Advice for Helping my Brother Socialize and Cope with Schizophrenia


#1

Hi,

I was wondering if anyone could help give me some advice about how to help my brother who was diagnosed with schizophrenia a few years ago. He has always been extremely shy and uncomfortable in social settings, and the stress of social interaction seems to trigger his delusions and hallucinations.

Rather than searching the internet, I was hoping someone would have some firsthand experience or advice on how to ease someone suffering from schizophrenia into socializing a bit more. My brother pretty much spends all of his time at home (with my parents, brother, or myself), but he really struggles when he is out of the house (in town, at family get togethers, etc). So he has become extremely isolated, and I’m not sure if that is healthy. Any thoughts?

Thank you.


#2

I currently live with my oldest brother. He was diagnosed when I was 6 and he was 17. It’s been a very surprising year for my brother and with the right meds and therapy and support groups he’s come a very long way this past year. It helps that he’s been clean and sober for 6 years too. This has been a very amazing year for my brother.
But just two years ago, he wasn’t doing so well. He was deeply engulfed in negative symptoms and that caused him to be very withdrawn. It took a lot of work getting him out and about.

First thing that really did help was a good mix to the meds.

When he was at his worst, I would first just hang out with him and we would go for small walks. We would just go around the block.

During family gatherings my brother will hang for about 10 minutes and then we go on an errand, just a small one to get away from the crowd for a while. Then we go back for 10 or so and then run another errand. It helps him decompress, yet still see people.
It outing was always small, and always simple and when it was over, I made sure to point out that all went well. He wasn’t in danger, and nothing went wrong. Even if I just said, “that went well, now it’s over”

I also made a point to just listen. I did NOT try to argue with my brother about how he saw the world.

You can’t talk people out of delusions, argue them out of delusions or reason them out of delusions. People believe how they believe and it’s just part of who they are, Sz or not.

I go with him to the market too, and he has caught on now that I would increase the time by 5 minutes a visit. First we just went to the corner market then we would go to the bigger market, but during off hours so it wasn’t that busy.

It’s the same with going out for a picnic. I guess my first tackle was just getting him comfortable with being out of the house. Never mind making friends and socializing, just having him get comfortable with being outside was a huge step.

Lots of walks in the park, lots of picnics, lots of sitting on the beach pondering, and I told him a lot that I would keep an eye out for danger and I would keep him safe. I’m lucky that it seemed to help.

The biggest thing I had to remember was little steps, little tasks and little by little.
I hope this helps.

Good luck.

I also wanted to add that knowing something about this illness would be very helpful.
Is he afraid due to positive symptoms and paranoia?
Or has he been suffering negative symptoms?

www.nami.org

http://www.schizophrenia.com/family/sz.overview.htm


#3

Thank you so much. That helps a lot :smile:

All of those things make perfect sense and I think it would help my brother a lot to do things like that at first.


#4

I had to start out slow like talking walks around the block from my house. Just getting out of the house and walking helps a person see that life is just mainly houses and trees in the city. Nothing to be afraid of therefore more public settings may not scare him? I can’t go to concerts but I get to the different stores and restaurants around town by myself. Makes me feel good I beat my social uncomfortable feeling. Good luck.


#5

hey willow. problem with the socializing thing is hes using his inner feeling that says “this aint right” to guide him to feel better. basically noone wants to hear voices so if they flare up outside hes going to just avoid doing thst. only meds can help bring down the voices.

as far as negative symptoms of schizophrenia this means paranoia makes him stay inside or depression from the illness. this is probably him trying to heal his body, i do that a lot. its not really healthy but at the same time leaving the room doesnt bring me the same joy it might bring you, instead its torture to leave the room so much anxiety or depression. man problem here is not that he hasnt left the room, its that he has a hormonal/chemical problem making normal activities like socializing feel bad for him

now what could be happening is what happened with me, and this was meds are draining his energy and cognition. meds cause 10% brain damage in areas like personality so if hes like me hes probably depressed he physically cant be himself right now. literwlly parts of his brain can not activate like they could before the psychosis and he might need time to adjust. he needs to realize this is what “normal” is going to feel like on the meds, and whether or not he wants to escape this constant feeling of not being normal, he was dealt an unfortunate card in life and cant just live without meds surpressing his brain. he might need you to root for him, maybe mention to him its healthier for him to get out but not pressure him as im sure hes aware.

if it happens too long you might have to keep up the pressure, but basically it was so hard for me to adjust to these meds dude. people act like your taking an advil and it goes away. theres a whole adjustment period where you have to learn to live with stunted emotions, cognition problems, motivation problems, and even learn to do things mentally pushing against a constant sedated feeling.

the worst for me was anxiety in my chest in i left the bed. on risperdal i literally would get up, and feel anxiety only way to make it go away was to lay under covers. i knew it wasnt healthy but couldnt pinpoint the resson i felt i needed to lay in bed,

this only went away because i stopped meds and im trying to get better on my own. mine was just a bad reaction to 10mg adderall that doctors said was schizophrenia.

encourage him to identify how he feels, what emotions he feels during the day, if its sedation, fear, or anxiety (different from fear) keeping him from moving. let him know its unhealthy not to socialize like he did before, and thst you guys need help to pinpoint what makes him feel he needs to isolate himself. is it anxiousness? if so he might want to either consider adding a med or changing meds.

he might also want to consider just remaining indoors as a lesser of two evils. for instance do you want to add an antianxiety med to his already poisonous antipsychotic potentially damaging his liver just for him to have a better quality of life, a more human like feeling, etc. adding anti depressants and other meds can make him feel less of a zombie but at what cost, antipsychotics have already been studied to cause brain damage and pituatary tumors.


#6

Yes, we will definitely add some walks to his routine. At first we just brought him along to everything (busy restaurants and family functions) and have just recently found out that he was experiencing extreme paranoia and delusions during these outings. They were too much for him. So we’ll need to start slow. Thanks for your advice :smile:


#7

my poor brother would fall apart in a busy restaurant. Picnics worked so much better.

I could kick myself when I think back how I dragged my brother everywhere, not realizing he was ready to jump out of his skin.

He’s so much better now, but two years ago, I pulled him through some very hard to face things. He’s a kind man and forgave me.


#8

I had exteme agoraphobia and a now defeated panic disorder. I just started telling myself that if I ever had a panic attack in public that I would just hand them a note I kept in my pocket that says I have panic attacks and I can’t talk". I did that for about 2 years and now I don’t need the note anymore because I haven’t had a panic attack in almost 9 years. It debilitated me at first and I would only go places like stores with my mom. She really helped me. I would say just see what getting used to the outside. Maybe around a flower garden would be a nice experience. I had the idea that life was going to be alright just gazing at tulips one time.


#9

cactustomato,

Thanks for your response. Yeah, it’s difficult to pinpoint what is causing his social anxiety. I mean he has always been shy and has always had a hard time socializing. And my family has a hard time talking to him about how he is feeling. We aren’t very open and that’s something we need to work on too.

And I do wonder if it might just be better for him to remain isolated, because when he is more isolated his symptoms seem less severe. But I also think his quality of life is poorer when he is so isolated (he hardly does anything but sit in the house), and that social isolation might aggravate his illness in the long term.


#10

I think a great number of schizophrenics really enjoy listening to music all day and I find a lot of others who do the same thing. It soothes the mind. Might introduce some music he likes around him.?


#11

Jukebox,

The passing of a note is such a good idea! I haven’t thought of that, but of course it’s difficult to ask him how he’s feeling when he is out (I think I have before and he told me everything was alright, when it actually wasn’t). We might have to try that in the future. Thank you :smile:


#12

Oh yes, he loves music. He does a few things while he is at home (probably not as much as before and not with the same enthusiasm). He plays drums, reads books, watches TV, and plays video games. Last night, we played a game of scrabble.

I just wonder about his social life, and if it’s a good idea for him to have little to no outside social interaction.


#13

I used to just get in my jeep and drive away in the middle of a family function sometimes while I was still unstable. I had to realize that no one is going to hurt me or anything, and the uncomfortable feeling went away.


#14

it isnt to healthy if its fear really, becsuse thst could be paranoia and stuff might indicate he needs a higher dose or he needs a month for the med to build in his system. i needed both. social anxiety sucks i have it too, and thats why i took adderall it helped me. i developed severe issues on boths meds i took so i swore off psychiatry forever.

meds are just not advanced enough these days for me to try them.

it would be great if people like your brother could take a pill and get rid of anxiety, but reality is its not as simple as psychiatrists make it seem. “side effects” should just be called effects. so in this day in age healthier to live as a hermit in my opinion. google xanax complications or complaints. probably pops up something serious youd never want to go near.

i want my social life back so bad. problem is the meds killed my confidence in my brain im still in withdrawal period waiting for my bodys reward systems to reset.


#15

are you saying you’re off medications and want that as advice to other mentally ill people to not take meds? that’s not very helpful if that is what you are saying. Schizophrenics need meds to stabilize otherwise they stay unstable.


#16

Right, the side effects of these medications is something I’m definitely aware of. We’ve actually tried reducing my brother’s medication in the past, and it did not go well at all. Unfortunately, harsh pharmaceutical drugs are the most effective thing we have right now for reducing the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Sometimes it’s a matter of finding the right dose and combination of medications that work for you. Again, something else I need to look into for my brother. He is experiencing weight gain, forgetfulness and mental fog on his current medication, and still has delusions and hallucinations sometimes. I wonder if a different medication would work for him. But this is an entirely different topic for a different thread probably.


#17

not at all just saying less meds to take the better. i had to take risperdal to kill the voices but stuff like social anxiety and minor depression or adhd i can live through without taking a med, it just makes life somewhat higher quality to take a med. feels slightly better to have antidepressants. but when it comes to stuff like possible liver damage or gynecomastia and taking an antianxiety med id say hell no.

give me the stuff that kills the voices, but personally i would rather deal with social anxiety and be a hermit than take both a xanax and risperdone just so i can be more social. just taking risperdone caused gynecomastia and tarditive dyskinesia in myself. i couldnt imagine adding some other drug to it just to be more social. what would the withdrawal of an antianxiety plus risperdal have made it feel like. how much worse would my tarditive dyskinesia be. weight gain even

but some people take both xanax and antipsychotics and it improved the quality of their life. so was just mentioning that its an option for some people


#18

no you’re absolutely right Willow, the perfect balance of med will bring your son back. I am on an older me called prolixin and it’s very cheap in insurance costs at the pharmacy than all the other newer meds. I am my old self again. Good luck.


#19

My brother needed meds to cut down his paranoia and his anxiety. Therapy helped him get his confidence back and give him coping skills.

http://forum.schizophrenia.com/t/my-mom-has-always-said/2124?u=kidsister

My brother needed a lot to get on his feet and it was hard, it was a constant rebuilding process, there were no easy answers. But without any intervention or meds or therapy, he’d still be as he says, sitting very still. He wouldn’t be learning how to manage his own money, self manage his meds, go to school, hold a job, get his life back.

I do advocate being patient and understanding. I advocate being supportive and not pushing when the person isn’t able or ready to be pushed, but to not try anything, that doesn’t seem helpful at all.

@Willow, one thing that might help a lot is a support group for you or your family so you can get ideas on how to address your brothers fears and concerns. Or how to talk to your brother and amongst yourselves to set up a good care plan, a crisis plan, how to address meds or other complications that come with this illness.

http://forum.schizophrenia.com/t/how-to-help-son-get-off-the-street/7870/11?u

This book also has some great information and ideas on how to talk to someone who is suffering from this illness.


#20

@kidsister , I’m looking into support groups right now too. It might be good for my brother to join a therapy group too, if one exists in my area. Best of luck to your brother and you and your family <3

Thank you all for your thoughts and advice. It was all very helpful.

@jukebox , @cactustomato