Here’s how to live with a mother with schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that can present challenges for family members.

A mental health diagnosis affects not only the individual, but also those close to them. If you are the child of a mother with schizophrenia, you may face several specific challenges.

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that distorts a person’s thoughts, behaviors and perceptions. Because it causes a detachment from reality, its symptoms can be very disabling, making it difficult to perform daily tasks.

A person with schizophrenia may experience the world completely differently from others, which can create a distance between them and their loved ones.

Schizophrenia is also one of the most misunderstood and stigmatized mental health conditions. Myths surrounding the disease can create additional challenges for the person and their family.

If your mother is schizophrenic, it’s natural to find yourself overwhelmed by all kinds of feelings. You may feel scared, sad or angry. You might resent him for not being like the other parents or for trying to avoid spending time together. You can even fall into the role of caregiver, trying to “fix” them.

There is no right or wrong way to react to your situation, all of your emotions are natural and you are not alone. But there are some sensible strategies you can use to help you navigate your parent’s diagnosis.

Schizophrenia affects approximately 1% of people in the United States. It develops later in women than in men, on average – usually between the late teens and early twenties for men and between their late twenties and early thirties for women.

Schizophrenia can look very different from person to person. But becoming familiar with general symptoms can help you understand your parent’s behavior.

According to the DSM-5, a diagnosis of schizophrenia requires at least 2 of the following symptoms for a period of at least one month:

  • Hallucination: Hearing, seeing or experiencing things that don’t really exist. Auditory and visual hallucinations are common in schizophrenia, but other senses may also be involved.
  • Delusions: A firmly held belief in something that is patently false. Some people believe they are being pursued, targeted, or influenced by outside forces, while others may believe they have superpowers or have been chosen for a particular purpose.
  • Disorganized speech: Incoherent and rambling speech that moves quickly from topic to topic and can be difficult for others to follow. This is sometimes called “word salad”.
  • Disorganized behavior: This can include catatonic symptoms and motor function problems.
  • Negative symptoms: The absence of a trait that would otherwise be present, such as emotions, speech, engagement with others, and motivation.

Schizophrenia is an incredibly complex illness that can manifest in different ways. Being schizophrenic does not mean that a person cannot be a loving and functioning parent, especially if the illness is treated.

But as the disease affects a person’s functioning, mood and emotional well-being, it will inevitably affect their children as well.

In a 2021 study, researchers from the University of Manchester looked at the “emotional climate” of families where one parent has schizophrenia.

They did this by focusing on emotional expression and parenting practices in parents with schizophrenia compared to parents without serious mental health problems.

The study showed that parents with schizophrenia displayed more hostility towards their children, and were more critical and blaming their children.

A older study from 2013 focused on the experiences of a small group of adults who had grown up with a parent with schizophrenia.

While most participants (70%) were happy with the parenthood they had received, many said the condition had affected their lives.

In particular, 66% of participants reported feeling overwhelmed by their parent’s condition and 40% reported feeling a lack of support from their parent with schizophrenia.

It’s important to know that you shouldn’t have to take responsibility for your parents’ mental health, especially if you’re a minor.

If your parent has schizophrenia or shows symptoms of the disease and is unwilling or unable to seek help, it’s a good idea to talk to a trusted adult about the situation.

It could be :

  • another parent or relative
  • a teacher
  • a guidance counselor
  • a therapist

When you have a relative with mental illness, it’s natural to feel protective of them and perhaps even feel compelled to keep their condition a secret.

The stigma surrounding schizophrenia can make it very scary. But the reality is that there are some very effective treatments that can help your mother live a fulfilling and productive life:

Medications : Antipsychotics are the first-line treatment for schizophrenia. They can reduce or eliminate symptoms like and may also reduce the risk of relapse.

Therapy: Psychotherapy can reduce stress and help combat negative thought patterns. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective for schizophrenia because it can help a person gain perspective on their thoughts and reduce the potency of symptoms such as delusions.

These are things they would be introduced to by a doctor and a mental health team after a diagnosis or hospitalization.

What you can manage is how you educate yourself about the condition and the support system you create. You may benefit from creating a mental health crisis plan with your parent or a trusted adult.

You can also bookmark our schizophrenia hub for all kinds of information.

Like many mental health problems, schizophrenia runs in families to some extent. The lifetime chances of developing the disease are:

  • 1% for the general population
  • 6.5% in people who have a first-degree relative with the disease – such as a relative

However, this still means that most people who have a parent with schizophrenia do not develop the disease.

Research from 2016 suggests that the condition is often caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is possible, for example, that the stress of caring for a relative with mental illness plays a role in the activation of the disease, rather than genetic predisposition alone.

Schizophrenia can be an incredibly isolating condition for the person who has it and their loved ones. And because of the stigma of the disease, you may find it difficult to know where to turn or find support.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great resource for families of people with mental illness. There are support groups across the country where loved ones can come together and support each other.

Teen Line is another great resource for young people – it’s a helpline staffed by teen counselors and offers a safe and confidential space to talk about whatever’s on your mind.

Many children who have a parent with mental health issues take on the role of caretaker. But it’s also important to take care of yourself by making sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and prioritizing your mental health.

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