Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Recognizing self in photographs?

Have any of your family members experienced or expressed that they do not recognize themselves in photos? Something we noticed before my son was hospitalized was this excessive need to look at himself in the mirror. We couldn’t quite understand why, but he has stated a number of times when I have showed him photos of himself that he doesn’t think it is him. We are wondering if the mirror and what he is not recognizing about himself in photos is related…and I wonder if it is part of his illness?

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My son looks in the mirror a lot, but he had no problem recognizing himself in photos.

He’s hyper-critical of his appearance.

My brother does the same thing though he hasn’t said why. He looks in the mirror and make weird faces as though if his face were distorted. He went through a phase where his cell phone had hundreds of selfies of his face taken at different angles. It became a habit that he couldn’t control to take out his phone at inappropriate times to snap a photo of the side of his face. I have been told that some schizophrenics will see things, such as their face, distorted.

He does recognise himself and looks at himself meaningful and quite sad at times.
He did have the need to look at himself in mirrors though, he would stare at his arms and hands. He once said that his bones had changed, I told him it was just the transition from being a teen to a full grown man, he said no that they were different.

A strange thing my son did in the last few years before leading up to him becoming poorly.
He tried to “fix” everything he thought wrong with himself.
He wore cling film around his legs, tummy to make him thinner, he wasnt even large at the time.
He bought wax removal strips to remove hair, he bought blackhead patches, (his skin was lovely though) he bought ear wax treatments, he wanted his teeth straightened (they were fine and natural looking) he got his eye brows trimmed.

He seemed to want to fix all of these things that there was really nothing wrong with.

My son’s the same.

His latest thing, which has lasted a few years, is he think’s he’s going prematurely bald.
His final solution was to keep his head shaved.
It surprised me that it actually looks really, really good.

Although he’s doing pretty good with personal hygiene now, it never made sense to me that sometimes he could pay so much attention to one feature but still not care about bathing or changing his clothes.

My family member often looks/stares at old photos of himself. While looking at a portrait of himself from just before his illness really took hold, he said “That’s not real.” He also refers to pictures of himself as “He” rather than “I” or “Me”. I can’t imagine this is from anything other than the illness.

What you all describe is very familiar. Before he was hospitalized recently, I found that he was carrying two photos of himself from when he was about 7 years old. Not sure why these photos or this age time frame, but there definitely was something about what he was seeing photos…or in the mirror. He has not been willing to reveal anything about what he sees, but in an average day, the days when he would be moving around more, he may go into the bathroom and look at himself 20-40 times and look at himself for 3-5 minutes each time. Sometimes, in…then out…maybe take a lap around the room and then back in there again.

When I showed him a photo of himself just before he was hospitalized the first time (last July), he told me I fabricated the photo. He said it was not him, not his nose, his eyes, etc. He said I photo-shopped the document. It was strange to me that he did not recognize himself. He even told someone before this most recent hospitalization that I fabricated photos of him, Anyway, I assumed it was part of his illness, but wasn’t sure if it was common.

My son also had several photos from his childhood that he kept nearby before he got sick. I never understood why but now I can see that it’s not uncommon. Wish I knew what he was thinking about though.

I remember when i was little, younger than 6, I was sometimes puzzled with some weird existential (?) questions.
I would stare at myself in the mirror and wonder :
who am i? Rather even: who is she in the mirror? Ok, it is me… Who is “me”?
Not as if “am I megan or wendy?” – not like that
But rather how is it that i am a person? How is it that this body is me and how is it to be me? How is it that I don’t wonder about this more often and just forget about such puzzle and just go on with toys and friends? Hard to explain…

I always, always had to make a little effort and say “stop” and snap out of it and tell myself: ok, well, have to go on… my name is… and i am about to go play.
Then I would think: how is it that i am about to go play if I have no idea what I am? Then I would think: enough, that is tiring. And would actually stop and go on about my day.

I don’t think i got “cured” from that. I just stopped cause it is leading nowhere.
I don’t have sz, but sz is in my family big time. So i must be somehow “infected” :slight_smile:


From comments my family member has made, I think those pics may represent “happy times”.

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My son kept taking down the pictures we had of him on the walls. He never did say why the pictures bothered him.

Never to become,
That is interesting. I remember something similar as a young child. I asked my mother how I got in my body. Why was I stuck in there. Also very hard to explain what I was thinking. I think my mom showed me a mirror to help, but it was hard for me to connect the physical body with spiritual or thought process. I must’ve been like three or four.
As for my son, he used to take all the family pictures be videos of his childhood to his room. This was before he was diagnosed. I would go in his room and they would be everywhere. I would take them back and he kept putting them back in his room. I’m sure we lost many in this process. He never said anything or would answer my questions about why. I know he scanned a lot of them

Not recognizing oneself in the mirror could be a symptom of Depersonalization Disorder, which is a subtype of schizophrenia. Other associated symptoms can be found at

My daughter could not bear to look at her image in the mirror during the worst of her psychotic break. She was panicked about it until she became stable on medications, and just thinking about how awful that experience was still gives her the creeps nearly 20 years later.

Another way to describe this is the term “mirrored-self misidentification,” discussed at Though sometimes seen with dementia it cal also be part of schizophrenia, and responds to antipsychotic meds.

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Early in my son’s psychosis, he couldn’t stand to see a picture of himself. So much so, that we didn’t hang anything like that when we moved into our current house.

About a month ago, he started going through all our old photos and insisted we hang both his baby pictures and some of his pictures from elementary school.

Unfortunately, sometime during middle school, he learned how to avoid the school pictures, so I don’t have many that are more recent, and I’m not the kind of person who constantly snaps pictures of anyone or anything.

It’s amazing how happy we all looked back then though. This illness really has changed us all.


My son looks in the mirror often too. He does it because he is hyper critical of his appearance. He seems to be looking for flaws or signs of having a stroke. He has never had a stroke that I am aware of, but he is fixated on this.
He critiques himself and wants his face to be symmetrical. He takes hundreds of selfies and videos from different angle and will also have me take pictures and videos of him. Anywhere there is a mirror he will look at himself. He will asked if this is what he really looks like.
He has never mentioned anything but that he doesn’t look like how he use to and wishes and laments about the person he use to be when he looks at old photographs of himself. Since his diagnosis 4 years ago, he has went from 160 pounds to 252 pounds. He does complain about how he no longer has memories.
It’s nice to know that this seems to be just another symptom of the illness and hopefully one that will go away when they find a cure.

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I swear isn’t this disease the saddest thing in the world? I mean can you imagine not recognizing yourself in a photo or mirror? My son stares at himself in photos but doesn’t say whether he recognizes himself or not. He did this before too before he was diagnosed. But I always thought it was odd. Also, now in looking back (it’s a hindsight is 20/20 thing, isn’t it?) at old photos, years before Sz, I can clearly see he is not looking at the photographer! Everyone else is. But his eyes are looking somewhere else. He poses, smiles and even primps LOL a little. But does not look in the direction that everyone else does. So strange! I have a very old photo of my grandmother with her siblings and their adult children. My great uncle had a son who was schizophrenic. In the pic he is NOT looking at the camera!! Freaky! And his father looks SO SAD!

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My son has been looking through photo albums a lot lately - maybe I already said that?

Last night, very late, he asked me if maybe he used to have a twin. No idea if it’s related, but it’s kind of the same theme.

He’s still surprised he was so happy when he was little. I think that his mood changed so gradually, I just didn’t see it - or maybe I didn’t want to see it and just started protecting him from the world. It’s one more thing where I say - how would that turn out if I could go back knowing what I know now?

I can’t bear to look at pictures of when my sons were young. Our family looked so happy, and we were happy. Every picture I look at, I classify immediately as before or after scz started. I can see him changing in the pictures. Hard to say which is harder to look at the before pictures, or the after. He hasn’t allowed us to take his picture for about 3 years. I wonder if he doesn’t recognize himself in the early pictures, it is a totally different person, a happy, open faced confident boy.

Before I knew he had scz I tried to talk with him about what he was like before. He just shook his head and said he didn’t remember being anything like I was saying.

I think it was nice that my son was normal and that we treated him as normal for as long as we could. Its not much consolation, there is no consolation for the parents. As NAMI tells us, we will deal with a constant, unrecognized grief for our children and what they have lost to mental illness. The 3 C’s of caregiving, we didn’t cause this, we can’t control this, but we can figure out how to cope with it. Coping is much bigger than it sounds, but first, we have to conquer the other two.