Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

How to respond to delusions


Struggling with the best way to respond to my son’s delusions. Lately, most of his delusions center around the CIA & FBI. Believes he is an agent for both of these organizations. When he senses I don’t believe him, he becomes angry. Should I just listen & say nothing?


I don’t challenge my daughter’s delusions, I learned that the hard way. I usually respond with something totally off subject like: “Thank you for telling me that. I love you.”

Have you read “I’m not Sick, I Don’t Need Help”? The LEAP process has a step for agreement, and covers how to agree to disagree. Something like, “I agree that things like that happening might be scary, but I hope you can understand my feelings if I don’t feel that way too.” “Perhaps we can agree to disagree on this subject for now”.


I have learned through experience that challenging delusional people is like beating your head on a brick wall and it gets you nowhere. I have experimented with using active listening skills which is empathizing and parroting what they are saying so as to give them a strong sense of being heard and understood (does not require outright agreement). You never have to actually say you believe what they are saying, nor should you…just show you hear their words they are saying and appear interested and empathetic. It seems the only way to connect verbally when delusions are present and still keep things calm. I found a guide for such things and it seems to be helpful and effective.


Hello MaryMom,
My son also had delusions about the FBI and CIA. They were a little different because they followed him and exchanged notebooks. At first I did not know how to respond. Like you’ve mentioned they know when you doubt them. Causing them to become angry of irritated. The best response I could give my son is no response, because I felt it was better than playing in to their delusion. When that didnt work, I would ask a question like “how long have you been in the FBI”? And letting him respond and then respond with an answer like “that’s very interesting” or “I really like spy movies, with top secret stuff” and change the subject to getting food or going for a drive. It a way of avoiding without upsetting or confronting him about the truth.
Like the others here on the site, not arguing or creating confrontation is probably best, there is no changing a delusion for a MI person because it is real to them.
Take care AnnieNorCal


Its a delusion i often feel the same i thought i was something very big . I took medicine which helped me a lot for that delusion . Tell him to take med it will help him.


It sounds like he is not on his meds. Often they don’t realize how sick they are. Plus keep him away from guns. He believes what he believes.


My ex makes this really, really difficult. He doesn’t just want people to listen to and acknowledge when he’s describing his delusions. He doesn’t even want people to say they believe in it. He wants us to pick up and run with the idea and elaborate on it for him.

His delusions these days seem to focus more on the spiritual realm than on actual people, and I take the view that so long as it isn’t harming anyone else, it’s probably easier just to take the line of least resistance with him. He spends long hours on his own coming up with this stuff, but as long as he’s looking after himself OK I don’t worry too much.

Thankfully he no longer has his computer or access to the Internet (apart from when he goes to the public library very occasionally, and that is usually because he wants to learn new music material from YouTube). When we were together he used to spend all day looking up conspiracy websites when I was out at work, and then spend hours when I got home telling me all about this totally unbelievable stuff he’d found online, about religion, persecution, electronic harassment, and so on. Cutting off the endless supply of confirmation bias from the Internet has been one of the best things that’s happened for him IMO.


My daughter has decided to limit spending time on social media for similar reasons… she finds that it tends to lead to much negative thinking for her.


My son has had many similar delusions and the few times my husband would show doubt and ask him a lot of questions then he would start to argue and ramble more deeply into his delusion. Although it is challenging I think it is better to listen to him if you have the time. Reflective listening, like the LEAP method, is the best because you start to understand where they are coming from… avoiding any judgement or trying to fix them. Understanding the struggles they are facing in their mind is key for us to get a handle on this illness together. For me, I often feel sad afterwards, but it’s all about building better communication so there are less arguments which is key to being able to keep our loved ones off the streets. ( my son has been there)


My grandson had delusions after multiple meds got him on Clozapine and hd is 90% better


My son is currently off meds, not that they have helped much. He believes he is god and the head of the CIA. It is impossible to reason with him, as he believes he knows everything and everything on the internet is false. He has been kicked out of two psychiatrists’ offices and stormed out of the ER twice because they were “breaking the law” not giving him the medications he was telling them to give him. I just try to keep him at home to avoid any confrontations. As for me, I don’t question his delusions when he is in a state like this. There is no convincing him otherwise.


I have a son with schizophrenia and I also teach Family to Family at my NAMI organization. What I learned is how to speak to my son when he is delusional. What I learned is to be empathetic and I say to him “I understand how you must feel” or “That must be a scary place to be”. He believes with all his heart that he is in danger so telling him you are there for him is the best way to avoid a confrontation. He will feel loved and heard. When the episode passes he probably won’t remember what he was saying, at least my son didn’t. Sending you lots of love. Rose


So sorry. My heart breaks for all of us struggling with this devastating disease. My son also is so paranoid, thinks sheriff follow him everywhere, bugged his car and have planted a GPS in his ear. He has become so unreasonable that I had to call 911 on him yesterday and have him removed after he got violent during our conversation and punched holes in bedroom door and eventually pulled it completely off the hinges in pieces. Scared my mother terribly. He is now homeless in his car with his belongings. I begged the sheriff to take him to ER, said they could not as he did not harm himself or others. This statement makes me crazy……. so we all need to wait until they do something then either they are arrested or worse, makes no common sense to me. The families are helpless to help the loved ones with Anosognosia who are not capable of helping themselves. UGH… Prayers to all of you wonderful caregivers.


I hear ya. There is much that needs to be improved about how the medical profession handles an issue with the mind. If a person went it to the ER with unexplained blood coming out their ears they would at least try to stabilize them and stop the bleeding and then try to discover the source. But if you go to the ER mentally bleeding, so to speak, stating you are hearing voices and they really scare you and it’s gotten to the point of being unbearable. They do nothing except refer you to a psychiatrist, which are all booked up for the next several months. And it’s not till one snaps, in essence a full blown hemorrhage, do they decide to hospitalize you.


We are just beginning this whole process as we have recently become aware that there was a problem with our daughter. We knew something was wrong, that maybe she was experiencing depression, but she opened up to us about hearing voices, We started out with a Christian therapist for her who specializes in working with mental disorders among teens. In the process, she suggested that our daughter go through tests to rule out physical causes…so her doctor is suggesting we meet with a psychiatrist to get a diagnosis and start on medication… with a possible diagnosis of either bipolar or schizophrenia (Maybe both? - sza?). We are waiting to get a recommendation for a
psychiatrist from the doctor… and them compare that list with those that would be covered under your health insurance… so we don’t have the official diagnosis yet… and it is so hard knowing that my daughter who is soon to 18 is suffering. It can be emotionally draining for my wife and me.


That’s awful that the sheriff didn’t bring him to the er for a psyc. Evaluation.


@Windyhill63 - Sarcosine can also help people with sz. It’s advertised on this site and can be bought at brainvitaminz (the admin here recommends to purchase from them as they are more related to the brain vs like a exercise website) . I put it in my sons smoothies which he occasionally drinks. Ends up - I drink them too and I believe the sarcosine has helped me for mild depression. I take it daily. It tastes like a sweetener.


Agree. I was told the same phrase, he is not in danger of hurting himself or others, even though he was talking nonsense and admitted he tore off the door. I did not want to press charges as he does not belong in jail and that was worst place. I cannot tell you how frustrated his therapist and myself were when again nothing happened. This unfair law needs to be addressed so family members can have some authority to help their loved ones.
I will not give up!


So wrong. Your son’s violance resulting in property damage is probable cause for involuntary committment. Please call your county mental health dept. or crisis center. The Sheriff is wrong and he needs to be educated about the criteria for committment.


I TOTALLY agree with you. I was on the phone with his therapist and she said the same thing. “What the hell does it take to get someone help”?
Now he is on the streets and MAD at me for calling but takes NO responsibility for what he did. This is PURE Craziness!! Nobody wants to help these people but quick to incarcerate them.
US caregivers need to keep shouting as loud as possible to our courts and government to change this law to help our loved ones. No common sense!!
We are worried sick for him but still refuses any kind of help or meds.