Need help.. think my sister-in-law may be paranoid schizophrenic

My brother’s wife of 15 years has been accusing him of cheating on her for about 3 years now (which he has never given her any reason to think whatsoever - as a matter of fact I can’t think of a more devout and faithful husband), and has been slowly causing him to sever all connections with family members, telling him repeatedly that his family hates her and is all against her (which couldn’t be further from the truth). She frequently insists on apologies from family members for hurting her feelings for one reason or another, most of which hardly make any sense, and if you do apologize, it’s never good enough and only seems to encourage future episodes. My brother recently told me that he might not be able to see me for a while until he can “smooth” things over with her, and while he did actually refer to her as “acting psycho”, he was not particularly welcoming of my suggestion that they should seek counseling. Does anyone who has experienced something similar have any advice/suggestions on how I can try to help my brother and his wife and our family?

Something that I didn’t realize for many years are the symptoms of an abusive relationship.

  1. Constant accusations of things you haven’t done. I’ve experienced this with my ex-wife for the last couple years. She would constantly accuse me of cheating.
  2. Forcing you to sever communications with family/friends: This also happened to me, my wife would accuse my sister of witchcraft, or my mom of trying to usurp her parental rights over our children.

I would say that whatever your brother decides to do, you need to let him know that you are always there to talk, no questions, no judgement, just be someone that he can talk to and lean on in his time of need. I was lucky to have several family members and friends to rely on, and even though I usually didn’t ask for any help, the fact that I knew they were there helped a lot.

If things keep going downhill, suggest that he visits these forums to see if he is experiencing similar behaviour. I know that dealing with my ex-wife often felt surreal, but coming here and reading similar topics I found out that there are many many people going through the things we have.

Best of Luck,

Try to get her a full evaluation at an early psychosis treatment center. More details here:

Thanks, it would seem that the biggest obstacle I’m facing is getting my brother to recognize and admit that she needs help. Any ideas on ways to open his eyes and mind?

It took me a long time to realize that my ex-wife had severe mental issues. I don’t think there was anything that my family said or could say that would help me realize that there was an issue. It had to get so bad that I had to call the police to have her hospitalized.

I can’t really give you advice on how to get him to understand what is happening, maybe pointing him out to this forum would be good. He may relate to many of the posts, as I had.

But the one thing I can tell you that has been absolutely crucial for me, and that has been my family and friends. Knowing that people care for you and are there for you makes a huge difference, and it helps counteract the influence that she may be using to try to sever ties. I think you have probably done as much as you can at this point, suggesting therapy is ok, but I think trying to push that point will probably have the opposite effect than you expected.wanted

Also, I would give your local NAMI a call, they can usually offer good resources.

The behavior you describe could be many things - to me, a non-clinical person, but with a family member with schizophrenia, this sounds more like Borderline Personality Disorder.

Unfortunately this is a common problem. We have a section on our web site about this and how to deal with it - check it out here:

Also - there is a good book by Xavier Amador called “I’m not Sick, I Don’t Need Help” - perhaps get it for the family here:

The counseling suggestion is actually a good one just because it helps get the person in front of a psychologist as a first start. This would be a reasonable first step, I think.

Sounds like there could be a lot of things going on–and maybe not a mental illness.
I think all you can do is let your brother know that you are there for him and can talk to you anytime.
I wish you luck OO

This is not paranoid schizophrenia.

Care to elaborate?

Possibly, thank you. Maybe I’m way off base, but if I can just convince my brother to get her to go with him to a counselor, then a professional could have a chance to evaluate her and their marriage.

I think it likely could be schizophrenia / psychosis - because there is an obvious persistent delusion around the issue of infidelity. This is classic schizophrenia. Here are the major symptoms of schizophrenia - of course many of these you may not know because the person doesn’t tell you their experience:

Thats a reasonable start. The issue will be that the counselor may look at the issue through the lens of a relationship counselor and thus not recognize the psychosis symptoms. I would get your brother to educate the counselor on the backstory of what the wife believes - so that he can probe and identify for himself/herself the posibility of psychosis. You have to be careful and get someone who is well trained on the broader issues of psychology and not just an MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist) who may not have any training on psychosis.

She is not hearing or seeing things that are not there. She could just be insecure and jealous. Although unintended, I find your question insulting to the memory of the extreme lifelong suffering of my late mother.

Not sure how you jumped to that conclusion. Who knows if she’s hearing or seeing things that are not there? She needs a professional evaluation. You are right about one thing, though - any offense was unintended. Thank you to everyone who offered insight and/or advice.

I am not jumping to any conclusions, you are. And I don’t think anyone implying she has “delusions around infidelity” is helping you. Maybe it’s not a delusion. The admin is way off the mark here. Maybe you should not interfere with other people’s marriages. Perhaps you should talk to her with caring directly. Psychiatrists diagnose schizophrenia, not “counselors” or “therapists.” Maybe you should talk to a therapist about your concerns.

Find a Co-Dependents Anonymous meeting and start going to it. (I have run into “your brother” at them 50 times.) He can look at the “Patterns and Characteristics of Co-Dependence” at

While I would say that most MFTs trained since the '90s would spot the borderline or psychotic symptoms, most of them are not well trained to deal with them. (Borderlines are notoriously difficult to work with; SzAdmin is correct in suggesting you get Amador’s book. I would also suggest Randi Kreger’s Stop Walking on Eggshells.)

But if the situation here is as I think it may be from reading between the lines, the first order of business may be to deal with your brother’s co-dependent, masochistic attachment. I’ve seen people like this before (in fact, I was with two of them Friday). They seem to believe it is their assignment in life to put up with abuse.

Finally, I hope you’re aware of the fact that some of the people who jump into these discussions demonstrate paranoid delusions and projections… especially when what is discussed in a thread gets too close to their own unresolved issues.