Step-mother of an 18-YO possible schizophrenic

Hey everyone, schizophrenia is a new thing for me. About 8 months ago, my 18 year old stepdaughter tried to attack me for no reason. We picked her up from a party her and her brother were at, and she got in the car and threw something at me, and then tried to punch and kick me and said she hated me, then she proceeded to tell everyone in the family she hated them all. Police were called, she was taken to a mental facility to be analyzed, etc. This was the first outburst I had ever experienced with her. Apparently a few weeks prior she did something similar to her mom’s boyfriend in the car. She is a senior in HS, can’t hold a job, and acts like a child. She has been seeing psychiatrists and psychologists, but since she’s 18, her parents are only slightly involved with everything. I love my husband, but have been getting frustrated over the past several months how both her mom and dad “brush over” things I have noticed. She has been on several medications for bipolar schizophrenia, but they haven’t been able to diagnose her yet. Every time she talks to one of the Drs, they feel like she’s fine. But she is definitly not fine. She will sit and laugh to herself randomly over nothing, or cry to herself, and when asked she says nothing. She’ll have moments of no remorse. She talks about hearing voices, that tell her to do things. She talks to walls at school. Just recently last weekend at prom a teacher called and said she was pouring water on herself and licking the tables. She started using social media and messaging all these “friends” from school about her “wedding”, that is with a boy she like who has a girlfriend. I have told him to take her phone, remove her apps, etc. Or keep the phone so we can reach her or locate her, but delete all social media. He finally did yesterday after months of me asking him to remove them. I am trying not to be too involved, and letting her mom and my husband handle it, but I feel like I’m the outsider looking in, and realizing she needs more help that is being given. The meds aren’t working, she’s “lost her mind” in a sense. She hasn’t been physically abusive in months, which is good, but very dillusional. She goes back and forth between her moms house and our house every other week. I feel like she should stay at one household to keep structure/routine and come over to ours for dinner on occasion? I have a daughter of my own I’m trying to protect as well, who is 15, so her mom’s house would be the better household to stay at I believe. I also have 3 dogs I’m worried about. I’ve had nightmares she’ll have a voice tell her to stab my daughter, or my dogs or even us at night. I feel like there hasn’t been any resolution. The first sign she seems to be doing better, her parents just go back to their normal lives, then a freak out happens again. I don’t know what to do as the step parent, or what we can do to get the help she needs. We keep getting the run around from Drs. Her mom took her to a Facilty today who told her to take her to CHKD, and then CHKD said to go to the magistrate to get arrested and sent to a mental facility for a day. Then she’d be right back at our house. It feels like nobody cares about mental health. Note I live in Chesapeake, VA…so if anyone knows anyone we can reach out to in the Hampton Roads area, that would be appreciated. Also, I think her parents are trying to get power of attorney over her finally since she’s 18. This has been very difficult with her being 18, but still in High school, but being treated as an adult, but she is no where near ready to be one. Sorry to be long winded, I have a lot going on in my head, and this is all new and frustrating, and just don’t know what to do. Thanks for any helpful advice!!

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If there is a NAMI chapter in your area, you could see if they have a family support group.

My son was first diagnosed as bipolar in his late teens. It then morphed into schizoaffective and finally schizophrenia by around 30. You do need to have a relationship with a psychiatrist you trust. I think if your stepdaughter gives someone HIPPA access they can talk to the person. That person would benefit from observations from family members and not just the patient. The right meds and medication compliance is important. Do you know if she’s compliant? I understand that splitting households would make it difficult to know. Would it be possible to have a family meeting with the two households, with or without your stepdaughter present, to discuss matters?

Whatever meds she’s taking, if she’s taking them, don’t seem to be working. A talk with the psychiatrist to get their take on this would be helpful. If you don’t get satisfaction there, you might try getting an opinion from another psychiatrist.


I highly suggest you look into the NAMI family to family classes and that you and your husband get yourself through those classes. Educating yourself on what severe mental illness is, is very important. Personally, it didn’t matter what diagnosis my daughter had, it mattered what psychiatrist she saw and what meds she was on. If she is hearing voices and seeing things and acting out then she is suffering from something that is going to haunt her all the rest of her life. I am so sorry you are trying to handle this as a step-parent.

The book by Dr. Amador “I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help” has a method called LEAP that I found very valuable. I had to read the book 3 times to pull out of it what was good for my family.

Read on this site as much as you can, ideas for helping your step-daughter may come from these pages.

The HIPPA laws are difficult to navigate. If your step-daughter signs a release at her treating physician’s office for the parents to be able to talk to the psychiatrist etc. THAT will be very very valuable during psychotic episodes especially.


Thank you both for the tips…I found a local NAMI group and am going to see if I can attend the family to family classes. In the meantime, the Dr increased her meds to see what that does. I know medication alone isn’t what she needs but hopefully it will help.


I am so glad you found a local NAMI group. It is very rough to learn about severe mental illness, and usually it is not easy to get someone over 18 to accept treatment due to their own belief they don’t NEED treatment, and due to the HIPPA laws. I cried when I found out about anosognosia. I cried in many of the NAMI meetings (support groups and classes) for myself, my daughter, and for other people’s loved ones. But the learning WAS so necessary to finding solutions.


You need to have a serious talk with your husband. All this should be handled by him. And you can support.


Did she ever get a differential diagnosis? It’s important to get a full medical workup for psychosis. It’s actually not exclusively psychiatric. There’s known medical causes too for psychosis, like Wilson’s Disease, tumor, lupus, etc. that need to be ruled out first before considering a psychiatric diagnosis. Here’s information on a differential diagnosis for psychosis:

It’s important she goes through the medical tests just in case, because a misdiagnosis or not treating the right cause can be very problematic. Often times this isn’t done and symptoms are assumed to be psychiatric because doctors don’t do their due diligence, but if you follow up and want this to get done, they should do all the necessary testing.

If it’s psychiatric, there’s great outpatient programs specifically for young people called Early Intervention Psychosis programs. They are multidisciplinary, integrated, specialized support for young people newly diagnosed who experience psychosis. They also provide family support too. These programs are generally highly recommended, because they usually provide more support. Plus they are usually free too as they are often government funded. Here’s a US directory of the available programs done by Stanford University. Hopefully there’s one near you.

I hope things get better for her and your family.