Is My Mother Mentally Ill?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I am here because I’m losing hope and I’m running out of options. I’m here because u have many reasons to believe my mother is a paranoid schizophrenic. She is a single 56 year old woman with 4 children. Three boys and me, the youngest and only daughter. I have a very bad relationship with my mother because she lacks trust with me and she always thinks I’m out to get her. For example, I don’t live with her and I barely go visit her, but for ae reason she constantly accuses me of stealing her things from her home. I don’t have a key to her home so there’s so wat I can get in her home if she’s not there, and when I am over there visiting she follows me around the house. One she left a very belligerent vulgar message on my answering machine accusing me of stealing her credit card and paying my cellphone bill. She then called me apologizing saying it was a misunderstanding. I was completely in awe. Then another time she cursed me out saying once again I stole her credit card and went to Wal Mart and tried to buy some contacts. Mind you, I don’t wear contacts or glasses. I don’t have acces to her card info or any of her personal information. I’m not the only person she accuses of stealing from her, she will say things like “someone’s been coming in my house and stealing my DVDs.” One time she even said “someone” been driving her car. My brother and I told her that rediculous, and no one is gonna steal her car and then return it. There is another time she called me and she was very upset. She told me she went to her friend of 20+ years house and saw a picture hanging on her wall that belonged to my mom. My mom said her friend was recently at her house and she believes she stole the picture from her house. She called her friend accusing her and telling her she’s no longer welcomed in her home anymore and that their friendship is over. I told my mom she sounds crazy and there is no way her friend could’ve taken the picture without her noticing, seeing how the picture is about 32 inches long and wide. I told her to check her hallway closet and she found it. I told her she needs to call her friend and apologize and she needs to seek help. Whenevere or my brothers tell her she needs help she tells at us and won’t speak to us. Another thing I notice about my mom is the way she speaks. She sometimes reminds me of a child, especially the way she puts her sentences together, they sometimes don’t make since. She mis reads words all the time and also speaks words wrong a lot. If this is any helpful information she worked at a mental institution for over 15 years. She often brought her problems at work home with her and would take her anger out on me and my brother. She spends a lot of time by herself and pushes away a lot of her friends. She has been single for about 10 years. Another thing my brothers and I notice about her is that she often fabricates stories or she seriously over exaggerates them. She believes her lies, I think. One thing I don’t understand is how she treats my brothers like royalty, but treats me as a untrustworthy criminal that’s out to get her. The way she is to me makes me not like my mother or want anything to do with her. I’m seriously concerned with her and I need answers.

A. It’s possible that your mother has a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia but such a late onset is unusual. You said that she was 56 years old. The typical onset of schizophrenia is late adolescence or young adulthood. It’s rare for an individual to begin experiencing symptoms for the first time in middle adulthood. It’s possible but not common. Perhaps this is not the first time she has behaved in such a manner but without being able to interview you in person, it’s difficult for me to know.

One thing is certain, she is not well. It may be due to psychological problems, delusions, hallucinations or paranoia. Several other possibilities exist which include an organic brain disorder, early-onset dementia or illicit substance use.

You stated that you do not live with your mother and thus intervening may be difficult. Encourage her to be seen by a medical or mental health professional for an evaluation. If you cannot convince her to be evaluated, perhaps one of your siblings can. You stated that she doesn’t trust you but she may trust another member of the family.

Hopefully, someone in your family can convince your mother to seek treatment. Otherwise there’s not much else you can do. Unfortunately, when we see one of our family members acting bizarrely and perhaps putting themselves or others in danger, it can be difficult to force them into treatment. Try your best to encourage her to seek help and hopefully she will listen. Do all you can and realize that your power is limited. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice Blog

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 May 2013

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2013). Is My Mother Mentally Ill?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/05/15/is-my-mother-mentally-ill/