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When Someone You Love Has SchizophreniaSchizophrenia And Your Family

Schizophrenia affects the whole family. It can be especially tough for brothers and sisters of schizophrenia sufferers. If you are a brother or sister of someone with schizophrenia, you may be feeling many of the following emotions:

Guilt. Healthy siblings often feel guilty about not being the sick one. Sometimes the healthy sibling may feel the need to be supersuccessful in order to make up for the ill sibling's failures and avoid causing more problems for the parents.

Resentment. It is not at all unusual for healthy siblings to feel occasional resentment toward the ill sibling. Often parents spend so much time worrying about their child with schizophrenia that they do not save enough time and attention for their healthy children.

Grief. Healthy siblings may often feel grief over the loss of their relationship with their brother or sister—the way it “used to be.”

Worry. Because schizophrenia seems to be at least partly inherited, many siblings of people with schizophrenia worry that they might also become sick one day.

Embarrassment. Because of the stigma and embarrassment surrounding mental illness, families often try to hide the illness from others. This can be especially tough for siblings. It is already hard enough for kids and teenagers to feel as though they fit in. The last thing they want people to think is that their brother or sister is “psycho.” This can result in feelings of loneliness because they feel that they have no one to talk to. To make things worse, people generally know very little about schizophrenia and may tell jokes or make comments that spread inaccurate information about the illness. For example, in Sarah's town, people make jokes about someone with schizophrenia having multiple personalities; as you know from reading this book, however, schizophrenia is actually very different from multiple personality disorder.

Confusion. When a loved one becomes sick, it is natural to try to find an explanation for the illness. Even though it is well established that schizophrenia, much like heart disease or diabetes, has a biological cause, many people find themselves wondering if they did something to cause the illness: “What if I had paid more attention to him when he was younger?” “Maybe I shouldn't have expected her to do so much.” Although we do not yet know the exact causes of schizophrenia, we do know that people do not cause the illness by being mean or demanding any more than a person can cause diabetes or cancer in this way.

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