both parents w/schizophrenia/mental health issues?
Our fs is 2 this month. He has been with us for almost a year. He was put in foster care d/t neglect. Birth Mom is with significant mental health issues including schizophrenia. She has been in and out of jail and treatment centers this whole past year. She does not conform to any recommendations/medications for her illness. She is simply UNABLE to parent. BD is better. I really didn't even know he had mental health issues until last court date when dcs brought up that he had a schizophrenia diagnosis and refused to seek treatment or take meds.
My question- Baby J is an active loving little boy. I see NO unusual behavior. When he first came to us he was quiet and NEVER EVER cried I would find him awake in the crib at midnight just sitting there and I would have no idea how long he'd been awake because he woukld not make ANY noise. Now he wakes upo and yells MOMMY and lets us all know he is awake and wants attention. This is the only thing I have ever noticed- and it is better. What are his chances of developing mental health problems. Would we pick up on anything at this age. It doesn't matter. We love him and will adopt the minute we get the chance, but I am trying to educate myself and know what to watch for and when, etc.
Thank You
That is a tough one, and you will get different answers.

My experience... my oldest came to live with us when he was eleven months old. Today, at age 14, he is an extremely well adjusted child. His Bmom has many mental health issues. The most we notice with him is a bit of impulsiveness. He did have ADHD issues when younger, but these were basically handled through some different parenting approaches, and we never had to use medication. Otherwise, he is perfect, and shows no signs of issues with mental health. We do not know who his bfather is, so although I can give you no direct history, I am sure that his mental health is not all that great, given that anyone who would be this close to the bmother probably has some issues as well.

We are in the process of adopting his biological (half) sister. She is 12, and came to live with us around three months ago. She lived with Bmom for 8 years. She has multiple issues, among the worst, severe ADHD. They felt that there were many others as well, but as she has been with us, in a stable, loving home, many of these are fading. We are gradually refining (eleminating) many of her medications, but I can tell you that the ADHD meds will not be going away right off. Many of her issues appear to be related to past abuse, and poor parenting, and I think that we can make it through them.

It seems that you have your son young enough, that you may be fine as well. And then again, remember, that there are many people with biological children that develop mental health problems. He is probably too young for you to pick up on anything right now.
It is highly unlikely that you'd be able to see signs of mental illness in a child this young. You may want to familiarize yourself with potential behaviors as the child gets older, but don't go overboard. Many normal childhood behaviors can be misinterpreted as mental illness. With both parents having been diagnosed with schizophrenia, the child does have a higher possibility that he will develop the disorder, but it's not a guarantee. Research is showing that mental illness has a genetic link, but more in the form of a predispostition to developing the condition. The traditional onset of schizophrenia is in the late teens-early 20's, though onset may be earlier in subsequent generations. It's good that you are aware of the condition for both of the biological parents, so you can keep an eye out for possible indications of that or other mental health conditions.
when you say a predisposition to develop -do you mean that the genetic link can be there but not really manifest itself? I have read some on the web and if I understand it right then he could actually have the genetic link but less of a chance to develop it if he is in a stable , loving home then say if he were living in a home with significant instability and "triggers".
does that paragraph even make sense? I'm not asking for gaurentees, We love J and will pray that he becomes our son but I'm trying hard to understand what I can about this illness. Thank you for your answers.
I would agree... the genetic link MAY be there, but much of it is enviromenal as well. Your own efforts to make a stalbe will go a long way... yes, sometimes it isn't enough, but it sure can help.
momma24rn said...
when you say a predisposition to develop -do you mean that the genetic link can be there but not really manifest itself? I have read some on the web and if I understand it right then he could actually have the genetic link but less of a chance to develop it if he is in a stable , loving home then say if he were living in a home with significant instability and "triggers".
does that paragraph even make sense? I'm not asking for gaurentees, We love J and will pray that he becomes our son but I'm trying hard to understand what I can about this illness. Thank you for your answers.

One thing to keep in mond is that many people with schizophrenia come from loving, stable homes. There was recently a cover story on about a 21 year old who had a full ride to Johns Hopkins and then ended up losing everything due to the onset of his schizophrenia. I believe the new movie "The Soloist" is about a similar story.

I would just be aware that there may not be anything you can do to prevent him from becoming schizophrenic despite your best efforts. Just like I probably can't prevent my biological kids from developing major depressive disorder either...kwim?
Yeah, the predisposition means that he may be more likely to develop the disorder due to his genetic make up. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules as to how much of it is genetically determined and how much of it is environmentally determined. I've seen people who have their first psychotic break and are from stable, upper class families and some with horribly unstable backgrounds. There are structural changes in the brains of those with schizophrenia, unfortunately it is uncertain if these structural changes are due to the illness or a by-product of it. The one thing that I will say is those with a supportive family tend to be higher functioning than those who don't.
Children can indeed get schizophrenia. This is not common but it can happen. My partner's brother had schizophrenia by age 4 and Sheila Cantor wrote an excellent book on childhood schizophrenia and she had plenty of patients, I don't know why it is said to be so extremely rare. I have just met too many kids with it without even trying, for that to be the case. But while I would not say 'extremely rare' (1 in millions) I would not say 'common' (1 in 100). Somewhere in between.

I don't feel schizophrenia has much at all to do with early environment. Studies today indicate it starts well before birth. Earlier guesses about 'environment' tended to center around the fact that even with one parent with it, the occurance is low. The only explanation was thought to be that it must be environmental. But there are a number of other simple explanations and the chief one is that there are many genes, not one gene. People have various reasons for disbelief in gene studies - I think mostly people feel 'genetic disease is hopeless' but schizophrenia is only hopeless when the illness is denied and treatment is not started.

I think it is mostly genetic and a number of studies have shown that when children are adopted even immediately at birth, they develop schizophrenia at a fairly predictable rate.

Evidence shows it is caused by the combined action of hundreds of genes, rather than 1 or 2, so it isn't 'inherited' like blue eyes or other simple traits where we envision one dominant gene - the occurance of it may also be linked not completely to genes that are inherited from mother or father in any way, but to genes that fold over of duplicate wrong during early development once the fetus is formed.

I don't think early mistreatment causes schizophrenia, though it certaintly doesn't help. Kids and adults with a chronic mental health problem need above all, trust and confidence and stable support, and they don't get that in negative situations. Poor family situations also delay diagnosis and increase the length of 'DUP' (duration of untreated psychosis) which is a key factor in how well things come out.

The thing is though, 'predicting' and 'rates' are all about groups of people and general trends, not individuals. There isn't any way to tell if your individual child will get schizophrenia. Statistics are only general trends in large groups of people.

That said, more children get schizophrenia when both parents have the illness, than if one parent has it or neither has it. The rate in the general population is about 1% (lifetime adjusted risk, kind of a statistic but it is helpful). When one parent has it, studies usually give a percentage of 10-14%, and when both have it, studies vary in the result because the designs of the studies are so different, but yes, the rate is higher.

It still doesn't say if YOUR child will get it. My partner's brother, mother, grandmother were very severely ill with it, talk about loading the dice, and he does not have it. That said, he remains somewhat shy and reserved, and can't take a lot of stress, for example, he couldn't publish and teach and failed to get tenure. But no one would say he has schizophrenia. Still I have a great variety of friends who do have this illness - one is a professional graphics artist, one is the head of a teaching program for the local network of teaching hospitals and speaks all over the world on schizophrenia. I am SURE...the good out comes are from consistent and early treatment, as soon as symptoms started. Not everyone gets a mild case of it and some people's lives are more limited than others. It's important to have reasonable expectations and for example not pressure a kid that he must have a career as a doctor or lawyer if he has a more severe illness, but love, a decent quality of life, these can always happen. All it takes is lots of work.

I think the most important thing, is to always be very hopeful and positive. Modern medicines are very good and people tend to do very, very well as long as one doesn't put off treatment - most cases (65%) these days are moderate or mild (according to another study). Being in denial or discounting symptoms is a big, big mistake. It is far better to go in and ask a psychiatrist and find out for sure. Since it will show on some of the new MRI's or PET scans that is also a possible diagnosis route.

If you do at some point think you're seeing symptoms, sit down and talk very openly with the child and be very accepting and positive, 'well, good girl for telling me, those are hallucinations, there's a medicine for that, we'll get that medicine and get on about our business, we can handle this'. The thing is to not be afraid of the symptoms, whether they occur in an adult or child.

I recall years ago reading that a little seven year old boy came up to his mom and sat in her lap and stared into her eyes and asked in a frightened voice, 'why are people's faces always changing?' the mother said they DON'T change and he never spoke to her again about it! Then when the symptoms later turned out to be schizophrenia as a teen and young man he could never face it or accept any treatment, so he became more and more ill and the story did not end well.

Instead, say, 'Tell me son, how do they change?', and listen and thank them for telling you. Rest assured, if they tell you they see something, they are seeing it, all research indicates they do indeed see and hear what they say they see and hear! In a family where psychiatry is openly discussed, such as a family where a mom is a psychiatric nurse or dad volunteers at the local residential facility, a person might feel more comfortable sharing his symptoms.

Little bits of symptoms may come and go in childhood and never occur again, or they may develop into schizophrenia.

Some doctors feel early treatment at the first small signs will prevent it from ever becoming full blown, so pushing any concerns away or discounting them, is not a good idea.

Talk to a psychiatrist if you have concerns - I will probably anger some by saying psychologists and GP's are not equipped, but I strongly believe this after many decades of working with schizophrenics and listening to family's accounts of how things went. Too many psychologists have said to me, 'Oh he's just troubled over xyz' or 'it's the family dynamics'. There is usually NOTHING wrong with the family dynamics.

People often tend to concentrate only on the hallucinations or delusional thinking, but schizophrenia is an illness that affects the brain in other ways. Coordination, memory, planning, drive and trust are often affected.

Infants who later get schizophrenia often are born with low muscle tone, though that is not a specific sign. They may have trouble reaching and grasping, they may even crawl lopsidedly or in one direction more...also not a specific sign. They may not move through the 'close the eyes and reach' to the normal grabbing stages with the eyes open. But it's usually when people look back over the years that they say...' THAT'S why he used to do that'.

Children who get schizophrenia often going from low muscle tone at birth to normal muscle tone and back again to low tone and poor posture right before they become ill. If they do get schizophrenia very young, the commonest reason for taking them to a psychiatrist is often serious sleep problems.

Parents have also often told me their soon-to-be schizophrenic child disliked swings or rocking horses or any toy that moved them backward. One doctor once wrote that the commonest thing for such kids to say is, 'can we go home yet?' They may have 'temper tantrums' that don't seem to end, such as crying inconsolably for hours after a very slight disappointment. They may have 'extremes' of behavior - or seem like a regular kid one day and do strange things the next day. It can be very hard to explain one's concerns to a relative who may say, 'but that's NORMAL for a kid!' without understanding the intensity or rigidity of the behavior that you're seeing. For example, I saw a film of one kid who spent all afternoon sobbing because 'the sun came in the window and hit me in the eye!'

My friend's son with schizophrenia came home at age seven, sobbing because he 'was not invited to the valentines day party'. I mean SOBBING. His poor mom stomped right up to the teacher the next day demanding to know why her son was excluded. 'WHAT PARTY?' said the teacher. The boy was NOT making it up. He had been observing the other children and misinterpreted their conversations because he had delusional thinking.

Often it starts like that. Things that could be reasonable. In fact, when my friend's husband became sick (as an adult) she was CONVINCED by his accounts of the events, that everyone at work was picking on him. But as time went on the ideas got odder and odder and less likely.

WHAT they get upset about, WHAT they say is happening, just depends on what's around adult will complain the IRS is persecuting him, a child will say teenage mutant ninja turtles are after him, but it's the same kind of feeling, terrible fear and anxiety. The world seems to change and things don't look right, it seems like the whole world is playing tricks on you, talking about you, laughing at you, whispering about you.

I once visited a play group with several schizophrenic kids and found I was beseiged by 'leaners', LOL. That's another thing I've noticed with kids who get sick. Every one of those adorable kids was leaning all over me. Some feel they do that due to low muscle tone. I just feel they want someone to lean on Smile

Some people say children get more visual hallucinations than adults do - I'm not sure but I know they often are less guarded about discussing it. With a kid, you often have to teach them to STOP chattering about the cats and the numbers and the ghosts and PLEASE set the table!

People who aren't experiencing the symptoms usually react with either horror or boredom or they ARGUE with the person or child! Never argue, listen. You don't have to agree, if asked if you hear it or see it, you can say, 'no, I never had that, but I'd like to understand how it is for you'. DON'T argue. They ARE seeing it and feeling it. If a person tells me they fear something irrational, I use it as a chance to build some trust.

So for example when one patient insisted hot tap water was 'poison', I smiled at him and ran the cold water. 'Here you are, I think you prefer it cold'. End of argument, start of trust. When a patient insisted a lunch worker was poisoning him, I said, 'Well let's just start working toward you getting your apartment, you can't sit around and be dependent on someone to make you lunch, right?'

But when these things like this happen, you do have to start thinking about the accumulated impressions all around you and how things are going, and if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck it's probably a duck. And the only real response is to call a psychiatrist and make an appointment.

Visual hallucinations might start off as bright flashes or streaks, they're often light in a dark area or dark if the child is in a brightly lit area. Sometimes they look like flying specs or lumps.

Sound hallucinations might start off sounding like a swish, clash or scraping sound. Sometimes they sound like whispers, one fellow told me his first hallucination sounded like a very faint slamming door. Hallucinations can occur in any sensory form - sometimes a person feels like they are being pushed or itchy or crawly sensations on the skin(a 'competer', like a terry cloth wrist sweat band, can lessen that).

Everyone has to learn to not be distracted by hallucinations - the person with the illness as well as the family. I read one mother wrote, 'you don't REALLY thinkk that's going to get you out of setting the table, DO YOU?' and medication really helps to tame them and make them not seem so absorbing.

Sometimes the voices are very mean and everyone needs a lot of support in those cases - ''dumb old mean thing''. Talking back to the hallucination calmly can help too, 'okay, okay, take it easy'. The accusations can be awful - sinfulness, the person is gay, dirty, should die...don't let it alarm you. It doesn't have anything to do with anything. It's just symptoms. It is not who the person is. It's just that brain misfiring. What their symptoms are is NOT their fault. Learning to manage them IS.

Too, symptoms can increase when schedule changes pop up which stress the person. Having to make a lot of decisions and getting a lot of pressure tends to make the symptoms worse too.

Many people will have no noticeable symptoms in childhood, some will have a few and then none again til adulthood. It's thought that growth of the brain 'uncovers' the defects in the growth of the nerve cells at key periods of fast growth in life.

The disease may start with depression, with hallucinations or with a period of very subtle odd thinking and ideas. Some teens and young adults turn to street drugs or alcohol when they start to become ill - they don't know what to do and they may not feel comfortable discussing how they feel or asking for psychiatric help. Often they don't realize they're becoming ill at all. As one patient told me, 'It's hard to bite your own teeth, ya know'. The brain just is not good at telling when the brain is ill.

And not listen to people who say children can't get mental illness. They can and they do.

The key with schizophrenia is giving the child or adult that message right from the start - we're going to handle this thing.
Your wording makes complete sense to me, and it's a question that worried me seriously for years.... to the point of getting a psych degree searching for the answer-- and I am not a psychologist and do not work in the mental health field-- just a concerned mama trying to figure some things out. What I learned about genetic predisposition with mental issues essentially boils down to this..... your genetics determine a "window of possibilities" of who you may become..... your nurture-- your way of being raised, cared for, taught, disciplined, determines where in that window you will end up. So, your child may have a higher likelihood of developing schizophrenia, but you being aware of and prepared for that will have you knowledgeable if it does happen and a far better outcome for your child. Look up NAMI online, there are support groups and informational meetings everywhere to help people and families learn how to deal with a loved one's mental illness, and they will be a world of information available to you. Hope that helps!
I know, that is what was taught for years. I no longer believe it, to be perfectly honest. CNV researchers say they will raise the genetic factors to 90% or more of the risk within a few years, and that eventually, they will have the genetic risk at 100%, they say they expect this based on what they see now.

After being around kids and families with the disorder for decades, I think there is nothing anyone can do to a kid to 'make him schizophrenic'. A lot of other things, yes, but not that. I see schizophrenic kids in great families; even Freud, who was first a neurologist, said his complex 'talking cure' methods were useless for this illness.

An MRI shows the brain cells dying (for example, the cells around hearing wink out one by one and thenn the 'hearing voices' starts within a few weeks).

The researchers at UCLA took a bunch of kids at risk (1 and 2 parents) and kept doing MRI's for months...the story goes that they sat and read the MRI's and cried, because 'it looks like a forest fire'.

The brain cells simply start winking out, one after another, and within a few weeks, the kids start hearing voices, seeing things and eventually other symptoms. Now, opinion is divided as to how often the brain changes continue, and how often they stabilize, and doctors can look at MRI's, see which parts of the brain are most affected, and predict a person's symptoms and severity just by looking at the MRI, with 93% accuracy.

In 1735, Charcot noted while doing autopsies that the brain structure was changed by this disease (and he was looking before medications so saw much worse cases). He saw wrinkles becoming more shallow, ventricles widening. That means brain tissue loss.

We are talking up to 8-10% brain tissue loss - yes loss. There is no inflammation, no scarring, the brain cells just wink out, one after the other. And not in places in the brain where other areas can be recruited.

The treatment of the disease doesn't mean controlling symptoms, it means protecting the nerve cells into the future to prevent more injury, and it means teaching people how to manage the illness and make darn sure it doesn't disrupt their life.

A lot of other bad things, but not that. And I'm sure people can make it worse by not dealing with it (duration untreated is a very well proven indicator of outcome) or by treating the child badly.
I realize this is an older thread, but in hope that the OP is still actively looking for hope, I have a story.

A very good friend of mine had his schizophrenic break in his second year of law school. No one in his family knew of any person in the family having the illness before his diagnosis. He had to leave school for 6 months while he educated himself about the illness and found the right combination of medicines to control his symptoms.

Today he is married, has his own family, and is a very successful assistant district attorney in the federal court system.

I just wanted to say, even though your child's parents may or may not have the genetic trait for schizophrenia, there is no guarantee that your son will become schizophrenic. Regardless, even if your child ever shows any symptoms of the illness, it does not limit what he can have and do with his life.

Through my work as a nurse, I have met many persons with schizophrenia. Most are functioning very well in their day to day lives. They are very aware of their symptoms and use varying means of controlling their reactions to the symptoms. The ones that aren't doing so well are primarily those where the illness went on for some time without intervention. It seems to me that your son will have loving and attentive parents who will attend to his needs.

During the course of my work, I have been able to attend seminars on mental health from time to time and one of the most memorable was one on schizophrenia. For an hour we attempted to listen to a speaker giving a presentation. During the presentation, after which we were to take a test on the material, there was an audio of various noises and "persons" speaking "to us". I found myself so very frustrated trying to concentrate on the material being presented. This exercise only lasted an hour. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be for someone with schizophrenia who, 24/7, have to deal with just audio disturbances, yet have to try to continue to have a "normal life". I found that after that hour, I couldn't remember half of what the speaker had told us and half of what I did remember, I had wrong. It was, well, maddening.

To ease your apprehension, you may want to consult with a geneticist regarding any testing that may be available to your son.
Absolutely super post. I would only add one thing....not everyone is so lucky to have a very manageable illness. I think the refusal to take medicine, the inability to get back on one's feet, the drinking, the very destructive behavior...that is what happens to people with more severe illness. The good news - about 65% are moderate or mild cases, according to one study (suppose it depends on how 'mild to moderate' is defined).

The little fellow described, he was waking up at night. That might simply be due to the disruptive household he lived in, or he may be so delighted to be in a home that is more orderly that he wakes up in the middle of the night hoping it's not all a dream. Severely ill parent with substance abuse can hardly take care of themselves, let alone keep an orderly home for an infant. Often schizophrenic parents adore their children, but if off meds and very ill, may not keep to a routine or control their emotions.

If there is actual illness, the whole trick to it is being open to the fact that a child COULD have such an illness, and just being very matter of fact and practical about it. Where it is trouble, is where the symptoms are denied and brushed away.

I feel like people pick up the attitude about their illness from the persons who care for them. If the person reacts with horror, denial and terror, I feel it can set the stage for a lifetime of ineffective treatment.

Facing the illness in a very matter of fact way, in a loving, understanding way, even with humor, it can set the stage for a much better quality of life.

I would hesitate to say that every schizophrenic can go through life completely unaffected by the illness. It can be a severe or mild illness or anything in between.

Statistics say only 15% of schizophrenics work - but I think that is deceptive. I think many people go on disability in order to get medications paid for. Then I think quite a few people have unreported income. The system sort of stinks - I think people with a chronic mental illness like schizophrenia should get free medication(these medications are prescribed to far more people who do NOT have schizophrenia, and I think the pharm companies can well afford to provide each schiz. person in the US with meds lifelong), and then be allowed to work and collect however much income they are comfortable and healthy with.
I can relate
Two of my 3 kids are full Biological siblings. Both Biological parents had mental illness which was due to either genetics or drug or alcohol abuse, one will never really know. Biological mother has committed suicide a few years back and Biological father struggles to hold his world together as he still abuses substances. Biological Father has a fairly placid type of personality which I see in my son. Biological Mother was very highly strung, always agitated and aggro but had moments of being warm and friendly. This trait is very similar to my daughter. My daughter is now 13 and is displaying increasing aggression, anger and volatile behaviour. She can be sweet and loving but unfortunately the other side overshadows this. We walk on egg shells around her. We are currently considering medication which is a huge step for us, we said we would never use it but it seems this may be the only alternative to get her life back on track. Nurture can only do so much, nature definitely has a huge role to play when it comes to mental health. I should also mention that my husbands Mother suffered from bi polar disorder and although her children have not gone down the same road, they have had deep depression which they have helped with medication and managed to get on top of. I enjoy reading all of your posts. Lyn
My son (Biological) is currently diagnosed with autism but hears and sees things that simply aren't there. It was at first ascribed to his epilepsy meds but even after those were changed he's continued to have delusions, though not to the same degree. He gets confused because he truly believes the things he imagines. It's clear that the delusions have control of him and it's not just imagination run amock, like a kid telling ghost stories and then being afraid to go out in the dark. The other night in the pool he got scared some woman checking her mail was a police officer coming to arrest him, when she was in regular office clothes and hadn't even looked his way. He was crying about a week ago out of fear we wouldn't win some nonexistent competition. It can be bizarre. For now I'm reading up on schizophrenia, since his neurologist says he's likely to develop it, and just trying to be prepared. I have my kids on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which is gluten-free and a bunch of other stuff free ([url=]The Scientific Diet for GI Problems, Autism and Other Conditions[/url]) and has helped many people with schizophrenia, autism, and GI issues. It has helped tremendously with controlling his rages but his delusions are still getting more frequent. I've also joined the yahoo group for parents of schizophrenics (Schizophrenia_Parents), which helps me gain insight into how others deal with it. For example, many parents on there swear that ibuprofen can stop delusions, at least in the short term, and that gluten-free diets are a huge help. I also learned that coconut oil provides just the right fats for retaining brain tissue, so we're now using tons of it at home. I think that all we can do is learn as much as possible and keep deal with issues as they crop up.
Please, please, please, do not believe people who tell you hallucinations can be treated with gluten free diets or coconut oil. PLEASE. If your child has hallucinations and psychotic symptoms, he needs medical treatment. PLEASE see a psychiatrist. I have seen the results of the 'other treatments'. Please for the love of God, PLEASE do not dose your child with vitamins, coconut oil or gluten free diets for psychotic symptoms.

It is not at all unusual for children who have been diagnosed with autism to have psychotic symptoms when they get older. PLEASE do not believe those people who trumpet about their quack cures. There are new better medicines that can be given in tiny doses for youngsters. Talk to a psychiatrist.
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