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Infatuated With Someone With Schizophrenia

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I work in a boarding house/assisted living facility where most of our residents are mentally ill. I’ve been in this field for about 3 years. I’ve worked mainly with the elderly, rehabilitating or those with dementia. I’ve been with my current employer for about 7 months. Working with the mentally ill is new to me, but I’m adapting well and coming to understand what I’m dealing with more and more.

Over the months of my occupation at this facility I’ve had a growing interest in one of our residents. He’s a 37 year old man who has schizophrenia. At first it was a mild curiosity. Now I’m so preoccupied with thoughts of him that I have to mentally slap myself into reality when I’m at work to finish basic tasks.

He’s quite withdrawn and impassive. I understand that this is a basic symptom of his condition. Just in the last few months I’ve noticed some positive changes in his countenance that bring me great joy. I’ll see him smile and lightly giggle to himself when he thinks no one is watching. Lately I’m able to identify what he finds amusing and this also pleases me because the cause is appropriate to the corresponding emotion. This gives me hope that his illness isn’t as serious as it could be.

I have come to find him terribly attractive and my heart changes pace when he chooses to look me in the eye and speak to me. I feel like I’m the only person on earth when he finds the courage to communicate with me without prompting. I have difficulty getting him off my mind. When I’m at work I hope that he will ask me for something just to have a chance to interact with him. When I come home I think about him and daydream of being able to hug and kiss him until I fall asleep. The sad thing is that I haven’t slept much in lue of these thoughts.

I think about leaving my place of work just so it could be ethical for me to take him to a movie or to dinner, but then I have to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Am I infatuated with this man for the wrong reasons? Would I be a threat to his mental stability if I pursued some kind of romantic relationship with him? Or would it actually be helpful to his recovery to have an interested female in his life?

His face sheet does not tell me anything about his history or how he came to be one of our residents. I can only speculate, but I’ve often wondered. He seems so much more adjusted than any of our other residents, despite his withdrawal which is slowly dissipating.

I’m well aware that if I successfully established the beginning of a dating relationship with such a person that some of my more common needs may not be met. His is a selfish disease. I do not care. I would be willing to set aside my needs for his just to have the closeness with him that I crave.

I’m unsure how to handle this. I’m sure he’s aware of my adoration of him. It’s all I can do not to just wrap my arms around him and tell him how lovely and wonderful he is. I will not violate the ethics of my job, but my infatuation with this man is quite powerful. I am confused and sad with this situation.

It’s kind and thoughtful of you to care so much about one of your patients. Working with individuals who have schizophrenia can be challenging and it’s good to know there are people who care about helping them recover.

You are faced with a difficult situation. The goal for you in this situation should be to do what is best for the individual you are caring for. His mental health and stability should be your utmost concern.

You mentioned that you did not want to engage in unethical behavior. Fantasizing about him is unethical. Remember that he is currently your patient and you are his attending caregiver.

Most relationships do not develop like the one you’ve described. You said that you would forgo your needs to be with him. It’s not healthy for you to do this. You’d likely be okay with not having your needs met at first but after a short while you may begin to feel resentful towards him because he could not meet them. One-sided relationships usually do not last very long.

There are also other important factors to consider. You do not know his history. Usually individuals who live in residential living facilities have very serious illness histories. He may be severely mentally ill. If so it may be difficult for him to engage in a relationship. You said that he is withdrawn and quiet. This may be due to illness symptoms or it could be related to the medications he is taking. With regard to medications, we do not know how they are affecting him emotionally. Some medications cause a person to be withdrawn or to have a flat affect. Medications also change an individual’s personality. If he were to eventually come off of his medications he might be a completely different person.

You also thought that you could help him recover from schizophrenia if you and he were together. You seem to believe that your love could help him be cured of schizophrenia. That’s almost like saying that love cures schizophrenia. That line of thinking is an insult to the families and spouses of individuals who have schizophrenia. If we asked them how much they love their family member with schizophrenia we’d almost assuredly find that they very much love their ill family member. But love can’t cure schizophrenia. He is mentally ill. His disease is very real. It’s unrealistic to think that your love can cure his schizophrenia.

I understand that you may not truly believe that you could cure his schizophrenia. You are trying to help him. It seems like you are a caring individual. Your desire to help him is very noble and kind but it’s important to be realistic.

The aforementioned information contains several important points to consider. Given the situation if your goal is to help him recover then it may be best for you to remain in the role of a caregiver. I would advise against attempting to pursue a relationship with him. He could be best served by your help, generosity and kindness with you as a caregiver. The last thing you want to do is to harm him. Engaging in a relationship with him has the potential to harm him while remaining his caregiver could only benefit him. I would suggest you do the latter.

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