Mom Has Paranoid Schizophrenia

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My mom has paranoid schizophrenia, and it became apparent when I was about 11 and it quickly became out of hand and it caused my parents 4 year divorce which was difficult for me to handle. In the time I spent living with my mom after my dad left and began fighting for my custody, my mom attempted to kill me several times because she would rather me dead then live with my dad, and because some voices told her to. she would lock herself in her room for days, crying and yelling at the walls. and she wouldnt let me go outside to play because she thought the neighbors wanted to kill us all. since then my dad won sole custody of me and I am supposed to see my mother once a week for an hour under therapeutic supervision. But my mom refuses treatment and as a result cant hold a job to pay for the visits. so i havnt seen her in several years, but she calls all the time and leaves very strange messages, telling me she sleeps in churches and has no money and no friends. The worst of all is that she seems to be stuck in the past, all she talks about are the times we had growing up, but twisted. It makes me miss her so much and saddens me that there is nothing I can do. I am worried that I may have schizophrenia, and that I wont show signs untill my 30s like my mom. I currently take medication for ADD and I have attempted suicide, but no one knows about that because I was alone and my parents just thought I was sick, but i really ingested two entire bottles of pain killers. I try so hard to be happy day to day but always feel depressed on the inside and to scared to show it.

A. I am sorry about your situation. It must be difficult for you to manage this chaotic situation on your own. I hope that you have someone you trust and can rely on or confide in. Are there any stable adults in your life that you can talk to? If not then please consider going to your school counselor. My concern is that you are dealing with many complicated issues and you don’t have any guidance or support. Your mother has a very serious illness that is not currently being treated. She calls you and leaves you distressing messages. You mentioned feeling helpless when she calls because she talks about sleeping in random places. You know that she is not well but she won’t take her medication. I can understand your feeling of helplessness. For this reason and many others it’s important that you find someone you can talk to for guidance and support. Please consider going to your school counselor immediately.

There are also support groups you can and should consider attending. They are run by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many towns across the United States have at least one of these NAMI groups. NAMI runs support and psychoeducatioal groups for family members who have a loved one with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses. Often times these groups advertise in local newspapers or in Pennysaver ads. You can also go to their website for more information.

What about your father? What kind of support does he offer you? You mentioned withholding serious information from him regarding your ingestion of two bottles of pain killers. You should not have withheld that information from him. He needs to know that you are suffering so he can get you help. You need help and you need it now. Please do not be afraid to report how you are feeling to a trusted adult. No one can help you if they do not know that you need help. Please go to your father or a trusted person at your school and tell them how you are feeling. If people know that you need help then they can assist you in finding it.

You mentioned that you are afraid that you might get schizophrenia. You are at an increased chance of getting schizophrenia because your mother has it but the risk is very small. You can significantly decrease or eliminate any risk you may have of getting schizophrenia by seeking help for yourself now. What you do not want to do is to refuse to get help when you clearly need it. That is unfortunately what is happening with your mother. She clearly needs help but she is not getting it and it hurts her. She refuses her medication and instead she’s homeless and wondering the streets. Be proactive and when you recognize that help is needed seek it immediately. The time to seek help for you is now.

I have worked with many families who have a family member with schizophrenia and they often struggle with the same issues that you wrote about. At least half of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia do not accept treatment for their disorder. This means that despite being very obviously ill about 50 percent of people with schizophrenia refuse to take their medication. There is research that shows that this 50 percent of people who refuse their medication despite being very ill cannot recognize they have an illness. It appears based on research that they are not deliberately refusing help just to anger their family but it’s that they actually do not realize they’re ill. This condition is called anasognosia and for some it’s often part of having schizophrenia. It is very difficult to see a loved one refuse treatment when you know it’s needed and then have to witness their decompensation. Families know that the medication could help because they’ve seen it work but their loved one refuses to take it. This experience can be very disheartening and tragic. It’s a complicated situation and that is why I suggest that you please seek help. Please do so immediately. This is not something you should be dealing with alone.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Mar 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Mom Has Paranoid Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/03/30/mom-has-paranoid-schizophrenia/