My mother is a schizophrenic. My mother is around 47 years old and she’s had schizophrenia since before she got married in her 20s I guess. My mother has turned against almost all of our relatives, we have no family friends and we barely go out. As they create scenarios in their mind and believe it’s true. I have a feeling my mother is gradually turning against us. Is this possible?

Also, I have a feeling that my brother (21) has also been genetically affected. Some people believe it might be some sort of demonic possession as the effects are on and off, but I think it might be schizophrenia. Can schizophrenia be passed on genetically?

A. Yes, unfortunately, it is possible for an individual with schizophrenia to “turn on their family.” I worked on a research study in which we were attempting to build a website for individuals with schizophrenia and their family members. We had to alter our recruiting process because we found that so few individuals with schizophrenia had retained positive connections with their family.

It is important to separate the individual from their illness. In other words, an individual with schizophrenia might “turn on their family” because of their symptoms, not because they don’t love their family. Individuals with schizophrenia are not thinking clearly. Schizophrenia is a thought disorder. Delusions, hallucinations and paranoia interrupt an individual’s logical thinking ability and tricks them into believing in a false reality. That is the cruel nature of the disease.

I worked with a client who believed that her husband was plotting to harm her. Every move he made was perceived as being part of his plot to harm her. At one point, she called the police and falsely reported that he was dealing drugs just so he would be arrested. She only did it because she wholeheartedly believed that he was attempting to harm her. He was not but in her illogical mind, he was. By having her husband arrested, she was attempting to protect herself.

In many ways, schizophrenia is a family disease because it affects the family to such a large degree. In the example above, it would’ve been understandable for the client’s husband to have been furious with her for having called the police but he realized that she did it because of her illness. No one wants to have or chooses to have schizophrenia. Schizophrenia afflicts people of any gender, race, or socioeconomic status.

With regard to schizophrenia being passed on genetically, it is possible. Having a family member with schizophrenia increases the likelihood that other family members will develop the disorder. It does not guarantee that members of the family will develop the disorder but the genetic risk is real, though slight.

Your brother is also showing signs of schizophrenia and “some people” believe that he is possessed by demons. Historically, individuals with schizophrenia were thought to have been possessed by demons. The current understanding of schizophrenia is that it is a brain disorder that is brought on or exacerbated by stress. If your brother is experiencing signs of schizophrenia, then he should be evaluated by a mental health professional immediately. Time is of the essence with regard to schizophrenia and psychosis. The sooner that he can begin treatment, the sooner his symptoms can be decreased or eliminated.

I would recommend contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is an advocacy group that provides support and psychoeducation about mental illnesses. Many NAMI members have family members with mental illnesses and can relate to your situation. I wish you the best of luck.

Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Jul 2012

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2012). Can Schizophrenic Family Member Turn Against Others?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/07/20/can-schizophrenic-family-member-turn-against-others/