Grieving sister worried about genetics

Hi! I’m a young, thriving 21y.o. about to graduate university. My brother is a different person entirely. He dropped out of uni twice and last time because of massive psychosis episode after our grandfather died. We thought it was adhd-medication induced but very much not. This was 3 months ago and was just diagnosed with bipolar and schizofrenia.

I’m very worried I might develop schizofrenia as well, either now or late onset, due to being a first-degree relative and our shared upbringing. My personality is very different from his so I do not suspect bipolar but I was a very scaredy kid growing up (not anymore) and stressed.

How do y’all deal with anxiety about this kind of stuff, whether for yourselves or other children when one of your’s gets diagnosed?

1 Like

I think to the extent possible, you should try to set your fears aside. My brother died at the same age I am now of leukemia and several years ago I wondered about my chances. My doctor didn’t know and sent me to see a hemotoligist/oncologist. He said it wasn’t particularly heritable.
You can do you own online research. I’m guessing you might find your odds a bit more than average, but slim anyway.
Given your age, you might experience some concerning things in the next 5 or 10 years, at which point you could see a professional and get their take. But it probably won’t be a SMI.


Hi @sisterofone, my older brother was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder when I was 18 and he was 25. I’ve had similar concerns as you about my mental health. However, I am 36 now and I do not have any symptoms of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. From my own research, I’ve learned that siblings of severely mentally ill people have roughly a 10% chance of developing symptoms of SMI themselves. As @caregiver1 mentioned, the odds of you suffering the same fate as your brother are slim, but I would do your own research and monitor your mental health over the next 5-10 years.
Personally, I’ve always been on the fence about having my own children regardless of my brother’s illness and felt that way prior to his diagnosis. For me, having children is not something I need to achieve in order to have a meaningful life. With that being said, I’m leaning towards not having children. My brother is on disability and is not a very functional member of society. While he can bathe semi regularly and feed himself, I struggle with the grief, frustration and shame his mental illness has shackled us both with. My brother has never been violent and his behavior is not horribly anti-social compared to some other experiences I’ve read about on this forum, but it’s not a life I would wish on anyone. I’ve found therapy and medication to be very helpful for me.


Hello. I know how you feel. I’m a sister. My older brother has it. I was about your age, around 20, when he started having his problems, so I worried about the same thing. Hugs, hugs, hugs to you. It’s really hard.

I’m 58 now and I didn’t develop it. Does that help a bit? Many siblings stay well, even though we do have added stress, and maybe we’re prone to anxiety, but let’s be honest, we have some reasons to lean that way, don’t we? It’s great you have the insight to be asking this question and the vulnerability to ask it. I couldn’t do that at your age.

The basic tips for healthy living apply to you as well. Eating healthy, exercising…

I agree with caregiver1, that anytime you feel the need, ask a professional for their take on your situation. Just having a good therapeutic experience with a skilled and understanding person can make a world of difference in anxiety.

Don’t know if this helps, but I wish you good luck. And congrats on graduating university.


I would also add that diet and exercise have also been extremely important to maintaining my well-being. Please know that your brother’s illness is no one’s fault and you can’t control it. I make a conscious effort every day to create and engage in a life that brings me joy and meaning because I know I deserve it, and you do, too. Please feel free to reach out any time.