Is he really sick? - Feedback Please!

I’ve been a lurker here for a while, trying to educate myself about what I can do to help my son (if anything) through others’ experiences. I refuse to give up on him and it’s causing resentment and marital problems for me. I don’t have much if any support. I have not found a story similar to my own, your stories seem so much more tragic than mine, so here’s my dilemma - the good thing is my son lives independently. The bad thing is - HOW is my son living independently, and how can we get him in treatment if no one (but his parents and his Ex) recognizes his illness?

Some background:
No problems in HS or college. Great kid, over achiever, football captain, very social and extremely well liked by his peers. Graduated in the top 5 of his class. He was a good son and showed tremendous love for us, thoughtful and appreciative for how hard we worked to put him through college, and give him the best we could. He showed no signs (well maybe 1 or 2 now that I can reflect with awareness) but basically, he was fine until…he wasn’t. His problems did not start until he was around 29 years old, married, exceling in his career in finance, working hard and living the young exec life. This momma exhaled and patted herself on the back…until…

Initial Psychosis
He lived about 3 hours away, but according to my now Ex DIL, his life took a turn in 2017 when he became paranoid, hostile, angry, violent, and irrational. We learned he was abusing weed and Adderall and admitted to using cocaine once. We recognized these changes and witnessed the drug use, but mental illness and/or addiction was NOT even on our radar. He was a very successful young exec making +$120k annually, but this bizarre behavior started affecting his job performance. He believed all his colleagues were sabotaging him, creating elaborate conspiracies against him and his managers were jealous of him, and he even said he could hear them talking about him, laughing at him, calling him names while in his office. He would complain to his top-level managers, but they all told him (after investigating) it wasn’t happening. All his peers liked him and thought these stories to be incredulous. He states he was forced to quit 2 consecutive (very good) jobs due to harassment. This all sounded odd to me at the time of the first resignation, but I had no reason not to believe him at this stage. I too held jobs I hated and dearly wanted out of. I assumed he had enough funds to cover them until he found his next position. The wife only had a p/t job, and they were expecting their first child, but he refused to take lesser jobs that were “beneath him.” He had a difficult time finding another high paying finance job, so for over a year it spiraled him further each day; he neglected to bathe, smoked weed all day, grew weed in their garage, thought their neighbor was spying on them and working for the CIA. After quitting the 2nd job, he sold his lovely home to move his family 12 hours away, racked up huge expenses to live downtown in this major city only to quit 3 months later for the same reason - his collegues disliked him and made fun of him. His responded by stating he was going to create several businesses (all required huge capital outlays he did not have) and spent hours upon hours creating spreadsheets on his perceived new startups. He actually made cash offers to sellers on commercial real estate! all while having to “borrow” from family to just keep the lights on and the mortgage paid. He got tens of thousands from family during this time. We attempted two interventions, but it was a no go each time. We thought he was improving when he finally got another job, the last one in his field, but he lost it in about 2 short months. He was terminated for cause due to creating a hostile work environment. His wife had left him at this point, he then went into complete isolation for 4 months and hid out in an apt a friend put him up in. He ignored his baby daughter, no show for Christmas or birthday, (he was always a big Christmas guy) no child support, would not respond to calls, messages, even the sheriff’s dept. He cut all ties with family, we had to do welfare checks bi-weekly. He almost went to jail over custody and child support issues when he would not show up for court. He had his car repossessed and got evicted from the apt despite his friend providing him the funds to pay the rent each month. We sought advice from many professionals during this time, trying to figure out what to do. Although nobody actually saw him physically, since he refused our offers of medical assistance and rehab centers, these pros had various theories- addiction, MH diagnosis, or a combo of both, but nothing concrete. We sought legal help in getting a conservatorship, but evidence was not on our side, since he did not have a criminal record, or any history of arrests, violence, MH hospitalizations. However, this spring, I was referred to a psychologist PhD with whom we shared all of the bizarre stories and behaviors - side note: he’s accused us of heinous childhood abuses, (stuff he has seen on movies and TV shows) said his father was an accomplice to a local murder, he had caught us in drug deals, says we are all drug addicts and have been in a drug ring for decades. There is absolutely no truth to these stories. This Dr. very soundly, and without hesitation, told us our son had paranoid schizophrenia and we should just start the grieving process, as we would likely never get him back. She did not believe it to be a drug induced psychosis since his condition did not appear to improve when he was sober - he held tightly to his false beliefs and we were the ones he targeted. The Dr’s Prognosis - he was experiencing severe psychosis and without medical and drug intervention he would likely end up on the streets. She believed the sx came first and he was self-medicating with the drug abuse.

He has been no contact with us for 3 years now, so I don’t have first-hand experience with his day to day. I’ve used a PI, and other means, to check on him. He has maintained 2 p/t jobs for over a year. These are low-level min wage jobs, although he has several certifications in finance and is educated and very intelligent. He has couch surfed for several years for housing and lived in a local hotel known to be a drug and prostitution den for 6 months. This spring some customer he serves at the restaurant where he works, took pity sake on him and is providing him with a small apt over his garage and a car to drive. I’m grateful this man is keeping a roof over my son’s head, but it’s still odd to me. Maybe he really is just a good Samaritan. I did some digging and sources say he is a “good guy.” He stated he has a strict policy on smoking and drugs (including weed) on premises. He does not believe our son is involved in drug use. I do know my son lives an isolated life (not him at all, he was always the life of the party with his charming personality and cutting wit.) He works long hours every day and goes straight back to his apartment. No social life or friends as best I can tell, and has lost at least 25-30 lbs, which he attributes to being on his feet all day AND he now chain smokes. That’s so unusual b/c he always HATED cigarettes. I am also in contact with a HS friend he hits up for money sometimes, he will provide updates, but when I ask the response is always, “he’s doing fine” and “he’s just working hard.” These folks mean well, it’s just perplexing to me that he was so sick and delusional the last we saw him, but so far has maintained some semblance of normalcy to outsiders and has kept these two jobs for the past year. He also had the good sense to file for bankruptcy last month on all the absurd debt he racked up with his reckless spending. Most people (and some extended family) think it’s just a simple falling out over the divorce, and us taking sides with his Ex and he’ll come around when he’s ready. No biggie. Seriously, the only irrational behavior now, that I am aware of, is he still refuses assistance from us - told his HS buddy he would rather live in that filthy hotel or go to the homeless shelter than contact us, and an attorney friend who spoke with him in court, told me he had a very hollow and vacant stare and was expressionless when they talked in Feb., although he did not appear to be high. He said he was very articulate and could tell he was very intelligent.

My question(s) - God bless you if you’ve had the time and fortitude to stay with me this far…

I’ve attended the NAMI family to family, which was very educational, but I still do not have a good understanding of how he disguises this illness so well?.. which has me guessing if he really does have sx or could he have had an addiction he beat? I know these devastating conditions don’t just clear up on their own. There are just so many inconsistencies with what I read on the prognosis of addiction and sx, combined with all the trials and experiences you guys are going through with your loved ones,- how could he manage so well and be seemingly “doing fine” with no treatment, or medication when he was def in serious psychosis? Thoughts, questions, comments?


Hi Bucky, Welcome to the forum. I’m just going to jump right in and keep it simple. It’s not unusual for our family members with the paranoid version of scz to be high functioning. While your son isn’t functioning at as high a level as he did before his symptoms overwhelmed him, he is high functioning enough to “disguise” his situation. From his current lifestyle, I wouldn’t say his conditions have cleared up on their own.

We do see this question frequently. I am guessing you really don’t expect us to tell you how he does it, although it’s not unusual for parents to want an answer to this question.

You ask “Is he really sick?” you have a diagnosis in hand and all the necessary symptoms for the diagnosis. Our son’s initial diagnosis was done in a similar manner. Later we were fortunate to have him diagnosed in person.

Stress causes psychosis. I wonder if your son’s current situation is simple enough to keep him relatively stable. Nicotine helps many of our family members function. Sounds as though its possible your son still has delusions about his supportive family.

Some of our family members maintain a good deal of their cognition and the majority are highly intelligent. Intelligence can be used to solve a myriad of problems.


Hi Bucky,

First if all, please never feel your situation is any lesser than others. I am sorry for all you and your son have suffered. It’s ok to grieve the loss of the previously successful son we had. As you probably know, unless he is violet towards himself or others, you can not get him court ordered to medication. At the very least he is maintaining some sort of life with the help of this amazing man. I would encourage you to attend the NAMI monthly support group which gives you support but also may give you ideas moving forward in how to work with him. You have been a really great parent to him in all you have done. :two_hearts:


Yes, that is the truth. Often the illness IS disguised. My adult daughter with paranoid schizophrenia was in psychosis for over 3 years when it began in her 30s and she often looked “fine” especially to others who didn’t know her very well. Including police and doctors. Some people doubted my own sanity describing her insanity to them. She seemed so normal to them. But they didn’t live with her.

Yes, your son really is sick. This is a devastating illness that is an ongoing war with many battles. Up, down, up down, never really stable. Even with medication, the disease usually wins i.e. our previously well loved ones are never again the way they were prior to the illness.

You cannot be hard on yourself: you didn’t cause it and you can’t cure it. Perhaps you could help him if your son wished help, but most likely his disease will prevent you from helping. Only the correct medication (five were tried, forced on her) helped my daughter long term, and it was a long slow climb out of her hell-hole back to a working normal life. Not the life she had before illness, but a new active life for her.

It causes grief going forward always: we caregivers will always wish for a different outcome.

I am very happy that your son has managed to build himself back up to “some semblance of normalcy to outsiders and has kept these two jobs for the past year. He also had the good sense to file for bankruptcy”. I believe that because your son was gifted with high intelligence and strong drive before his illness, that he is able to manage the illness himself. That is a very good thing. Schizophrenia is lifelong and often very debilitating. As he learns to manage it, he will continue to gain in his new life. I wish him well.

You must forgive yourself and not feel guilt.


First, it sounds like schizophrenia to me. I’m sorry. My son was diagnosed with paranoid Sz in 2013 at the age of 25. My first advice is to buy two books. One is Surviving Schizophrenia 7th edition by Dr e fuller Torrey. The other book is by Dr amador. It’s I’m not sick, I don’t need help I think. Xavier Amador.

Your son needs treatment. The longer he struggles along on his own, in and out of psychosis, the worse he will probably get and psychosis is hard on the brain. Every person is different in their presentation and well, just about in every way. That’s what makes this diagnosis so difficult to treat. If you buy those two books. Amazon would have them, you will really learn so much. I was like you, sort of skeptical about it really being Sz because my son just didn’t seem to fit the classic (stereotyped) image of what people expect Sz to look like. I wish you much love and luck. Please educate yourself. Stay away from antipsychiatry people, and beware of the human rights or civil liberty activists. They think they’re helping but they are not.


When I saw my son’s psychosis for the first time I was confused. It was so bizarre – e.g. standing catatonic for a long time – that you can’t believe it’s real. Eventually, though, I realized no way could he be acting. The pros – i.e. the psychiatrists – are the best ones to consult because they’ve seen it all.

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Praying healing for your son. My mom was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when i was 17 but i believe she was misdiagnosed and had paranoid schizophrenia. After 4 yrs she said she woke up one day and was healed. Now, I do believe she struggled with it all her life. There were certain symptoms i noticed but just thought it was her personality. She never told me anything. She hid it all. I know she had childhood trauma and kept it all inside. 30 years later, 2023, it came hard. She separated from her husband. This can cause schizophrenia to return. The depression. If not taken care of, can spiral into schizophrenia. She wouldn’t tell me what was happening. I asked her so many times of she was hearing things or seeing things and she would say no. We kept going to doc, therapists, and psychiatrists and they couldn’t see it. She hid it all from them. She ended up taking her life just over 4 mos (03/7/23) after moving in with us. It was devastating. I never ever in my entire life would think that she would do this. If i could do things differently, i would have forced the hospital to take her but telling them she’s trying to take her life.

@SallyV I’m sorry for your loss. It’s definitely cautionary. We all have to realize that suicide is a big risk factor for those having schizophrenia.

Again, I’m so sorry, but thanks for the heads-up.


Thank you so much. :pray::pray::pray: