Signs they’ve stopped taking medication

My daughter is 20 and has been dealing with a mental illness for a little over a year now. Still not sure of her diagnosis. If she knows she isn’t saying. Trying to get her with a consistent medical group has been a challenge. This is partially due to her lack of cooperation and partially due to a broken health care system. She likely has schizophrenia, bipolar or major depression with psychosis.

The last year has been devastating to our family. Long story, but she spent six months in jail. While she was in jail she was taking her previously prescribed Abilfy. She has been home for three months now and claims she’s still taking it.

I worry that she’s not telling me the truth. The last couple of weeks she’s been different. She’s less flat and seems less depressed. On the surface both of those are good things. However, they were both side effects from the medication.

What are the first signs that you’ve noticed when someone stops taking their medication? I can’t decide if I’m paranoid or if my Mom’s intuition is telling me something. If it is paranoia, how do I learn to trust her again?

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I don’t think its paranoia to be concerned about your daughter stopping her meds. You will always have that concern and you will always look for the signs.

The one time my son tried meds, we could see immediately that the med was having an effect. When he stopped taking it, just a few days later, we wondered and eventually it was obvious he was no longer taking his med.

I wish I could tell you that you will trust your daughter some day, unfortunately the statistics tell us, you need to keep a lookout for lapses. I am sorry.

While your daughter may be worthy of trust, the mental illness is not.

@hope Thanks for your response and all of the support you offer on this forum. This world is still very new a frightening for me. I hope that i can learn to accept this new reality with grace. Sometdays are harder than others and today is a bad day.

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My son was on Abilfy at one point. I know there is an injectable version. This may help with compliance take the guess work out if she is taking the medication. I’m trying my best like you are to accept this and handle this with grace, My son has been out of jail for three weeks now after being there for a year and a state mental hospital for 3mo. Was doing good there. Got out stop taking the medication. I’m just trying my best to stay calm and stress free. Exercising and meditation daily. This was causing me so much stress and I will not continue that way.

Long term diagnosed perspective here. Abilify is prescribed for all three diagnoses you mention, length, type and severity of symptom a better metric of which it may be than the medication. Schizoaffective Disorder is another possibility.

Abilify has a very long half-life of about two weeks, so it can take a long while to completely leave the body. Bipolar disorders are cyclical, my unmediated brother tends to have trouble periods twice a year, summer and winter. He doesn’t have incidents each year, but when he does it’s generally at those times. His lead time from noticing changes in his behavior to it becoming a problem is about a month or so.

My diagnosis is Schizoaffective disorder. I’ve gone periods without medication and for me, even trained professionals indicate they couldn’t tell. Abilify in particular makes me feel the least medicated and most “natural”, so I’d abandon searching for signs she’s medicated or not, and concentrate on evidence of symptoms and warning signs of decompensation.

Evidence of alcohol or drug use is generally a bad sign of masking symptoms through self-medication. Changes in sleeping habits, especially insomnia is a bad sign. Erratic movement, speech and emotions are bad signs, as are major shifts in social withdrawal or extroversion. Recovery is more of a slow and steady progress, whereas relapse is more herky-jerky or spiraling in nature. Secretive, suspicious or irritated behavior without good cause would worry me as well, but I’d be cautious about jumping to conclusions or confronting her without good evidence, it’s likely to backfire.

As for when can you trust her, that’s really up to you not her. She can’t make you trust her. She could relapse even while scrupulously medication-compliant, or she may be symptom-free for the rest of her life without medication. It’s more about her learning how to manage her disease and gain trust in her ability to cope with it. If I had to put a time-frame on it, I’d say 3-5 years of relative stability would tell me a diagnosed person had a handle on managing their disease. But if you’re asking when you stop worrying, I’d say never. It’s a question of degree, you can’t expect absolutes when it comes to mental illness.


@Ihavethevictory Oh how i feel for you. My daughter was in jail for six months and it was awful. She understood, at least briefly, that something was wrong and that the medication helped. However, she also believes that she knows when things are getting out of control and needs the medication. She doesn’t seem to understand that isn’t how the medication works. I don’t think she will ever agree to the injection though. That would take a court order, which is something we’re trying to avoid. She has a felony on her record. IF she stays out of trouble it will be reduced to a misdemeanor. Having a mental illness already makes finding and keeping a job hard and having a felony conviction makes it even harder.

I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with similar issues with your son. I would not wish this experience on anyone. I will say this forum helps though. There is no judgement here and it keeps me from feeling so alone.

@Maggotbrane Thank you do much for your thoughtful response. Having the perspective of someone who’s had a similar experience is very helpful.

So far we’ve not noticed any of the warning signs that you mentioned. I will work on trying to stay optimistic, but i will remain cautious.

Again, thanks for all that you contribute to this forum.

I feel that’s the right attitude for both the caregiver and diagnosed in recovery. Too much vigilance crowds a recovery, and complacency abandons it. And if you notice she’s doing better or is more “herself”, offer the gentle encouragement that you’ve noticed. Recovery is both like and unlike learning to ride a bicycle. You may struggle and fall; you may persist and be a bit wobbly, but if you’re lucky you’ll kinda figure it out and be upright and not even know it. But unfortunately, occasionally, we forget how to ride that proverbial bicycle and need help and encouragement to get back on again.


This is a safe place to vent & get help. The world doesn’t understand what we experience dealing with this illness. I wouldn’t even wish this on my worse enemy. I’ve been concerned also about my son having mental health issues and a felony. I’m glad your daughter realizes she needs medication. That’s one of the hardest parts of this. My son doesn’t think he has a problem and needs medication :(. My heart is heavy for anyone experiencing this illness.

It is an unbelievably terrible illness, I have been dealing with my son’s illness for over 10 years and he never improves. It ihas been constant worry and stress, and I am trying hard to not let it take over my own life. He always has some kind of problem, I am trying to be hopeful, but it is just so hard when you always have that worry about what awful thing will happen next. Had a rough week with my son. Sigh

Signs they are off their meds you will see a different personality. Different moods, sleep habits, my son becomes less social.
On the meds, acts normal as can be expected for someone who is schizophrenic. But because of this cannot hold a job, too stressful and very sad for him.

Thank you to everyone on this forum for all the support and suggestions. Since my husband passed I have no support from family and have no friends.I try not to go down that dark hole but it doesn’t always work then I come here.
My son is doing well but I don’t think he will ever work again. The worry and stress never goes away
My prayers to everyone be strong it’s not easy

Margi, is your son still on invega injections? Your perspective is always welcome, you have a lot of experience. Prayers to you Margi

Hope, yes he still gets his injection every 3 months and takes 10mg Abilfy daily. It’s been 4 years now and he’s doing well he even laughs and has a sense of humour at times. He still sometimes complains about the injection that it’s poison. The fear and anxiety that he will stop the meds is always there.
Hugs and prayers

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