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Ask the Experts


My step-daughter, 21, cannot acknowledge she has schizophrenia. How can I obtain help for her when she does not recognize that she is ill? Is there anything I can do to facilitate her awareness of her disorder?

Answered by: Cheryl Corcoran

"Schizophrenia" is a frightening and stigmatized term. It is hard for anyone to embrace, and may be especially difficult for a young woman who likely has other priorities and ambitions.

Instead, your step-daughter may recognize that she has difficulties in her thinking and behavior which get in the way for her.

Are there ways that you can be of help to her while respecting her autonomy? Medications might be something she would consider if she sees them as a tool she could opt to employ to counteract distracting symptoms that make work or study or socializing difficult. Your stepdaughter is young and her illness is something she will have to manage perhaps indefinitely, just as if she had diabetes. Focusing on her strengths and goals while offering support may be the best thing to do during this difficult period when someone young comes to terms with having a chronic illness. If you have read the Little Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupery, think of how he approached taming a fox.