Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Parents of teens, what made you question?

New to the site, but extremely happy I’ve found it. I’ve been reading threads for the last 2 or so hours and am very grateful for all the resources shared.
Story time!
I married my sons father when I was 19 and he was 29. I didn’t know he was diagnosed as an adolescent with SZ and MPD until after we were married. He was very high functioning. Had a job for 5+ years, had a home (though sparsely furnished), he had a life with friends. Nothing that would have indicated anything truly amiss.
Throughout the first year of our marriage, things became more obvious. Over time, he told me about the people who lived in his head. They were his multiple personalities, who also made themselves known to me. They all had names. One was my favorite.
The first 2 years were fine. It was kind of like living with roommates in one person, but manageable. We worked, paid our bills, tried to start a family. You know, regular things. Then when I was 5 months pregnant, a close friend of ours passed away unexpectedly in a car accident. He has a small family and had never dealt with a close death. He started drinking heavily and just never stopped.
I realize now that it was a breaking point for his psychosis, but I was young and uneducated at the time. We stayed together for another 2 years. By that point he was jobless and we were living with my mother. He was blackout drunk for most of the day and had started to get confrontational.
We separated at my request so that my son could grow up in a healthy and stable home. For 12 years he rarely called or acknowledged his sons existence. When he did call, it was usually to accuse me of keeping our son from him, which wasn’t true. I would make trips to see his parents and sister, and stayed in contact with his family. They’re great people and I want my son to know them.
Two years ago he passed away from liver failure due to the heavy drinking.

My son is now 15 years old.
He suffered night terrors as a toddler that was managed with regularly scheduled naps and bedtimes per his pediatricians recommendation.
He saw a therapist for 3 years, ages 10-13 due to a really nasty breakup with my fiancé who had been the only father he’d really known since he was 6. In the end she thought he was doing well and recommended ceasing treatment.
He was diagnosed with ADHD at age 11. He took medication for a while, but it didn’t help much. They upped his dosage and he hated the way it made him feel. At one point he felt like dying, like the world would be better off without him. So his pediatrician recommended trying diet, vitamins, and exercise. It didn’t work for school, but it works pretty well for homeschool. We’ve been doing that for the last 3 years.
You can see him shut down and check out when you try to talk to him about things he doesn’t want to talk about. He’s done that all his life.

I don’t live in fear that he will develope SZ, but I have been mindful and aware. We have a good line of communication. The older he gets, the more capable he is of explaining his thoughts and feelings.
Over the last couple years he’s been mentioning that he sees things out of the corner of his eyes but when he looks nothing’s there.
There’s a shadow about the size of a cat that follows him around.
When he tries to go to sleep, there is a shadow that he has to not look at in order to fall asleep. If it he looks at it, he can’t sleep.
He keeps his laundry basket in front of his closet and refuses to use the closet at all. He gets very uncomfortable when I use it.
He has to shower/bathe/use the toilet with the bathroom door open or with a cat in there with him.
There is a shadow that is “darker” than regular shadows that lives in the corner of the room. It creeps him out to look at it, but it’s okay if he doesn’t look.

Over the passed couple months, things have started to become more “active”.
The sleep shadow has become a woman, and this week he’s decided to name her Stella after a special cat we used to have.
He’s always been kind of a night owl like myself since birth, but has complained about being unable to fall asleep at all until the wee hours of the morning.
He told me today that his shadows have become more colorful. Like, Stella is white-ish now.
He’s become more protective over me when I leave the house because he’s worried something might happen to me. He’s admitted to me recently that he has separation anxiety with me. The only dreams he can remember that I’m in are ones where I’m abandoning him somehow. Leaving him with my mother (he’s not a fan), letting him roll down a hill in a car to his death, etc. He tears up when speaking about this.
He’s starting to show signs of inappropriate responses to situations. If I get hurt, he laughs like it’s the funniest thing he’s ever seen. When I ask him why, he gets upset with himself that he responds like that. At his father’s funeral, I got up to say a few words and cried a little. He marched himself up to me at the podium and started doing little things and making jokes to try and make me laugh.
He gets very anxious around people.

There’s probably a lot more, but it’s usually little things that you don’t notice until you sit down and look at it all objectively that it starts to add up.
I’m wondering what were the clues you had that lead up to you taking your child/teen to a doctor that lead to an eventual SZ diagnosis?
What are real things I need to look for? I’ve read a lot on here of parents saying their children came to them and said they heard voices but in hindsight, what were some subtle red flags that were missed because they weren’t blatant symptoms, like hearing voices?
When should I seek professional help? I don’t want to freak him out or make him feel like something is wrong with him. I just want to keep setting him up for success, no matter what the issue. I’ve read a lot about higher success with early diagnosis, but is there a too early?
I’m sorry this is really long, but I am starting to worry a little bit. It’s taken me an hour just to sort it out and type it. Any help, advice, it insight is very much appreciated.
Thank you.

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Hello,
I’m so sorry about your ex-husband. It sounds like you had no choice to separate, but such a hard situation.
I read your post yesterday, but couldn’t figure out exactly what to say. My son is 17 and we are also homeschooling. That has been really helpful so far.

My son has had a lot of the symptoms your son has. If you ever feel like messaging me, that would be great. I do everything on my phone and have a hard time typing out long posts.

It is really good that your son can be so open with you. I will be thinking of you. It is so had when these problems start when our kids are just teens. This forum is really a lifesaver.

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See if there is a first episode psychosis near you and have your son evaluated, New research shows when treated early on within first couple years psychosis the long-term outcomes are much better. There is a prodromal phase before full blown psychosis that most only see looking back. Our son has signs of mental illness since he was a young child: behavioral dysregulation, over sensitive to stimuli (sound, touch), mood disorder, anxiety, adhd and developed psychosis at age 21. Before psychosis he was suspicious of people, paranoid and talked about things that could be true but were not. It almost sounded like he was making up stories.
Get help now. Once he becomes an adult you have no right to get him evaluated, treated if he refuses. As a parent of a minor you can insist he do these things. I do not know where you live try web search for “first episode psychosis” programs. If none near you, are you near a major medical center or child psychiatric center start there? If not start with primary MD ask referral neuropsychologic exam. It may not be schizophrenia, but it is something worth getting evaluated. From my personal experience your sons symptoms sound like early stages of psychosis. There is no such thing as too early. Getting diagnosis early is best thing one can do to set him up for success. You do not need to say the word schizophrenia to your son when talking to him about getting evaluated. Maybe say something like you want to get him evaluated trouble sleeping, shadows that are now more colorful and anything he is worried about. Hope this helps.

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These are things we reflect on in hindsight. Our son had night terrors and would sleepwalk most of his childhood until about age 15 or 16. We had a sleep study done but it didn’t show anything. His pediatrician said he would grow out of it and he did so that was that. In elementary school it became apparent he had trouble with executive functioning- paying attention, following directions, staying on task, etc. He was diagnosed with ADHD but was never hyperactive at all. He was on medication (Focalin) for a few years for it but I never really saw evidence that it helped. Around 14 or 15 they changed him to Adderall and it totally changed him. He was constantly agitated and he told me he didn’t like the way it made him feel so we stopped it and never put him on anything else.
He would isolate into his room a lot but I thought it was just “normal teenage behavior” back then because he was still very social with friends.
After his graduation things really started to change more, kind of suddenly. His personality changed. Before, he would always text me on his way home from being out with friends but suddenly he stopped coming home at all or answering when I called to see where he was. He became more aggressive in arguments and starting using profanity towards me which he never did before. I made it clear that even though he was no longer in highschool if he wanted to live with us these things would not be tolerated. Still, I chalked it up to normal behavior for his age and that he was testing his independence. I also considered that it may be drug use and later learned that he had been smoking pot for years. That summer we went on a cross country trip out west and looking back there were odd moments that occurred that may have been signs of what was happening. Once I caught him looking at me with complete disgust for no reason. We hadn’t been arguing or anything but he was looking at me like he literally hated me. I didn’t confront him but it bothered me a lot. Then there was one instance on the trip where he completely overreacted to a comment I made. Like, he went way, way over the top about it and wouldn’t let it go. It was very odd. Another time I accidentally hurt his little brother’s finger with something, it was minor but still enough to hurt, and our older son looked at me again with disgust and said “why are you smiling?” And I was like “I’m not” but he insisted I was (I wasn’t). It was very odd and upsetting. Shortly after we returned from our trip another argument occurred and I told him that he wasn’t going to be able to live in our house and talk to me like that so he took a few things and left. Over the next year he went from friend to friend’s house until he went through them all. Then eventually came the stories from his friends about the strange things he was telling them. During this time he was smoking pot very heavily and doing LSD. At first we contributed his behavior it to the drug use but it became evident that it was more. We had him hospitalized many times and they would tell him and us there was nothing wrong with him and let him out. It wasn’t until we were able to talk to a doctor prior to his telepsych and tell her the things he was saying and believing (one of which was that he believed he was Jesus) that we got a diagnosis. Shortly after that though his mental state got worse and developed into full blown pychosis, med refusal and homelessness- in other words a nightmare. Finally during his last hospitalization in March he agreed to take an injectable medication in order to come back home to live and it has been a miracle. He is not the same as he was before but lightyears away from where he was while very ill.

I would definitely get your son in to see someone in order to possibly prevent a potential episode of pychosis from occuring if that is what’s going on. Especially since he has a family history of it (we don’t, that we know of). Just make sure you communicate your concerns to the doctor because your son may not be forthcoming about things. Also, and this is probably the most important advice I have to give, do it before he is considered an adult because after that your hands will be completely tied on doing anything without his consent.

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Having lived through a long prodrome, there were many points where I questioned my mental health, but I didn’t want to bother or concern others or open up a can of worms and have people pry into something I felt was private. My eldest brother had already been hospitalized twice for bipolar disorder by then and my sister and I had to deal with the aftermath while my parents were on an extended holiday, so it wasn’t as if the possibility was unknown to me, I just was determined I was “different” and could deal with it on my own.

Lately I’ve been interested in Gen-Z and Millennial attitudes toward stigma, mental health and neurodiversity, and was a little shocked to find a lot of talk in autistic and ADHD social media spheres about the harm of “masking”, which is effectively what I from a GEN-X/Boomer SZA perspective would consider beneficial “coping mechanisms”.

The bottom line is many young people have very different attitudes toward mental illnesses and treatment and diversity of all kinds than their parents. And although I think attitudes and information about psychosis haven’t improved as much as with other disorders, it does open doors to discussing evaluations for possible treatment that didn’t exist in my youth, provided you and mental health “professionals” don’t make a huge production about it that may lead to their overdramatizing that you think it’s a grave life ending weakness to hide at all costs and social embarrassment to the family as I did. You want to approach the subject as cool moms, dads and aunts and uncles, not “Okay Boomers or Xoomers”

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Thank you all for the advice so far. We’re in northwest Missouri, and I had a little trouble finding a place near us that specializes in first episode psychosis that deals with people under 16. He just turned 15 in February. We do have a family guidance place here in town, and that’s who he had done his counseling through previously. We’ll probably try starting there.
Last night we sat down and had a good talk about SZ. We talked about his dad and what it was like for him. I told him why I seem to ask the same questions a couple times a year all his life. What it means to be at risk genetically. How SZ can effect people and those around then. Different types of SZ.
I let him know that I wasn’t worried, but that it’s just something we have to be aware of, like having a family history of diabetes or cancer. He agreed to take an online questionnaire through a SZ telehealth treatment site, and his results stated that he was high risk.
We talked about red flags to look out for, from his perspective and mine. We went over the options that are available for people who are diagnosed with SZ, like therapy and medication. How sometimes you have to go through different medications and combinations to find what works for the individual person, and that it takes time.
I used thyroid problems as an analogy about how the body’s chemical producing organs can sometimes malfunction causing someone to need medication for the rest of their life, and how that’s okay. That it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with that person, they just need some extra medical help for their body to function normally.
We talked about it for a about two hours, and he was a little uncomfortable at first, but started understanding and participating in the conversation once he realized that I wasn’t worried.
In the end, we had big hugs as I assured him that no matter what life throws at him, we’ll get through it together like we always have. Even if it’s hard.
I’ll be reaching out to the family guidance facility this week to see if they have any resources available to help. It seems to be the best place to start where we live.
I don’t know if it was the right move to discuss all of this with him, but we’ve always been very open about what we’re thinking/feeling and why. I did my best to assure him that it’s nothing to be anxious or worried over, but that awareness could save a lot of time and effort towards proper treatment just like any other medical issue. I went to bed feeling pretty good about the conversation.

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Maggotbrane: Yeah, I can definitely see that. I’m really happy to see people opening up about their issues and normalizing care. My mom did a few stints in a hospital for depression. It didn’t help. Then 4 out of her 6 kids spent at least one stint in a hospital for depression, including myself, which also didn’t help. There were various forms of self harm and destructive behavior that went on in my family, and most of us are still pretty messed up. I’ve broken off most contact with my family, and the ones I do talk to are very casual relationships.
I wanted better for my kid, so we’ve always just been very open without judgment. I didn’t want him to ever feel like he had to do things alone, or go through things alone.
I don’t “coddle” him, but I do receive a lot of backlash about how I need to “toughen” him up. They don’t know him enough to understand that this would never work for him. He would instantly shut down and the opportunity to genuinely teach him would be lost.
I’ve never parented him the way I was “taught” to parent because essentially I wasn’t. It wasn’t healthy. So instead, I’ve spent my parenthood learning how to be HIS mother. I’ve kept what works for us both, and thrown away what doesn’t, even if I had to change.
Thank you for going beyond what you know and were taught. Thank you for being able to see the value in the shift that’s going on. I’m sorry you had to deal with all that growing up, it’s definitely rough and leaves a lasting impression that you carry for the rest of your life. Lastly, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. I appreciate it.

No problem. My parents are nearing the ends of their lives, so I appreciate more and more that generally parents (and society in general) do the best they can in spite of or because of attitudes of prior generations. Perhaps I’m becoming a younger soul as I age, as opposed to the old soul as was in my youth, since I was born on a cusp and didn’t have children.

If your son is interested in media and media criticism, or is a reader, there are movies books and other media you could recommend for him. Movies and television of late are filled with increasingly inaccurate depictions and unrealistic composites of mental illnesses and rarer more dramatic experiences like visual hallucinations and DID systems as they enter psychotic realms. Stigma also tends to silence voices of people who just pick up, integrate experiences and move on with their lives, so these stories tend not to be heard. So what I’m saying is a health amount of media criticism “grains of salt” should be taken with what’s depicted even with seeming first-person narratives. He should be familiar with this phenomenon from ADHD representation.

Best of luck, I’m impressed that your talk with him was along the lines of what I might have liked to hear at his age in my prodrome.

He’s dyslexic, so he doesn’t enjoy reading so much. We mostly stick with action/adventure movies and shows. We do tend to watch a lot of anime and I was able to convince him when he was younger that it’s better in the original language with subtitles. That’s how we’ve gotten his reading time in. It helped A LOT with his reading comprehension and speed.
I’ll start being mindful of mental illnesses portrayed in media and start opening up conversations afterward about the realities of those illnesses. I didn’t think about that, but it’s probably a good thing to do.
Thank you!

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