Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Communication and Trying new things

I am wondering if anyone on here has faced the challenge with their loved one with schizophrenia or who has schizophrenia and has issues communicating to make plans or who avoids social situations or trying new things.

After about four years with my boyfriend he still avoids doing things in public and I would like to help him to take baby steps to trying new things with me. I am wondering if anyone has a family member who avoids social situations or going out and how they got them to try new things. Further I wonder how you could help someone to manage their symptoms while they are on an outing or going someone with you for the first time?

I think it’s possible that your boyfriend might feel uncomfortable in public for a set of reasons. It could be that:
He feels like going out is too stressful.
Overstimulation is exhausting and makes him want to retreat back home.
He feels like he doesn’t have anything constructive to offer.
He is embarrassed by his diagnosis and wants to avoid the possibility of having to talk about it with other people.
He genuinely isn’t interested in what the rest of the world might have to offer.

These are all different, but they could be caused in part by a lack of positive self image. At least, as far as I know, that is a part of most people’s resistance to getting out of the house. Even if there are more complex issues in play, positive self image is usually the last check box in the list of issues.

Rather than pushing to go out directly, talk to him about what he wants for himself, the world and his relationship with you. Be careful not to come off as if you’re expecting a specific answer, or are preparing and ultimatum. His knee-jerk response might be a shrug, or to brush off the topics. But, the goal is to help him think about the way he wants things to be and what he hopes for. This can potentially lead into conversation about how he fees about himself and why he is resistant to getting out of the house.
Just be prepared to help him get comfortable talking about these things and let him decide for himself what he wants and whether there are lifestyle changes he wants to make in order to do/get those things.

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I agree with @wreklus that overstimulation and general social anxiety can be an issue. I think you need to focus less on your desire for him to get out more, and more on how getting out might be rewarding for him. And also keep an eye to structuring excursions that are comfortable and safe for him.

What did he enjoy before he got ill? How does he spend his time now? How can his interests past and present be enhanced by getting out and interacting with the world and the people in it? What’s the payoff for him? You are asking him to risk something, but he’s got to see a reward, or it will be much safer to stay inside.

In my case, I wanted to learn to sing. It grew out of some delusions of grandeur while psychotic. So I audited a group voice class at a local college and joined a local pops choir. Initially these were stressful and scary for me, I often returned home after sessions and sat up all night overthinking or crying about my perceptions of events. But I kept coming back. Sure I sometimes skipped practices or classes because I didn’t feel up to it. But I was ego-invested in a payoff, and I’d paid for the class or the music or whatever. Looking back on it, it seems a bit silly to me now, but at the time it was a brave thing to do. But I’d gotten to the point that I realized that my life wouldn’t improve if I didn’t put in some effort.

It’s not that much different than what “normal” people do to “put themselves out there”. You just have a few more obstacles. But one thing that your boyfriend has that I didn’t is someone to go out with who he can trust. I slogged it out alone for years until I made enough friends and found people I trusted. You should leverage this as much as you can. It’s particularly difficult to navigate social situations when you can’t trust your perceptions, or are preoccupied and have trouble keeping up with what’s going on. Having another set of eyes and ears that can reality-check for you is gold in these situations. I found it much easier when I found a girlfriend who could help me with such things and serve as a social buffer. A supportive partner is helpful to anyone, but doubly so to people with MI. So I’d look to his interests and goals and see if you can find a way to pursue them together somehow. Taking baby steps if you can.

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This is my daughter to the t. She feels anxious in social situations. Her anxiety meds do help some. I am noticing that she is starting to go beyond her comfort zone more. She usually only goes to social events if her best friend or her sister is going. She went to her senior prom with her best friend and a bonfire after. I think the emotional support from either is helpful for her. I think it is a combination of social anxiety and over stimulation for her. This is why we often stay home and watch the church service online rather than driving to church. She also has anxieties about the passage of time… she is often eager to get back home and work on her crafts.

My other daughter had her own social anxieties about speaking in front of people.

I also have my own social anxieties connected to my ADHD… I tend to avoid social events too… it is hard for me to make friends. I feel self conscious about my attention during conversations. And I do not feel comfortable in large groups. But I also am making the effort to put myself out there more.

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Hit the nail on the head.

For our LO with schizophrenia isolation is desired. For us isolation is intolerable and must be avoided!! So we try to fix them as we are certain social interactions will make them better… but consider this:

Their minds are a very busy place and interaction cause frantic thoughts to start racing. It is not pleasant. Sometimes it is downright scary.

I remember about the time my son was diagnosed we went to a small graduation party. The entire time he stood with his back against the wall. He avoided conversation to the point of moving to another spot on the wall. He would watch the crowd but not interact. Months later he explained. He could not eat or drink as he was suspicious of the food and had to stand with his back against the wall to make sure he was safe.

He did not enjoy himself but was trying to hold it together for the family member who had graduated. The energy he expended exhausted him.

Given that background how would you feel about social situations?

Years later he is more social, but we can never be sure if he will attend an event or not. We are ok with that. Even if he does we have reassured him it is ok to leave at any point. Start small --just you and him, with a plan on what to do if things overwhelm him. Also if you have a need for more social interaction than he does it is ok to do so. Ask him to join if he is able but understand if he cannot.

This is the way we do it with our daughter. We ask her from time to time as the time approaches if she thinks she will be okay going. And we always provide a way out… and to call us if she wants to leave… we always did that with our kids before her illness.

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I don’t have experience on this, but the information about Social skills training by School of Nursing, Faculty of Health and Social Science may be interest of: https://docsbay.net/current-approaches-to-treatments-for-schizophrenia-spectrum-disorders-part-ii-psychosocial-interventions-and-patient-focused-perspectives-in-psychiatric-care