Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Do I tell my son his thoughts aren't real?

This is my first post, I think. I may have posted something out of desperation a while back. Still learning this set up. Anyway, I’ll post our back story in a few days. I just need advice for this one thing now. My 24 year old son has lack of insight. Everyone tells me to tell him outright that he’s delusional and his thinking that people are trying to kill him, backstory coming soon, is not real. I tried that once a while back and he lost it. Crying and shaking. I was the only person he could talk to because no one else believes him etc. Now I don’t come right out and say it’s not real but I don’t agree with him either. I just try to be understanding. But it’s so hard and strange because when we talk about getting him help…therapy, medication, etc and he says he doesn’t need it. What do I say without saying he’s delusional?


I am going to look for some posts for you to read.

The short answer is no.

Do not try to argue with him that the delusions are not real and also do not go into them with him to make them stronger. A real balancing act.

Your instincts are right on.


This link has some ideas:

The original post is called How to Respond in a helpful manner to a Person with Disturbing Beliefs from the admin. I don’t know how to embed posts or I would do that.


You might calm him down quicker by just saying “what can I do to help you or make you feel more safe”? I say "I’m not going to let anyone harm you."
Listen, empathize, agree and partner. Stay calm and that will help him stay calm. Gently call them back into reality and give them tasks they can do alongside you. I don’t tell my son that his thoughts are not real but I say if he asks “I know they feel real to you.” I listen but am just learning like everyone else. What are your goals for the week. I just gave Him a new toothbrush and I’m going to start withholding cigs until he grooms and brushes his teeth. I’ll let you know if develops into a habit but it can’t hurt.


He is 24, I would just tell him the truth, if he has been diagnosed with SZ then he will eventually half way understand.

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Thanks for the feedback.

Thank you for the link. It was definitely helpful.

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Here are some ideas outlines in this paper on first aid for psychosis:


Just post the link of the given post/discussion thread - and it will appear as a link with excerpt - for example:

is this link below:


Thank you; I could not figure out how to do that:)

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I do whatever causes my son the least amount of pain while keeping him in treatment - he’s 28.


This is a keeper. Thank you so much! I book marked it and will try and commit it to memory. I wish I would have known all this 6 yrs or so ago when he first started having trouble. So I missed the early treatment/first episode time. First episode places won’t treat him because they say it’s been too long. I thought it was the drug use so I concentrated on getting him help for that for years. I always made it clear that it was a co-occurring disorder but it didn’t help because they basically discounted his mental problem. Something always been off since he was little and he’s had problems with different things. You just know as a parent that something isn’t quite right. Our family doctor at the time was terrible and discounted concerns I brought to the office or concerns my son himself brought to the office when he was a teen. The doctor always made me feel somehow that I was being paranoid or worrying too much etc. I should have changed doctors but he had the same doctor since he was born and as I said the doc made me feel like it was just me. I have a lot of distrust for any doctors now which makes things hard. I thought for a while that my son may be on the autistic spectrum and I still do. I contacted AANE (Asperger/Autism Network) about this and they said it is a possibility that undiagnosed autism can cause psychosis. I will try and put our whole story on tomorrow. I try to find the positive in every situation and for this it’s that I’ve learned to always trust my gut instinct especially when it comes to my kids.


You could tell him all day that his thoughts are not real, bottom line though to him they are 100% real. =( my brother thinks my sister and i are devil worshipers and i have conversations with satan every night. Though we have told him that this is un true. To him its true and he sees this happening or hears this happening in his mind. Best of luck. We are still trying to find out how to get him treatment.


You could tell him he is delusional and list your ‘proof’ but you also could chase rainbows looking for a pot of gold…
I know people trying to be supportive of you and their advice is probably well meaning. But wrong.

Let’s say you have a strongly held belief someone was trying to kill you and everyone downplayed it or told you that you were delusional. Would you feel better or do you think you might be even more scared and lonely; unable to trust anyone? Just because the belief is irrational, doesn’t mean they don’t need someone to support them. Support is not agreeing nor disagreeing. It is giving someone an opportunity to feel safe. And who knows, there might be a breakthrough when you can gently challenge the delusion; or at least guide them to question it themselves.

We’ve had a rough week here–and I too wish all that is needed is a good talk, but have learned the hard way that just makes everyone miserable. Hang in there.


My son’s Psychosis led to him having a mental breakdown, there were a few signs but I didnt know what was wrong with him. A difficult situation arose and he didnt want to come home, ran away, screamed in the streets etc. After that we checked him in in a mental hospital he was put under sedation. The Psychiatrist talked to him daily as well as a Psycologist. He was put onto the correct medication and since then he just became better and better. He takes a mood stabiliser and Abillify - Aripiprazole for psychosis.

The sooner a person starts taking the meds the better. They can live a as near to normal life. Dont wait till your son gets really really ill. They will never think that there is anything wrong with them. Fortunately they like routine, habtis and once they are used to taking the meds they generally will.

They need a stable home environment and someone to make sure they stay in routine. That is the path to the best possible life for your scizo child/friend/partner.

Its not always easy!


Watch this Abilify carefully as it can cause permanent tremors. Both of mine have been damaged from this drug…

This is my first post, as well, although I have been dealing with my son’s schizophrenia for almost 20 years. My experience is that confronting the schizophrenia is almost always a mistake. It is much better to respond to the feelings than to lecture…because the feelings are real. The only time I have found it helpful to talk directly about the schizophrenia with my son is when I can discuss it with him within the context of a good conversation but only indirectly…abstractly…intellectually…never accusingly (“your thoughts aren’t real”) Otherwise, there is a stone wall that helps neither of us. Recognize and value the importance of your relationship with him…confronting does not help it. I never use the language of pathology (“delusional” etc.) I should also say that I have not been able to help him to accept medication and medical care (nor has his therapist). More later.


Thank you for your advice. That’s pretty much how I’ve been approaching it. Although, he does Admit he has anxiety and he says he sometimes feels manic so that’s how I finally got him to try medication. He was in a residential setting for around 3 weeks, and he loved the place, and on the meds during this time. Then he was transferred to a mental hospital and they put him in with really heavy duty people. Ex cons, gang members, his room mate was preaching to him about white supremicy. I believe him about this because I did the research on the place. So he checked himself out after a day and night AMA. They sent him home without meds or a script so now we’re back to to square one with meds. It’s so frustrating! I also try to have a sense of humor about it with him which seems to help. At least on the surface. I don’t actually say he’s delusional but we talk about him being schizophrenic. It’s such a strange situation.

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Yes, this does suck as they are thrown into dual purpose facilities with the majority court ordered dopers and drunks…


My strong suggestion is to read the book “I Am Not Sick; I Don’t Need Help” by Xavier Amador, Ph. D. I wish we had known about the methodology described at length in this book before our family member with schizophrenia who is not medication-adherent disappeared to another state and is currently living out of a car. We hope and pray that he returns so that we can begin the process of LEAP (Listen, Empathize, Agree, Partner), but you have to read the book to understand this and get examples of how to actually do this. I recommend the book especially if the desire is to get your family member to take medication.