The Effect on Families

The Effect on Families

The impact of schizophrenia on families is often distressing and disruptive. The first signs in a family member appear as confusing changes in behaviour.

Parents often assume that early signs are merely normal but distressing aspects of adolescence, but then experience increasing stress and confusion as the condition worsens. After diagnosis, coping with the continuing symptoms of schizophrenia can be especially difficult for family members who remember what the person was like before they became ill, and how much they have since changed.

The impact upon families is compounded by the common tendency of people with schizophrenia to deny that they are ill, and to interpret the family’s efforts to get help as unnecessary interference. This interpretation is often supported in the patient’s mind by delusions of persecution, or grandiose ideas about personal destiny. Unless the person gains some insight into his/her condition, these symptoms can contribute to non-compliance with medication, and long-term disability. Unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, physical deterioration, and crime and imprisonment are some of the outcomes of untreated schizophrenia.

Family disruption is often exacerbated by the tendency of parents or siblings to look for a reason why the illness has happened. This intuitive reaction sometimes leads to the ‘shame and blame’ syndrome, causing rifts between family members. It is difficult for such families to accept that the illness is nobody’s fault.

Page last updated: 15:29  26 June 2013