Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Pushing family away but not friends

Hi, I could do with everyone’s thoughts here. My 23 year old brother has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. We are from a close family, of 8, and in the run up to his diagnosis and even now he is very distant from us all. He’ll come and visit from time to time, like over Christmas, but then shuts himself away and sleeps etc. He’ll only spend 30 mins with us at mealtimes and then make excuses to leave the house, saying he’s going to the gym, or to meet a friend. He says he is bored at home.

I don’t think he’s got close friends but he puts friends on a pedestal saying he’s going to make plans to see them. He’s got a group of people that he tries to impress by hanging out at clubs they like. This means that he often goes to techno nights. He hates techno music but will do it to fit in.

Can someone explain why family get pushed to one side and friends get elevated? Thanks.

Hi alexe, Welcome to the forum. I wonder if the key is that you are a close family? My son was very close with his friends at college when his scz first showed up. He isolated from those close friends.

In regards to shutting himself away and sleeping during holidays, my son can only take company in small amounts. I would imagine it might be easier for your brother to spend shorter bits of time with friends and at the gym. If club time is like the “olden days” back in my time, it requires less intense communications than time at home with the family. Our family members usually do require a lot of time on their own. Getting a good balance is the tricky part.

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I understand this. Sz seems to often direct antagonism towards family members, and yet normal behavior towards those the afflicted person sees less often. There is almost never very much communication longer than a sentence or two. My daughter uncannily could seem normal and friendly to strangers, but unleashed weird isolation or negative remarks on family. Chances are that your brother has been struggling for a long time. I think that if he comes to Christmas with you, that is a VERY big step for him, and for him, just being there is hard on him. I suggest just being as kind as you can towards him, he probably needs kindness. Plus, if you don’t see him that much, or know his friends, he might not really be seeing them as often as he says. My daughter often goes to job interviews that I don’t think really happened… but she tells me about them as if they happened.


Thanks so much for your reply. It makes a lot of sense. I need to be less sensitive to the criticisms and just take it on the chin. I’ll also bear in mind that he’s exaggerating how often he sees friends. I find it strange how he can be so hostile to people who love him.

What do I do about the fact that he often doesn’t pick up the phone or return texts. Should I keep sending him texts now and then to say I love him and leave it at that.

Hiya, why do you think your son isolated himself from his close friends? Was it because he was close and didn’t wanted them to see what was happening to him. Is it easier to deal with people less close?

It isn’t strange with sz. Not strange at all. I have gone to many support groups and almost all family members say the same thing. The illness is hard to understand, but underneath it, the brother you love is still there.

Yes, keep sending him texts to say you love him. Even if he doesn’t respond, he probably reads them. And maybe rereads them. One nurse told me that my daughter read, and reread letters I dropped off at the hospital even though she refused to let me visit.

That’s why I say kindness is key. And not taking negative remarks personally.

Thanks so much for your advice. It helps a lot because I feel so isolated. My brother is my best friend and I feel so sad about all of this. I take comfort knowing that he may take comfort from my loving words.

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I don’t know why they isolate, all I know is that often it’s an early symptom, which to me that means they aren’t necessarily choosing to isolate.

You might be correct that it’s easier to handle in a less close situation.

In the early years my son said he thought he was becoming autistic. I think it’s difficult for us to understand what all is going on in their minds. So much of it is beyond their control. They are trying to deal with an extremely difficult problem.


thanks for your response, it’s appreciated.

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That feeling of sadness will probably haunt you for a long time, I’m sorry to say. You’ve lost your best friend and brother to sz and it will always hurt. All of us on this forum understand the pain.


I cant explain but have noticed this with my son over the yesrs. He is now 26 snd we are all still close and when quite well he really celebrates the close family he has and tells us all how good it is to be with us.
I know that in contrast, his friends have not alwsys been loyal to my son snd he has chosen not to share his diagnosis with them. Until he became ill in his late teens he was always very popular and found maintsaining friendships very easy.
Sz robs the person of confidence, makes them paranoid and anxious and my son has insight and knows he behaves oddly from time to time. Maybe your son is really confident about family loyalty snd support but feels he has to work hard at keeping friends so as to avoid isolation?
I suppose I’m trying to say look behind his behaviour and consider all the possibilities of the feelings that make for it.
Take care

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