Our eldest daughter is 36 and has always been very out going and helpiful to eveyone. While she is now living in another state, we learned from her sister and friends she says she hears voices in her head and begins cursing and telling the voices to stop. No one else hears any voices and the sudden outburts are disturbing and can occur even when she’s speaking on the phone. She asked her mother to vist recently and her mother found the stories true, but she has seen a psychologist who refered her for an MRI .
I would like to know how I could help her. The issue has occurred about 10 years after we found her youngest brother had paranoia; our son absolutely refused help and won’t see a doctor. He got in some legal problems a few years ago and it was our daughter who helped bail him out by paying for a lawyer. She was very active in sports throughout high school and college. I can’t think of which is worse – a possible tumor or an uncureable mental problem.
It is so very frustrating as a parent to be unable to help your children even when they are adults now and making a living of their own. I know my concern now should be only for them, but I just want to cry. What did my wife and I do wrong?
A. I want to first address the last question in your letter, which is what did you and your wife do wrong. Please do not blame yourself. Perhaps there is more to the story but nothing you have described leads me to believe that you are to blame. You said that your adult children are having problems with paranoia and hearing voices. If this is true they may be suffering from psychosis-based disorders. These may include disorders such as psychotic disorder not otherwise specified (NOS), schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, and the like. Science has not identified the precise cause of these disorders, but there is strong research to support the theory that they are organically based. That means that they are caused by a brain disorder or some unknown physiological or biological factor. You are not to blame.
There are other possible explanations for the symptoms such as neurological problems. Luckily, your daughter has been referred for an MRI. The other possibility to explain the voices could be drug use. You did not mention whether drug use was a factor but depending on the type of drugs, they can cause psychotic-like symptoms.
The main challenge you’re facing in this situation is distance. Your daughter lives in another state. This limits how effectively you can intervene. From a distance, you could speak to your daughter on the telephone and let her know you support and care about her. You could also act as a support system for those who are caring for her. Another way that you can support her and the family is to research psychotic disorders and share your knowledge with other family members. If your daughter has children perhaps you could suggest they temporarily stay with you and your wife. This might give your daughter a chance to receive the help she needs without the children having to witness this difficult time.
I understand that what you’re going through is not easy. It has to be stressful and frustrating to know that your daughter is suffering and there is little that can be done. It’s important to recognize that even if you were her neighbor there still may be little you could do to help.
To help yourself through this difficult time you may want to consider joining a local support group for individuals who have family members with mental illness. The most popular family support group around the country is offered through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Many people find these groups to be very helpful.
Please do not blame yourself for what is happening. There is no reason to blame yourself. This is especially true if your adult children are dealing with organically-based disorders. I invite you to write back if you have any further questions. Thank you for your question.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Sep 2009
Randle, K. (2009). Eldest Daughter Hearing Voices. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/09/30/eldest-daughter-hearing-voices/