Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

When does support become enabling


My 36 year old son lives with me as he has schizophrenia. He does not work. He seems to live in a constant state of fear, anger and hatred and often includes me into these feelings. He is an amazing guitar player and writes great songs. Many of his songs are very dark because he is writing about his own experiences. He had recorded many songs and was wanting to put them out to You Tube when things went very bad again. For 5 months he just got worse and worse. Apparently, medicaid decided that they would not pay for the med that had been working well so his doctor had been trying several different meds. He ended up in the hospital after a suicide attempt where they finally put him back on the meds that work. He is again getting much better and is back to playing his guitar and wanting to begin recording. During the bad time he wiped out all of his recordings and destroyed his computer.
I always try to help him to get back to the things that he enjoys. I have helped him to purchase a new computer and I try to help him when I can. He lives in my unfinished basement, really a crawl space, but this is where he wants to be rather that the 2nd bedroom. I make sure that he has his meds and food and most anything that he asks for. My sister and brothers feel that I am enabling him and that I should push him to get his own housing. In my little town of less than 8000 there really isn’t much support of this kind.
I feel like I haven’t explained very well but thanks for taking the time to read.


Everyone is uniquely different but from my perspective I honestly don’t believe that when you are talking about someone with a serious mental illness (like my son) that you can call anything we do actual “enabling”. Not really. I call everything we do necessary. My son is almost 35 and has been stabilized for 8+ years now. I believe wholeheartedly that his stability has lasted because he is still living with me which keeps his stress levels very low. Low stress is a critical element for anyone with sz trying to remain stable. He has a predictable daily routine (chores, exercise, etc…) and I handle anything remotely stressful (bills, household management). He does help me around the house quite a bit and he has his hobbies and we do things together but I believe he is doing what he can do…we’ve tried other things over the years, living elsewhere, trying to get even part time work, taking classes, meeting people to make friends, and he is not wanting any of this and if I push him against his will, his stability becomes shaken and he seems to literally unravel…I believe and trust that he knows his limits and if I want him to stay as stable and able and happy as he is today…he will likely always live with me. PS: my son started off sleeping in his closet, today he uses his bedroom normally…seeing the benefits of real wellness can take a few years sometimes. My very best to you and your son and I am so ecstatic to hear that he is back on a medicine that is working for him. Take care and welcome to the forum!!


Hello Velma,
Welcome to the forum. What I hear from your post is how much you care for your son. Any parent would do the same. Sz can be so disabling, from what I read, these episodes can very very serious. I have experienced one episode with my son So I am by no means an expert, and No one else is walking in your shoes.
Thank you for sharing your story, AnnieNorCal


Medication can relieve or erase the symptoms of a mental illness, but it does not change their underlying personality. Our daughter was lazy when it came to chores around the house before her psychotic break and successful medication did not change that.

She also destroyed a vehicle, her phone, my laptop and laptop of others. We did not replace those for her. It took her sometime after successful medication to go to work, earn and replace those items. It’s enabling when you do everything for them (laundry, cooking, etc), replace what they destroy, or put their needs before yours such as spending a large portion of your own income (not saving for retirement) on them instead of on yourself.

It doesn’t sound like living in a crawl space/basement is enabling unless somehow that costs you extra. Your other adult children are probably more envious of the time spent with him. The area in which you live sounds fairly rural and probably difficult to find affordable housing for those with no issues. Even in medium to large cities, there is little to no housing available for those who suffer from a mental illness.



My favorite definition of enable: to do something for a person that they can do for themselves.

It’s sometimes hard to find out and make this distinction when a person has serious mental illness, but worth the effort as it protects the relationship.