Delusions and how to handle them

Good morning everyone. My stepdaughter was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, and our family is still in the learning phase of this disease. They are still trying different medications to see what will work. But I thought I’d ask for opinions how to address this specific delusion she keeps having. She is 18, almost 19, so is considered an adult (her parents are working on getting a POA). So her biggest delusion she keeps having is that she thinks she is engaged to this boy, and that they’ve been dating for 2 years. This boy has blocked her, and been avoiding her but she swears they talk every day and night. The other night she said she was meeting this boy at starbucks (this was 11 pm at night) and we told her she couldn’t go, it was too late (trying to avoid telling her she isn’t engaged, because when we have its become a huge ordeal). She was certain they had plans, and said we were horrible parents for not letting her go. Her dad told her that for her to show us the text where they have plans, and she said okay, but then kept saying he hadn’t messaged her yet. We said, any text will do, and she has none. Then she went on her social media and texted a bunch of people that she was going to sneak out and have sex with this boy. We just dont know how to handle this delusion, because she is so for-certain she is engaged. She’s invited the world to her wedding. What should we say to her? Any ideas on how to divert these conversations? (Yes, we’ve been on a waiting list for the family to family class for those that will recommend that and I have read the book everyone recommends (because she doesn’t think she has an illness either). Thanks all for your help! Meanwhile, I’ll keep going through other topics and read those as well.


Also, the book surviving sz 7th edition by fuller Torrey!
My son is 35, diagnosed sz paranoid type ten years ago, at 25.
Her delusion is fixed. No amount of arguing, no proof of the reality of her thinking will work. This is my opinion based on all my own research, because I’ll just never stop wondering why??? The delusion she’s under is fairly common, I believe. I’m just a mom, not a doctor lol!
Medication can dull the delusion? Or make it recede, you … for some, meds might not work. :frowning:

    My son's delusion seems to be a suspicion of the police. Great. This happens when he's not doing well and might mean another hospitalization. 
I think the main thing is maybe don't argue, be as mellow as you can ...psychosis is supposed to be terrifying for them :( 

I hope the best for your family…


thank you, and yes, i’ve read not to argue as well, and that us telling her it’s not true, would be like if someone told me i wasn’t married to my own husband. I would get frustrated as well. It’s just hard to try to get “around it” sometimes in conversations and steer the conversation to something else. This is all so new to us, and my husband (her father) gets so frustrated with her. we don’t want to encourage the delusion either, its so tricky to get around. I’ll check out that book you suggested as well!


beachchick, I am so sorry about your stepdaughter’s delusions, you have some sticky constant issues going on there. When I think about my son’s delusions, I think “bane of our existence”.

Fixed delusion, as @daquilamarguerite1 has mentioned, frustratingly, fixed is fixed. My son has fixed delusions we have to work around. One of his psychiatrist who worked with him on Cognitive Behavior Therapy, told me that she could address his delusions about me by bringing up the things I did for him in a non confrontational conversation. She was disappointed because she had nothing she could say that his dad did for him. My son’s delusions about his dad wanting to hurt him had led to us keeping them apart.

Sometimes working within “normalcy” works - as you are doing, wanting to see a text before she leaves, to be sure there are plans - that’s quite good. Seems like it’s okay to expect a date to pick her up at the door? Just you did, not an argument, okay the guy is coming to get you, what are you going to wear? Should we watch a movie while you wait? Wedding plans will need a sit down with the prospective groom’s parents at your home before any money is spent.

Since you have already read up a good deal, you are familiar with confabulation. As she confabulated by telling you he hadn’t messaged yet, she will switch the narrative when needed. She will fill in the gaps with fabrications that she believes to be facts. Just roll with it when the story changes, which it sounds like you are doing already.

For some of us, we end up abandoning any sort of pretense that our family members will be out there all fixed up in a couple of months. We use back doors to share information with people about our family member. We let people know that our family member is dealing with mental illness and that they aren’t aware they have a mental illness. Yes, I realize this will contribute to making her world smaller, sorry to say, that will happen over time anyway. The back door sharing of information is tricky and fraught with the possibility of everyone not being careful with the information. You will have good and bad results from back door sharing.

Hopefully her parents have taken steps to make sure her spending, social media and whereabouts are closely monitored.

David Letterman had to deal for years with a delusional woman who believed she was his wife. These can be tricky issues.


thank you so much for your response. Appreciate the feedback…we’ll keep trucking along with this and learn as we go. This forum has been nice to go to for helpful insights and information on the illness. So much to learn!


This is really good advice. Thank you. I would add that if you think there’s a chance she will leave your home while you’re asleep, get an alarm system on the doors and windows. From my experience, you are in the toughest part of SZ, the time when your loved one’s behavior is almost dangerously uncontrollable (dangerous to them) and they have not found the right combination of medication to treat the illness sufficiently. Hang in there! It could take a 1-2 years to settle on the correct combination of medication. You’re doing a great job!!


Great reminder Galaga, it can take years to make progress -especially during these more intense early years.


Beachchick, it helps to talk about it with people who understand. We’re here for you.


My boyfriend has delusions about me, when hes not totally in psychosis it doesnt come up as much. You said you kept his dad apart from him, im in a place where i wonder if i just need to break up with him since it seems like they arent going away. Do you recommend this? I feel like me being in his life to have delusions about me makes his life more stressful but i know he loves me. He does treat me crappy when hes delusional because he thinks im not who i say i am and have ulterior motives. I also am stressed about leaving him, not only because i love him and its heartbreaking, but because i know stress can worsen his mental health.


Hi Anemone, I am sorry that your boyfriend has delusions about you, I know how awful delusions make our lives.

My grandson’s father is in a situation similar to yours. He’s been married to his wife for 22 years. They have a 20 year old and a 7 year old. His wife has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder with mania, depression and delusions. Her delusions can focus on her husband being the cause of her depressions, her mania presents as violent anger. Sometimes she has delusions about her son. She believes that they are both the cause of her issues when she is having a bad day. She tried to have her son diagnosed as a future serial killer when he was two years old. My husband and I had to step in and contact the school administration doing the testing. We knew what wild things she had told them about her two year old son because she handed us their conclusion paperwork to read to “prove” to us the baby was a future serial killer. Among many other things, she told them that he liked killing animals and harming other children. In their observations of our grandson they found him to be depressed and fearful. There was a time when he wasn’t fearful, that was before his mom beat him because she believed he wanted to harm other children.

Our grandson’s father loves this woman and worries about what would happen if he left her and took the 7 year old. He struggles to realize that these delusions about him and his son will never go away. Her symptoms have worsened as she grows older, that is not unusual for people diagnosed with bipolar. She used to be able to hide her behaviors by secluding herself. As she has grown older people in the community are now approaching her husband to tell him that his wife has bipolar - and they don’t know the half of it.

In the early years, when he asked, I did recommend that he leave his wife. She will always believe that he is the reason for her unhappiness. We can’t talk or love our family members well. My son is my problem, ultimately, in my opinion, my grandson’s mom is her parents’ problem.

My grandson’s father’s therapist did everything she could to help him leave his wife, he has remained married to her and his therapist told him there really isn’t anything more she can do for him. I feel as though he is choosing self destruction.

I hope that helps - these are difficult choices.


Wow. I am so sorry you have experienced this. I know it comes across as creepy but if your family member ever needs someone to talk to (when he’s old enough and if this forum still exists) I’m here. I was and am fortunate to have a father who sequestered us away from our mom while doing his best to explain her problems without scaring us half to death. (this isn’t something I realize most families can make work).

We lived separately from my mother but visited often enough while she received treatment that our relationship was different than most kids my age her illness and symptoms didn’t lead to us being harassed by her or school workers who, to be fair, are trying to do their due diligence.

I’m fortunate in that for the most part, our family lived close by and our prospective grandparents were very pro-basic life skills and common sense building activities. (If there is a dangerous situation, what do you do? Who do you tell? And where do you go for help, alongside the obvious comfort that we could always ask for help and there are things that need to be “helped” if we saw them, despite them seeming “normal” to us.)

Even with good counseling, it took a long time to come to accept or forgive my mom for things that I realize she couldn’t help. Also we were fortunate that my dad never made excuses for her but also made sure we understood what was going on in an age appropriate way.

One of the saddest things about meeting some of the kids I did in therapy groups was that kids were convinced of their parents delusions or that something is their fault. No matter how many times you tell a child there’s nothing they could have done or should have done, it takes time to reach that perspective, especially if what was said/done in your presence was terrifying. To say nothing of parents who make their children into their adult spouses caretakers. I realize it happens out of a place of love but the level of desperation and failure to commit to foreword planning almost guarantees that these kids won’t have a good future, even if their parents mean well.

It’s the Sophie’s choice of the world, which while bitter, also has too much real world stakes in it to be presumed. Things won’t always work out well just because you hope. Hope motivates you to keep looking for solutions, hoping without action will leave you the same way you were yesterday. Children who have futures to have, educations to seek, and lives to live shouldn’t be saddled with their parents or siblings care, at least not until they are well established. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t happen at all if children and parents could be properly taken care of by a large community. Sorry this is mostly me venting. I forgave my father for a lot growing up (thinking my brother’s prognosis would be like my mom’s when I came back) but it unfortunately hasn’t been.)

The good news is that he is taken care of and has continued to be stable/have a better standard of care and living circumstances than he has in the past thanks to continued efforts on our part to keep him in assisted care.



Thank you so much for sharing your experience - you must know from your childhood how often my husband and I have talked about our grandson’s future and how we should be handling things in the present.

Our grandson’s dad is our son by life, we met him and were his support people in his childhood. When he needed us, he would show up. He eventually grew up and away. When he reconnected with us before our grandson was born, I was a little suspicious. Long story short, his mom had been diagnosed with dementia and was dying. Real Mom had been his and his daughter’s support system and now he needed another support system, repeating his childhood pattern, he came to us for help. We didn’t have any grandchildren and my husband really wanted a grandchild. Our hands were full with our younger son, but this was a good thing to add to our lives.

We became aware of his wife’s issues immediately as we had our infant grandson for 8-12 hour stretches several days a week, no, she didn’t have a job, she was just incapable on those days. Educating her husband has been a process, he was fully convinced he was responsible for her behaviors.

You are so correct, hope doesn’t make things work out well.

Once hope is gone, all motivation goes with it. Not a vent at all, I am grateful you have written - you’re the first person we’ve experienced that has been in our grandson’s position.


Thank you. That does help and are definitely things to consider in the long run.

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