Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Sad Common Denominator

I’m noticing a lot of the same common thread with our loved ones who suffer from sz, and my situation is very similar to the stories I’m reading about.

My son recently said to me, “Mom, I’ve always felt alittle odd, alittle different, alittle weird, since I was like 12”. He was always paranoid about people talking about him, or not liking him. He started isolating himself when he was 14, and I know that is common with teenagers, they don’t want to be around their parents, but my son’s case was pretty severe. He not only isolated himself, but he always had that blank stare when anyone spoke to him. It was a scary, dark look.

They say genetic as well as environmental factors influence the onset of schizophrenia, but I have not done enough research to either confirm or deny this. All I know is that my son went thru a lot environmentally, mostly as a result of a very bitter divorce. He was 9 at the time. He was like any other little boy, loved his sports and video games. Things turned quickly from the time he was 14. Perhaps prior to that, his mind wasn’t developed to know what was really going on, and seemed unaffected until he was 14. From 14 on, he plummeted into deep dark depression.

He is now 24, and I have to say, for the last 10 years, he lead a pretty rough life. I feel a lot of factors played into him having his first psychotic break when he was 19. Isolation, poor hygiene, not eating, not sleeping, walking around for hours with no sleep, eventually passing out on the street until the police found him and took him to ER which lead to his first stay for 3 months in a psychiatric hospital.

Trauma, of course, is the common denominator that is often the trigger for setting off depression, and then escalation into even a deeper depression, which I think then manifests in some cases into schizophrenia. They’ve basically reached the end of their rope with schizophrenia, accompanied by full blown psychosis. They can’t go much further down. They’ve hit rock bottom. The symptoms for depression and schizophrenia are parallel, except for the voices and the hallucinations.

I cannot express the amount of guilt I feel every single day of my life, for the divorce, for other decisions that I may have made that might have affected his slipping into even a deeper depression. I will never know. What I do know is that for every bad situation that arose, I did the very best I could, and I do get some comfort from that, however little.

It also does not help that his father is no where to be found, refuses to have any contact with his son.

So based on my experience and my son’s, I would have to lean more towards environmental factors playing more of a role in the manifestation of this disease. To even validate it a bit more, there is no history of mental illness on my side or my ex’s side of the family.

Love to all, especially to our afflicted children


I can agree with that, some sort of environmental trigger. I used to feel guilty too, wishing I could go back and change some things that probably/possibly caused this illness to manifest in my daughter’s mind. I have mostly forgiven myself, as I did the best I could, as you did. Hugs.


One of the NAMI Principles of Support is “We forgive ourselves and reject guilt”. It is highly unlikely that any of us did anything that caused this illness except where we may have contributed to an environmental factor. (I fell face forward when I was carrying our son when he was 10 months old and he had a “depressed fracture of the skull”. However, an MRI done immediately after that event showed a normal scan.) Genetic just means that the illness is in the genes. If an illness could be found elsewhere in the family, the person would be “pre-disposed” towards having the illness and have a higher risk factor. But some illnesses, such as cancer, may just be in any one person’s genes, and do not necessarily run in one’s family. There is new recent medical information that suggests a possibility of an immunology factor. I am not a medical person, but I have seen the articles which have been published recently in medical journalism.


My son’s life followed the same trajectory, and I sometimes experience the same feelings of guilt. I struggled with emotional swings when he was young, which I’m sure had an impact on him.

At 24,my son was definitely still struggling. Now approaching 29, we appear to be reaching a sort of stability. Not symptom-free, not working, a life I still can feel sad about sometimes, but much better than his life at 24.


Our son has always had the more “negative” symptoms of SZ. He has never been depressed except perhaps as the illness caused him to realize that something was terribly wrong, and even then, he had anger and fear, I think, more than depression. He is rare, I guess, with a SZ diagnosis in 2015 in that he does not seem to have hallucinations or hear voices, although we think there may be occasional voices recently. There is more talk in the medical world these days about the crossover of symptoms between different diagnoses. So it is important to look at the symptoms and not just the diagnosis. Isolation, poor hygiene, lack of eating, lack of sleep, etc. are likely symptoms of the illness, and not the cause. SZ is such a complicated brain disorder!

@hope4us, yes that is what I was trying to say. These were all symptoms of the beginning of his hell. To me these symptoms were very similar to suffering from deep depression, but add to it some additional very scary behaviors…

“Isolation, poor hygiene, lack of eating, lack of sleep, etc. are likely symptoms of the illness, and not the cause.”

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I think an important takeaway here is to realize that you are not at fault. Yes, there can be triggers, but everyone goes through stresses and traumatic events in life. It is most probable that the illness would have raised its ugly head at some point, no matter what you did or did not do.I understand the feeling, but please try to let go of guilt. SZ knows no boundaries and affects people of all nationalities, races, sex, intelligence, education level, and socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. When it comes to SZ, our loved ones and we are the unlucky ones.


I realize that the slightest dip in my mood can trigger my son. I try my best to remain calm and positive around him, but I try to not let myself feel guilty for an occasional bad mood that affects him. Nobody can remain cheerful every day!


those were problems for 2 decades, then followed by a deep dark depression at 29 yrs old when her father died after 4 months in ICU and hospice. She was always isolating herself with no friends or with maybe one friend or with just her father as a friend after our divorce. When her father was the victim of a severe car accident in 2013 leaving him a quadraplegic, and then to death in a hospice, she was so depressed no one could help her, and she would see no one to ask for help. Then in early 2016, she started hearing voices, suffering psychotic episodes which led to the schz diagnosis. Deep depression marked her turning point from active life to disabled with SMI.

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@Vallpen I really do think being as calm as you can be is the best remedy. They can quickly pick up on anxiety and stress, my son is very perceptive, he also knows when I’m trying to fake being in a good mood. So I try to be as honest as I can with him. Sometimes, their mind is so childlike but at the same time, very intelligent and sharp. It’s a strange combo.

I also like joking around with him and teasing him. If I see him smile, even if it’s just once a day or once a week, that is a huge accomplishment for me. I think that one second or minute that they smiled carries them thru the day or thru the week.

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@oldladyblue, trauma seems to be the common factor in a lot of these stories. But as someone mentioned, I can’t help but feel angry and resentful why it affected our loved ones the way it did and manifested in schizophrenia, and others who may have suffered more horrific trauma, this disease did not affect. That will always be a mystery to me.

Someone also mentioned I guess us and our loved ones are just the unlucky ones.

So very thankful for this group and to be able to read about everyone’s stories and symptoms and treatments. This group of loving and caring caretakers is like having a whole team of strong supportive therapists. :cherry_blossom::sunflower: :heart:

This is an interesting subject. I think the beginning for my son started when he was extremely depressed and was going through a huge amount of stress. (break up of GF and loss of momentum to pass college classes). That’s when the delusions started. About 6 years later with lack of sleep and stress from being around growing pot (inside) that is when the big break came which lasted about 1 year and 9 months (perhaps longer as he wasn’t living with me at the time).

Yes, @DianeR I think this is an interesting subject too. Even the professional doctors don’t know what causes sz, I sat in on a panel of 3 P-docs at a NAMI meeting and between the three of them, they could only surmise.

I am learning not to be resentful, and try hard to not be resentful towards my daughter. This site IS like a whole team of strong supportive therapists, @mbheart I, too, see my daughter as both a very young child and a brilliant adult, mixed together, up and down and up and down. @Hereandhere , I think all of us on here go through that feeling of unluckiness. Many posts have helped me climb out of my own depression. @vallpen it helps to know that even though your son is not symptom-free and not working, that it is a much better life for him than 5 years ago. I can hope for a better life, and truthfully this year is much better for my daughter than the two years prior despite continuous symptoms and inability to work.

Looking backwards, another problem I wonder about now are several head injuries, beginning with a hard birth (stuck in the birth canal for hours, almost necessitating a C-section) and then accidents like getting dropped by a nanny, dropped on her head by kids carrying her, a fire extinguisher falling on her, clonking herself on something above her when she stood up, etc., before age 8, and then two more as an adult before sz. Anyone else have head injuries in their loved one’s background? Nothing required special treatment, but I wonder…


Our home was always very stressful too. My ex husband used my daughter as narcissistic a source of supply and actually took joy in mentally abusing her as well as me. We always walked on eggshells in our home never knowing what or when he would have his tantrums. My daughter starting having visual hallucinations at the age of three and at 12 and 13 was hospitalized. I will always believe the divorce was a good thing and that it did not cause any trauma for her, but I had guilt for years for staying with her dad for so long. We need to learn to forgive ourselves in order to get better and strong enough to care for our sz loved ones. My daughter is very sensitive to my emotions and I strive to maintain a very peaceful household. It is the best thing for both of us. She is making strides by leaps and bounds now and I will always try to do my best to be there for her as well as myself.


@oldladyblue My son’s father told me that my son had a significant football tackle while playing football. I must not have been at the game. He said it was pretty bad. My son also tossed his head back once when I was holding him and hit a metal pole and fell off a ladder - both when he was a toddler. He did not go to the doctors for either.

Like @dkgreg - My son’s father was abusive to me and really nagged my son at sports - so stress there for sure in early years (I left him when my son was 3.5 years) but he would visit and really be hard on the kid about sports.

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Hmmm, there was abuse of me by my ex (my daughter’s step-father) and verbal abuse toward her from him (the step-father). She was often belittled until she cried. She was the oldest and suffered the most of the 4 kids. That, plus the head injuries… I feel they set her up possibly…

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Medical articles I read say SZ is genetic and likely combined with one or more environmental triggers. I was also taught this in NAMI Family to Family class. Scientists cannot pinpoint the exact manner in which this happens, but there is new research being done all the time that I read about and find extremely fascinating. Some sources regarding studies are the NIMH and Brain and Behavioral Health Research Foundation.

Personally, I reject the environmental stress triggers. To me, it sounds left over from when moms were blamed for failing to bond with their children and causing autism. I do think that its nearly impossible for anyone to not encounter some sort of unhappy or deep trauma, growing up is hard. Such events can trigger actual depressions, but I don’t think they cause scz, I think its a coincidence or even caused by the scz already raising its ugly head.

Dr Torrey says traumatic birth events are listed as a factor - as is the time of year they were born (?) Jeb had an unfortunate incident during birth that deprived him of oxygen and ended him up in infant intensive care. He also knocked himself out cold riding his bike at a young age.

Jeb’s scz is a lot like his grandmother’s scz and her sister’s scz. There are so many different versions of scz. Both of them functioned like Jeb. Some level of function, maybe every one or two weeks, that would last for just a few hours. We really did think Jeb’s grandmother was “just” an alcoholic, now we can easily see she was a dual diagnosis with scz and alcoholism. We also thought she was a pathological liar - she was always claiming people had said things that we knew they had not said. Kind of sad that we didn’t understand what was going on while she was still alive.

I totally believe its genetic. When Jeb was first diagnosed we didn’t think anyone in our family had ever had scz. The more we learned, the more we began to see lots of things in a new light.


I agree that almost everyone has environmental stress. A woman I work with has such an idyllic life with everything going her way, but she totally stresses out over things that look small to me but are giant, GIANT, problems to her. I’ve not met a more emotional person with depression… But no schiz in her family…

I also have relatives with bi-polar illness and one who is believed to have had schizophrenia. I did not know this until just before the person died at age 63 of what was a very curable illness had it been treated timely. These illnesses have so often been kept quiet! I might have been more aggressive in seeking help for our loved one had I recognized it as familial!

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