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Nowhere to Turn

My 27 year old son recently had what seems to be a schizophrenic episode. He had been suffering for years with social skills issues and sleep problems. Recently graduated from law school. He has a fear of being around people and hears voices, started neglecting personal hygiene, spends compulsively (ie. Bought 4 jackets exactly alike, 3 still in the package.) but does not have the budget for it. The real problem, every time he goes to get help they accuse him of just wanting to get drugs, but he hates taking any drugs. Also, doesn’t think he has a problem except the sleep issue. He keeps saying if he could just get sleep everything will be fine, even after a good night’s sleep. How do we convince health care providers there is a problem? He can sound quite normal in some situations, until you manage to catch a comment that is off the wall.

One approach may be family therapy or finding a way that you can speak to his treatment professionals. You can always contact them to report his symptoms. Privacy issues may prevent them from discussing his case with you but there’s nothing that prevents you from telling them what you know.

If they suspect him of only wanting drugs, it may be because of something he is telling them. Perhaps he is attempting to self-sabotage his treatment because he doesn’t want to go. As you noted, he believes that all he needs is more sleep.

It’s fairly common for people with severe mental illness to not want treatment. When a person doesn’t think they need treatment, they often don’t go. Obviously, this creates many hardships for both the individual with the illness and their families.

It’s good that your son has your support and that you are attempting to educate yourself about these issues. I would encourage you to discuss these matters with his treatment professionals, if possible. If not, contact them anyway and report what you know.

Continue to encourage him to seek treatment and to find healthcare providers whom he likes. It’s possible that he hasn’t found someone he likes yet but he should keep trying. It can take time to find a good match.

Contact your local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) organization. They are an advocacy group that offers support for people with mental illness and for family members caring for a loved one with a mental illness. Many NAMI members are in similar predicaments and will know how to navigate the mental health system. They can teach you what they know. Other great resources include the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC).

If your son has experienced a schizophrenic episode, the best course of action is treatment to prevent another one. Your proactivity in this matter is of the utmost importance and can save him from having more episodes. I hope that with the aforementioned resources and ideas, another episode can be prevented. Please don’t hesitate to write again with additional questions. Good luck.

Dr. Kristina Randle

from Ask the Therapist

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