Love Someone with Schizophrenia? How to Respond Appropriately to Delusions and Hallucinations

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Schizophrenia is a very serious condition that affects about 1% of the world’s total population. There are currently 3.2 million people in America alone who suffer from the condition. Essentially, schizophrenia is a mental disorder with various symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not there), disordered thinking, and behavioral issues. It can also lead to social withdrawal, delusions of grandeur, lack of personal hygiene, avoiding eye contact, and a loss of interest in activities. Overall, this condition can be very challenging to cope with both for the diagnosed individual as well as their friends and family. There are many methods for appropriately responding to delusions, some of which are as follows:

Avoid Challenging the Hallucinations or Delusions

While you shouldn’t agree with the person’s delusions or reinforce negative ideas, it is also important to avoid directly challenging them. This can lead to confrontation and can backfire. Remember that, to your loved one with schizophrenia, the hallucinations and delusions are real. Therefore, challenging them won’t solve anything.

Validate Their Emotions

It is important that you are still able to validate the person’s emotions. For example, you can acknowledge that they are upset or that they view things differently and try to reassure them that everything is going to be okay. However, as previously stated, you should avoid agreeing with the delusions because this can reinforce negative ideas and make things worse. Overall, you should try to empathize with them and encourage them. While challenging their thoughts may not be helpful, you can help them to walk through their delusions and ask them to provide evidence for their beliefs, which may allow you to help them to find alternative explanations. Explaining that you see things differently will help to define the boundaries between your reality and theirs.

Steer the Conversation to Neutral Territories

It can also be helpful to change the subject to something more positive. You can try to engage them in a fun activity or find something productive for them to do. This can help to take their mind off of the delusions and focus on something else for a while.

Call 911 (if Necessary)

If the person becomes violent towards others or themselves, you should immediately seek help and call 911. The situation can easily get out of hand if the person does not have control over their actions. Getting help can deescalate the situation and prevent anyone from getting harmed. Also, if you contact the authorities, they will be able to assess their condition and determine whether the person needs further help.

Overall, caring for someone suffering from schizophrenia can be incredibly challenging. There are often many highs and lows you will need to learn to navigate. If you are unsure of whether someone you care for is suffering from schizophrenia, it is important to have them seek professional help in order to find a diagnosis. You may also want to consider contacting a Social Security disability attorney, who can help you to navigate the process of filing for disability.