HELP! How can I tell if my brother has schizophrenia?

My brother (20 years old) recently started claiming he is involved in a secret organization. It all seems very odd to me. I cannot tell if it is actually really happening or part of a schizophrenic delusion. It is hard to explain, but he does have a history of strange ideas, aggression, anxiety, and ADD.

My questions are:

  1. Would someone with schizophrenia ever fabricate things like videos, sounds recordings, or props that participate in the delusion? (he has an email thread with all these strange videos the “secret organization” gave to him as well as a weird spray-painted box he claims to have found in the woods)

  2. What should I do?

Remember, I’m not a doctor but I’d say, yes.

  1. Is there a chance he got the videos off the internet? There’s something interesting I read about and I had to some degree until I started getting better meds and being aware of it. Sometimes we think signs that have nothing to do with us are directed at us. For example if someone with sz was walking down the street and saw a traffic sign saying “right turn only” we might think that meant us and turn right.

That’s probably the basic thing that’s going on with your brother and these videos. He found them somewhere and either they’re a prank or meant for someone else and his brain latched onto them. I think he may have very well found that box in the woods but he might have visited the woods often for long periods of time looking for it. I used to see two sticks on the ground and think it was proof that Jesus existed. I was outside a lot and that is a common pattern. Your brother is in the woods a lot and people like to litter. He might be emailing some jerk who figured out your brother is sick and is messing with him for fun.

I had a history of strange ideas. I thought if we could build a certain type of space ship a certain way we could reach other dimensions. I read a lot of science books. The ‘let’s find a wormhole’ type that are in the Barns and Noble book section.

  1. The best thing you can do is get him help fast. From what I’ve heard the sooner someone gets help the better the outcome is likely to be. It sounds like he doesn’t have much insight (knowledge that he’s sick. Some people start to have delusions but if they have insight they know they aren’t real. I shut one down once with the help of insight.) Unfortunately insight is hard. People don’t just automatically assume that someone is right, or even telling the truth, if they tell them everything they are seeing and hearing is wrong. Would you believe them if they came up to you and said everything you knew was wrong? I think he’s going to fight you on this one, unfortunately.

Here are some communication tips:

Please look at these sites: - under resources are free videos on using LEAP
LEAP is a way of communicating to build trust. Listen-Empathize-Agree-Partner. - Dr. Xavier Amador is a clinical psychologist whose brother had schizophrenia. He is the founder of the LEAP Institute. Wrote the book: I’m Not Sick I Don’t Need Help! Can buy from his website.
Search Xavier Amador and LEAP on and you should find some long videos
Treatment Advocacy Center - under problems you will see anosognosia
Anosognosia looks like denial but is different.
Bayes for Schizophrenics: Reasoning in Delusional Disorders - LessWrong - helped my understand delusions - National Alliance on Mental Illness. - Schizophrenia Society of Canada
Can also find some very useful information here:

(copied from BarbieBF)

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It definitely sounds odd enough that it could be the onset of psychosis / schizophrenia. Here are some other people’s stories about the onset of psychosis - just for you to compare to your brother’s experience.

His “evidence” seems pretty weak - a painted box is hardly evidence of anything, and emails - could just be spam (check the source email address and find out where it leads). Basically - if a rreasonable person wouldn’t believe the evidence but your brother does - its time to get him evaluated. There is higher risk of psychosis for people with a history of strange ideas and also with ADD. If you need to get him evaluated - get him to an early psychosis treatment center - see list at bottom of this post:

People’s experiences of early psychosis symptoms:



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ANd check out this video:

Here’s a weird thing you can try. Now this sounds weird but bear with me.

Find a list of metaphors and their meanings. Google search and find one. Print the metaphors with their meanings.

Ask him what they mean and if he gives concrete and literal interpretations most of the time, that’s a strong indicator of schizophrenia, also autism, but you suspect he has scz not autism.

That’s all I can really say to get a quick picture of if he is fundamentally…schizophrenic…in the way he thinks.

I have paranoid scz myself and I’m a psychology major, I picked up on little things like the metaphors thing in my studies. It’s called thought disorder. True scz is a deep deep thought disorder.

Another way is “projective” tests like the Rorschach. Now that is hard to learn how to use so I won’t even bother.

And by the way, figure out if he has been using drugs. That might explain this crap in two seconds.


Thank you so much for your response! I don’t think he is using drugs because he doesn’t have money or any friends (in the area). I really like the idea of interpreting metaphors, however I am not sure exactly how to conduct a test like that. I tried looking up some of the experiments but it is impossible to find actual test questions and formats used. Any suggestions?

  1. I can’t find the videos he showed me anywhere on the internet…which makes me wonder if it is all real. Sometimes I start thinking that perhaps it could be real since the box, email thread, the videos, and all the codes they give him to decrypt are real things and not something he is “finding” in the newspaper or online. They are things that he would have to make.

  2. You are totally right. I just need to figure out what to do next…I think I’ll try doing the metaphor test.

Some additional information that may be relevant:

Prescription stimulant use is associated with earlier onset of psychosis.

A childhood history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is common in psychotic disorders,

Here are a couple more things.

  1. Do you know if he actually knows how to decrypt codes? Do you know how to decrypt codes so you can double check if he is actual decrypting or do you have to take his word for it? Maybe find someone who knows how to do it who can help you so you can double check and make sure his head isn’t making it up.

  2. If you can’t find someone who knows what the heck he’s talking about but it still seems like he might be right, do this. Tell him that you are concerned about a section of code you want him to look at pertaining to the organization. Throw together a copy cat code that contains all of the elements of his code (for example if his code goes $@@($*%% maybe write %##(!%%. In other words something that essentially looks like his code but is complete gibberish. You really do have to make it look just like his code. He’ll catch it if you get sloppy. For example, if there is no ^ in the entire thing don’t include any ^.

1b) He might have gotten psychotic and found some people on the internet who are stringing him out for jokes. I bet a lot of people would think this is funny.

1c) What is he saying about this organization? Who does he say it is and what are they doing?

Like almost everyone else has said, of course, this forum is not substitution to seeing a real doctor. However, from experience I would say yes. I would assume that your brother is suffering from schizophrenia or delusions. Technically speaking, who am I to judge what is normal. However, I shall share a similar story, my father was a diagnosed schizophrenic and he would carry around a personal hand held voice recorder and record arbitrary voice conversations to prove that our neighbor had stolen money from us. In reality, my father had gone out on a drunken binge and given said money away. However, his brain couldn’t handle that reality and so it convinced him that instead our neighbor had stolen this money and my father until the day he died (so for almost 3 years) held onto the delusion that Mr. Steve had stolen over 50K from us. He would follow steve around, so my father stopped working in other words, and essentially stalked Steve, he would record their convos, and was obsessed with him.