Wellness & Fitness

Does my cousin have schizophrenia?


If in the family, there is the schizophrenia gene, the likelihood that it will affect other members of the same family is high. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Two of my cousins are on treatment for schizophrenia. Their 22-year-old brother has just left university without completing his degree, claiming that there are people after him. He does not say who they are or why they plan to harm him. Might he also have the same condition as his siblings?

Based on my experience, your cousin will likely end up with the same diagnosis as his siblings. Several observations are possible from your question.

First, all medical conditions and biological characteristics are inherited from our parents. This means that if in the family there is the schizophrenia gene, the likelihood that it will affect other members of the same family is high. So, based on your family history, the chances that a third cousin could have the same condition are high.

Your cousin's age is also a telling sign. The age of onset of schizophrenia is in the late teens and early 20s, which is exactly his current age.

The other reason he might have schizophrenia is the nature of his symptoms. He has left university ostensibly because there are people after him.

This is a common delusion in persons with schizophrenia and leads some to drop out of university while others leave employment or even marriages based on this false belief.

A top-performing student was brought to us a few years ago, because he had, like your cousin, abandoned his degree programme, complaining that the girls in his class were transmitting sexually explicit messages to him in class.

At first, it was only one girl who liked to sit near him but in time, all the girls got similar transmitting devices that sent radio waves through their earrings.

He initially reported the matter to the lecturers, the dean and the police, who all dismissed him. His parents and siblings offered prayers for his healing.

An aunt brought in a famous bishop who prayed and accepted gifts but that did not cure the problem. The family watched helplessly as the young man became increasingly distraught. He lost weight, and feared going out with family and friends, claiming that all women wearing earrings were similarly transmitting the same messages. He had started to hear distinct voices talking about him.

He gave up telling his family about these voices because none of them could hear the voices and told him as much. His mother regularly checked his bedroom to see if she could find traces of drug use. None were found.

In desperation, the young man locked himself in his room. When the family finally took him to the hospital, it was on account of extreme weight loss, dehydration and severe self-neglect.

The diagnosis of schizophrenia was confirmed and after several months of treatment, he resumed his studies at the university.

The earlier treatment is started, the better the outcome. Take your cousin to the psychiatrist to get a diagnosis.

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