Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Wrong or False Memories


Do your loved ones with schizophrenia have memories that are false or that don’t line up with how things actually were in the past?

My daughter has several times now commented on something she remembers that I don’t think could have happened or that I know didn’t happen in the past. I was wondering if that is from the schizophrenia or from something else.


I don’t know the cause, but I think she is still communicating something real to her.

Like with a delusion, it’s not the content, but the feeling.

I used to have “false” memories and many of them turned out to be dreams, but I did not guess that, even though the content was unusual. So the memories were real to me. As a child, I tried to take my dad to places I had seen in dreams in real life, long walks near where I lived. I would break down sobbing in frustration when I couldn’t find the places again. Even though they were ocean islands and we lived in the middle of the midwest, I did not figure out that it wasn’t real until decades later.


From my experience - delusions (during a psychotic phase of the illness) happen both in the moment, and also in memories. So yes - I’ve seen the same thing you’ve seen. Things are distorted and inaccurate just like the daily delusions. When the person is treated and on medication - usually these go away, in my experience.



Yes, I think that’s part of scz. My son talks of things that is false to us, but real to him.


Definitely. And things he believes I said which would have been diametrically opposed to my own interests if I had said them. Sometimes we just agree to differ. I think it is quite painful for him nowadays to look back in the past and at his memories. He wants to believe that the onset of the illness was abrupt and recent. I believe it started a long time ago but was so subtle and slow that we didn’t properly perceive what was happening. I see him looking back now and struggling to hold onto the idea that he really was OK “back then.” I think the change in self-image that it demands is very painful for him. So I don’t encourage talking about the past.


This seems to be the case with my daughter as well. It makes her sad to think of her former self and where she is at now.

I also think the onset of this illness goes farther back than we might realize. A couple of years before she started withdrawing and isolating herself, she had a bout of depression and her perception of events seemed very off-kilter at the time. That was also the first time she mentioned memories that seemed false or incorrect to me, but I chalked it up to childhood imagination or maybe her penchant for dramatics. Looking back, it might have been the beginnings of schizophrenia.


We are in the same boat. My son looks back at the short time he was in college and involved in exciting things. Negative symptoms now keep him from doing much of anything. I’m hoping this will improve as his psychosis continues under control.

I just mentioned to someone else that I think his illness probably started much earlier as well - there were things going on, it just wasn’t identified as schizophrenia, or prodromal stage.


I talked to one of the psych nurses at my son’s clinic about this. I was pretty distressed about not catching it in the prodromal period and prioritizing treatment over sympathy. He told me that he lived in a family (I’m guessing his partner) where the teenage son was developing sz and even he didn’t spot it. From what the nurse said he himself must have been in his late thirties/early forties, so pretty experienced as a nurse by then. He said you just “find reasons” for every piece of behavior. I know that’s what I did. I just kept trying to understand and sympathize. Ironically, I think if we were less sympathetic, we’d be less likely to follow the sufferer down the ‘rabbit hole.’ The thing is that it really isn’t clear until you hit some really far out delusions or psychosis. Only then.


Yep. We can’t beat ourselves up over it. It is a sneaky illness.


I agree - its so hard. 40 kids will have the same symptoms and then grow out of it and be fine… but some relatively small percentage will become psychotic. Its very hard to strike the balance between being overly concerned about small things - and getting early prodromal treatment. Obviously if you have a family history the emphasis has to be on early prodromal treatment - but for those without a family history its very hard to identify the prodromal signs.