Based on your description, I do not believe that your mother has schizophrenia. As you noted, she does not experience delusions or hallucinations or most of the other symptoms associated with the disorder.
One possibility is that your mother has an autism spectrum disorder. These disorders include autism, Aspergers syndrome or pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) not otherwise specified (NOS).
Your mother seems to be exhibiting symptoms that are similar to those on the autism spectrum. I am specifically referring to:
- Speech Derailment: Individuals with autism have difficulty staying focused on one topic. This is referred to clinically as speech derailment.
- Her language problems: This is one of the hallmarks of autism. Individuals who demonstrate language problems are more likely to have a diagnosis of autism than Aspergers syndrome (a milder form of autism).
- The behavior that you characterized as narcissism: It may not be necessarily narcissism but a difficulty with empathy. Empathy is the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes. Difficulty with empathy is another possible sign of an autism spectrum disorder.
- Her inappropriate emotional responses: This is another possible indicator of an autism spectrum disorder. This would include difficulty showing the proper emotions, which is a situation you described witnessing (i.e. crying during Extreme Home Makeover).
Interestingly, research shows that males are more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders than females. There is a limited understanding as to why this might be true but there are ongoing investigations to better understand the phenomenon.
It is also interesting to note that schizophrenia and autism may be on the same “spectrum” with schizophrenia being at one end of the spectrum and autism on the other. To some degree individuals with schizophrenia and autism share conceptually similar types of symptoms but they are two distinctly different disorders.
Of course, it would be best for your mother to be evaluated by a mental health professional to determine if she has an autism spectrum disorder. Should it be decided that she needs an evaluation, I would recommend you finding someone who specializes in the treatment of autism spectrum disorders among adults. I would also encourage you to read more about autism spectrum disorders. Even if evaluation and intervention are not necessary at this time, learning more about these disorders may help you to better understand your mother’s behaviors.
I hope this helps. Please take care. I wish you well.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on September 12, 2010.