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Does My Brother Have Paranoia or Schizophrenia?

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hi – I’m new here, but don’t where else to go. This is in regard to my sibling.

He is 37 and lives with my mother in Florida. He has a severe problem with marijuana and has a history of substance abuse (cocaine, LSD, psilocybin, MDMA/MDA, alcohol). He currently has no job, isn’t looking, and no other prospects. He had a job recently, but was terminated. Also, very negative and seems to self-sabotage any job he may find. Seemed to find a conspiracy at work.

Additionally, he has developed an intense and chronic obsession with conspiracy theories (New World Order, Illuminati, MK Ultra programming, 9/11, fallen angels, aliens, psilocybin just to name a few). He already hurt himself where the EMS had to intervene (non-life threatening). Every conversation revolves around one aspect of a conspiracy whether its music, movies, governments, politics, etc. He believes the United States will collapse due to a well orchestrated plan by the “shadow” government.

He has driven friends away and doing well to drive family away.

He spends his time online posting “articles” and information regarding the “truth” about government, or the “truth” about the music industry. He also told me he believed aliens came in the house and unplugged some electronics connected to the TV. He also believes there are aliens flying around the housing complex at night (even though they are obviously planes, we live near several airports). Believes they “hover” over the house on a nightly basis.

He over reacts, sometimes aggressively, to the slightest criticism, whether it be about appearance, performance, ect. Believes marijuana is some miracle drug and simply won’t listen to ANY criticism or reason. He refuses any advice or input from anyone, regardless (for example he contacted the Mutual UFO network to “report” his sightings. A retired military person paid a visit and confirmed planes in the area) of whom they may be.

I realize this is a lot, but I’m worried and have been worried for years. I don’t know if I can help, or if there is help?

Generally speaking, the only time you can force an individual into treatment is when he or she poses an imminent danger to themselves or to others. In that circumstance, an individual could be committed to a mental hospital, typically for a short period of time (about one week but each case is variable). Once they no longer pose an imminent threat, they are released from the hospital with a recommended treatment plan. Typically, people can choose to follow the recommended treatment plan or not. If they don’t comply, there is no “penalty.”

Your mother may be in the best position to leverage him into treatment. She allows him to live with her despite him not being in treatment. If she no longer allowed that, then he may be forced to seek help. That might be the only way to convince him to participate in treatment.

Short of your mother attempting to leverage him into treatment, there is probably little else that can be done. As long as she allows him to live in her home, behaving the way he does, then he has no reason to change.

Depending upon how involved you are with your brother’s care, you may be able to assist your mother. Involve other members of the family if you think it would help.

Whether or not he has schizophrenia could only be determined by an in-person, mental health evaluation. He displays paranoid tendencies but it is difficult to know if it is due to his drug use or a mental illness.

For additional assistance, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is an advocacy group that assists people in navigating the mental health system. They may be able to provide you with additional ideas and resources for your family. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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