trying to harm her. Each time that she had an episode she targeted him as the “bad guy.” Before he learned about the symptoms of schizophrenia he was shocked and appalled at how she accused him of engaging in activities that he did not participate in. Naturally, it angered and upset him. He was almost arrested on many occasions because of the untrue stories that she told the police. He later came to understand that it was the illness that caused her to be so suspicious of him. He had to learn how to separate her from the illness symptoms. He had to learn not to take her outrageous accusations personally and to realize that her behavior toward him was part of her illness.

In your situation, your mother’s illness may be what is causing her to behave in a manner that you consider abusive. It is important to examine her behavior and determine if it is the illness that is causing her to behave erratically toward you.

Even if her behavior is a result of the illness, it does not mean that you have to tolerate it. Try to realize that her actions toward you may be beyond her control, then work to establish rules and boundaries with her. Continue to limit your contact with her. You said that you have stopped all contact with her and that is fine if you chose this but please know that it will most likely not work to alter her behavior towards you. Remember, it may be the illness that accounts for her behavior towards you and probably not because she has a personal vendetta against you. Again, it is important to try to separate the person from their illness.

Schizophrenia is a very complex illness. It’s not only debilitating to the individuals suffering from the disease but it can profoundly affect the family members of the person living with the illness.

The goal is to be firm but compassionate with your mother, limit the time you spend with her and realize that much of what is causing her behavior towards you may be out of her control and due to the illness.

I welcome you to write again if you have any additional or future questions. Please let me know how you are doing. Also, I have written extensively about schizophrenia and the family. Please see my other answers regarding this subject here. They may be helpful to you. Take care and thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Jul 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Is My Mom Abusing Me?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/07/14/is-my-mom-abusing-me/