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The Search for a Paranoid Schizophrenic Brother March 21, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Uncategorized.

In this weekend’s Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine, there is an article about a woman who spent years looking for her brother, a paranoid schizophrenic (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/pacificnw/2017692663_pacificpmissing18.htmlic ) In the article, she talks about the years of pain and suffering she and her family underwent as their family member suffered through his illness.   When she finally tracked him down, he had been dead for years.

Unlike “normal”  illnesses, paranoid schizophrenics have a symptom that makes it almost impossible to treat without the intervention of mental health professionals.  That symptom is called Anosognosia  (I  wrote an entire blog about this symptom).  It means that because the person suffering from the illness has no insight into their condition, they won’t accept treatment for it.  They don’t seek help or accept help because they genuinely don’t believe they’re ill.   This unique symptom is why I have labeled this condition the worst disease in the world.  All of the pain and suffering this family endured is the result of this symptom- to say nothing about the suffering paranoia has on the afflicted person.

In my duties as the phone message taker for my local NAMI affiliate, I come across at least two phone messages a week from loved ones looking for answers to this specific dilemma.  They can’t get help because their full-grown loved one doesn’t recognize they are ill. Any talk about getting them help results in deep distrust and escapism. It is frustrating to have to tell those callers that unless their loved one has been declared “a danger to himself or others” by a designed mental health professional, there is nothing that they can do about their illness-struck family member. It is heartbreaking to hear those stories week after week.

It all comes down to the fact that our laws don’t recognize anosogonia as a symptom that should be an exception to the current law. In the case of that symptom, the law  requiring the person having to demonstrate that they are a danger to themselves or others by a third party before they can receive help should be abolished.  If this law were changed to allow for intervention before the person ended up in prison, the world would be a better place.  The jail and prison populations would be substantially less, and we would be able to stop wasting money on these incarcerated mentally ill people who failed to seek treatment.

Instead of making this exception to the law, the jails and prisons are full of people who didn’t receive the mental health care that would have turned them into productive members of society.  The cost of their incarceration is enormous, averaging $40,000 per year. This doesn’t include the lost taxes and spending that would have been generated had the person been a productive member of society instead of a drain on society.  What I don’t understand is why nobody else perceives this problem the way that I do.  It seems so cut and dried.

If the law could be changed just for people suffering from paranoid schizophrenia to acknowledge the anosogonia symptom, thus allowing people to get help, it would do the world a lot of good.

Had this symptom been acknowledged in that sister’s attempt to get her brother help, the story might have ended without her brother’s death.  It’s too bad things didn’t turn out.  Maybe in the future things will be different.  It could have saved a life and make the quality of life better for that younger sister and her family



1. Scorpiomoon - June 14, 2012

My girlfriend has a daughter that has been diagnosed as being Bi Polar Paranoid Schizophrenic after being taken to the hospital the 4th time now, basically against her will. It’s been interesting to view everything from a third party viewpoint since my girlfriend and I have just gone through divorces and found each other via the net – I being the outsider of sorts. The illness truly is one of the most terrible a person can have – that being told to me during a psychology course I had to take in college. I never really was given a chance to see it up close with my own eyes. It is a wake-up for me. They can be violent, simple recluse, happy, sad, depressed, intelligent and beyond focused, extremely mad at someone forever and forever switching subjects verbally to the point nothing is making sense ever.

Society has created a world where because mainly of the current HIPPA laws that once the child reaches adulthood, nothing can be said and done if in fact a relative is not on the HIPPA list. And believe me, a person with this illness will never put anyone they live with on that list since they see them as a threat. So life goes on in a fashion of being hauled off to the hospital, being re-diagnosed, prescribed some medication, being released after a week after insurance runs out and the patient being thrown back into a place where they think the world is out to get them. You can’t do anything for them, they believe there is nothing wrong with them, refuse to take any medication and down the road once family either kicks them out or passes on, end up homeless and/or in prison like you mention. At least after reading the above blog I can walk away with a symptom (Anosognosia) and read up on it for sure.

I hoping for the best in my case since all I see is a revolving door we created here. How do you treat a person that obviously needs treatment but refuses to be treated and has the law on their side yet makes life a living hell for all those around them? They truly believe the world is at fault and they are fine. There is a glimmer of hope in maybe seeking a judge to intervene and get the proper people on the HIPPA list. Who knows where that will go. The last resort is the person becomes a ward of the state and lives a meaningless life in some institution. What a way to go ….

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