Children who grow up with a parent with schizophrenia have a lack of understanding about the condition. They may ask questions like, “What is schizophrenia like? Why is my mom or my dad acting this way? Is it my fault?” This experience can have long-term impacts on healthy childhood development.
In this piece, we’ll talk about what it’s like to be schizophrenic and the challenges a parent with this mental health condition faces when raising children. We’ll also talk about potential consequences on children in the long run and why it’s so important to get help.
What is schizophrenia like? The fact that this disease is not well understood makes it difficult to diagnose and treat effectively. There are several types of schizophrenia, and while the disease is marked by several telltale signs when it’s at its most severe, early signs can be hard to pin down.
A person with schizophrenia will often experience delusions or full-blown hallucinations, seeing and interacting with people who aren’t there. They may also suffer from disorganized thinking or speech, saying things that don’t make sense to other people. They’re often extremely paranoid because of their delusions, thinking other people are conspiring to hurt them. They may even become a danger to those around them. Untreated schizophrenia can make it extremely difficult to live a healthy, enjoyable life because its effects can be constant.
What Is Schizophrenia Like for a Parent?
Understanding what schizophrenia is like helps to explain why people with conditions like these have a difficult time providing a stable environment to raise a child.
A parent with untreated schizophrenia may have difficulty providing for their child’s basic needs, like food, transportation to school and educational enrichment. Often, people with schizophrenia perceive the people around them as threats and lash out or, in extreme cases, try to harm their loved ones or themselves. It goes without saying that this is far from a healthy environment for a child. They may internalize their parent’s behavior as something they caused, which can have long-term effects on their self-esteem and healthy development.
All of this can affect the future outcomes of the child, even if there’s another parent or guardian in the household who can help.
Long-Term Effect of Schizophrenia on Children
What are the consequences of being raised by a parent battling a severe psychological condition like schizophrenia? Studies show these children suffer worse outcomes than their peers, lagging in social and academic development at an early age. Children with a schizophrenic mother were more likely to face negative effects because of the importance of the maternal bond in early development. These children are more likely to develop mood disorders like depression and anxiety as they get older.
Living with a parent who suffers from a mental disorder is classified as an adverse childhood experience (ACE). This is a category of childhood trauma that’s heavily linked with consequences lasting into adulthood. Children who experience ACEs growing up are more likely to struggle with employment, experience financial insecurity and face substance abuse or mental health issues themselves.
Steps to Take to Resolve Trauma Caused by a Schizophrenic Parent
As a result of their condition, the actions of a schizophrenic parent may be categorized as abuse or neglect because of the way their children are affected. That’s why it’s critically important to seek help as soon as possible.
What a Parent With Schizophrenia Can Do to Mitigate Damage Done
If you’re struggling to control schizophrenia or a similar disease and worried about how it’s affecting your children, you’re not alone. Many people with mental and behavioral health issues have to reconcile with the ways their conditions make it difficult to manage their responsibilities as a parent. There are steps you can take to make sure your schizophrenia feelings don’t do long-term damage to your child, their healthy development and your relationship with them in the long run.
Seeking Help for Yourself or a Loved One With Schizophrenia
The first step is to get the help you need. This means immediate, often intensive, psychological care. In many cases, people with schizophrenia can manage their symptoms using a combination of therapy and medication, but no two cases are exactly alike, and it may take time to find a treatment plan that works for you.
However, those who understand what it’s like to be schizophrenic know that even making the decision to get help is often easier said than done. People who experience this illness often can’t come to terms with the need to get help because they’re having trouble thinking clearly and perceiving reality. If you have a loved one suffering from schizophrenia, make sure they have access to effective care to the extent of your capabilities. Here are some tips for supporting someone you live with who has schizophrenia.
Getting Your Child the Help They Need
It’s also important to make sure children have access to the support they need while their parent is beginning and undergoing treatment for schizophrenia. This can come in the form of a professional child psychologist the child can talk to about the challenges of living with a schizophrenic parent and other issues they may not be able to talk about with that parent due to their condition.
Many children in this situation can also find stability with other family members. In a study examining the long-term effects of growing up with a parent with schizophrenia, 84% of respondents said forming a supportive relationship with at least one other family member made them more resilient.
Getting Help at FHE Health
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, it’s important for everyone involved that you seek help as soon as possible. At FHE Health, we offer intensive treatment programs for a wide range of mental health conditions. If you know what schizophrenia is like, you know how much the right mix of medications, therapies and other treatments can make a difference for a person suffering from this complex disease. Reach out today and learn more about the options we offer.