It is difficult to provide a reliable diagnosis over the Internet. I would need to interview your mother in person to verify a schizophrenia diagnosis. Having her evaluated by a psychiatrist would be the most reliable way to know if she has schizophrenia or another disorder. Having said that, she is exhibiting some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. It is also possible that she has a delusional disorder. Both are psychotic disorders in which paranoia is a main symptom. In addition to paranoia, typically individuals with schizophrenia would exhibit other symptoms including hallucinations, problems with social interaction, disorganized behavior, and hearing voices, among others. There are various types of schizophrenia and each diagnosis would depend on the specific symptoms.
At least 50 percent of individuals with schizophrenia have an inability to recognize that they are ill. This symptom is called anosognosia (pronounced anna-sig-nose-ea). It is also sometimes referred to as lack of insight. Approximately one hundred studies have evaluated this phenomenon and have consistently found that approximately forty to fifty percent of individuals with schizophrenia cannot recognize that they are ill.
People who do not have insight into their illness classically do not admit that they have schizophrenia. They will refuse to believe they have schizophrenia, refuse treatments and will usually generate alternative reasons to explain away their condition. For instance, one schizophrenic client who was hospitalized close to 40 times, each time for not taking prescribed medications and subsequently relapsing, staunchly refused to believe that she had schizophrenia. When asked why she believed she was hospitalized so many times, she replied that her kidneys were infected.
There is no simple way to deal with an individual who refuses to believe they are ill and subsequently refuses treatment. Generally speaking, if an individual is a danger to themselves or to others they can be hospitalized or treated against their will. An individual who is experiencing symptoms of psychosis but does not pose a danger to themselves or others generally cannot be forced into seeking treatment.
As a family member, it is difficult to witness your loved one in a state of psychosis yet be unable to convince them to accept treatment because they lack the ability to know that they are ill. Strict involuntary commitment laws throughout the United States prevent many individuals from receiving the help they desperately need. The tragedy is that many individuals needlessly suffer when medications or other interventions would benefit them greatly.
I would encourage you to contact your local Community Mental Health Center or hospital and speak to them about her situation and her symptoms. They may be able to assist you in helping her to receive treatment. There may also be a local mental health crisis team in your community that can further assist you.
The commitment laws throughout the United States tend to be very strict, though state laws do very. Here’s a website to help you learn more about the laws in your state. The National Alliance For Mental Illness (NAMI) is another resource you should consult. Here’s a link to their website. NAMI is a large national group who advocates on behalf of individuals with mental illness and their family members. The website contains a great deal of psychoeducational information.
Another great resource is a book written by Xavier Amador called I’m Not Sick I Don’t Need Help. The book provides a number of strategies that may assist you in convincing your mother to seek help.
You should try to convince your mother to see a physician for an evaluation. Even if she will not be seen by a psychiatrist, she may be willing to see her family care physician. The family care physician could help to rule out any possible medical problems that may be contributing to her symptoms. If she were to agree to this, it would give you an opportunity to speak to the doctor about your concerns.
I understand this is a difficult situation. The bottom line is that there is no easy solution. Paranoia is a sign that your mother is most likely experiencing some type of psychotic disorder that needs to be treated. As I mentioned above, it will not be easy to convince her that something is wrong and that she needs treatment. This is where you and your family need to be creative in attempting to get her to see a doctor. If she poses a threat to herself or to anyone else, then I would highly recommend calling the hospital, local mental health crisis team or 911 to report your concerns. If she becomes a threat to herself or to others, she would most likely be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
If you have any additional questions please don’t hesitate to write again. I will be glad to help you in any way that I can. Please take care.