How to Tell My Family that I’m Schizoaffective?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’m getting evaluated by a psychiatrist on Monday, but everything points in that direction or at least to the schizophrenia spectrum.

My mom is convinced that I’m bipolar since years, but I was never sure, because I had many stressors before. But I once tried lithium and my mood symptoms increased quickly, but I drank much and had to pee all the time and I’ve already issues with that.

… I realised over the last days and weeks that I just “woke up” from a paranoid delusion that the psychiatry wants to hurt me. It started three years ago when I was in the locked ward and after that my symptoms got more severe. It started at Christmas, sitting in the church, having the feeling that Virgin Maria wants to tell me something, but I kind of knew it was just my mind… I got scared leaving the bus on certain bus stations, because I was afraid that evil spirits could be present, but also that was more like a thought that popped up in my mind.

My problem is now, if the dx gets confirmed, how to tell my family or tell them at all?
… The thing is that my half brother had paranoid schizophrenia and committed suicide several years ago and because he was locked up on regular bases my mom (my half brother and I, we shared the same dad) even “forbid” me to tell psychiatrist about his dx. She once even told me: “oh maybe he had just hallucinations because of stress and depressions.”, because she can’t deal with anything that starts with “schizo-”.

Because of that I dunno what to do… If and how I should tell my family!?

A. Mental health diagnosis is an inexact science. Diagnosis can vary depending upon the evaluator. If an individual with the same set of symptoms were to be evaluated by 10 different diagnosticians, it’s possible that he or she would receive four or five different diagnoses. It’s very common.

It may be best not to tell your family about your diagnosis, whatever it may be. At the very least, you should try to deemphasize it because of their possible negative reaction.

In my clinical experience, gaining the “correct” diagnosis is less important than acquiring competent mental health treatment. Focus on treatment rather than your diagnosis.

Your mother is concerned about you sharing your family’s psychological history with your psychiatrist. You can and should provide all details about your family history with your psychiatrist. Remember, the information that you share with the psychiatrist is confidential. Neither your mother nor anyone else will be privy to information shared with your treatment provider. Health laws protect your privacy.

Finally, I would recommend that you discuss whether or not to tell your family with your psychiatrist. After collecting a great deal of personal history and assessing your psychosocial situation, he or she can provide specific advice about how to handle your family. Counseling also would be beneficial to you in many other ways. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Apr 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). How to Tell My Family that I’m Schizoaffective?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/04/03/how-to-tell-my-family-that-im-schizoaffective/