[Written in 2008.]
NOTE: THIS IS A TONGUE-IN-CHEEK ESSAY…
“The schizophrenogenic mother” – a mother who creates schizophrenia in her child – is presently a hated, taboo topic in psychology because it blames mothers. The only modern articles that refer to the concept anymore label it as incorrect and disproven. But they invariably fail to say WHY it is incorrect. So I have taken the liberty of doing it for them. [Note, with humor aside: I actually strongly dislike the term “schizophrenogenic mother” because it lets fathers, who bear half the responsibility for child-rearing, off the hook. Please keep this in mind as you’re reading this list!! I much prefer the non-sexist terms “schizophrenogenic parent” and “schizophrenogenic family.” That said, other factors beyond parents do contribute to causing schizophrenia, but I still hold parents and their bad behavior and lack of protection of their children to be the biggest causative factor, BY FAR!]
1) Look, neophyte, schizophrenia is a biochemical imbalance in the brain. Everyone knows that!
2) If mothers caused schizophrenia, then that would mean schizophrenia is a psychological disorder that could be cured through therapy, which everyone knows is completely impossible!
3) Although many recovered schizophrenics claim that their mothers played a significant role in causing their schizophrenia, clearly those people were never REALLY schizophrenic at all, because no one with schizophrenia EVER recovers!
4) Plus, if those supposedly recovered liars really WERE schizophrenic, you can’t take their claims seriously because everyone knows that schizophrenics are by definition unreliable!
5) I once asked the mother of a schizophrenic if she caused his madness. She said she didn’t. Therefore, since mothers are known to be 100% truthful, what more proof do you need?
6) Schizophrenia is treatable ONLY with life-saving, antipsychotic medications, which are prescribed by ethical, caring psychiatrists, some of whom are mothers of schizophrenic children themselves! So how could the greatest healers also CAUSE schizophrenia?
7) Schizophrenia is a genetic illness, lodged in your DNA. And your DNA has NOTHING to do with your mother.
8) Schizophrenia is a crapshoot, a mystery, a random occurrence, a neurological misfiring, a stroke of bad luck, a freak accident of Mother Nature. Yes, Mother Nature might be schizophrenogenic, but NOT the lovely, boundariless despot who ruled the roost of my family, thank you very much.
9) You insensitive jerk, it really hurts mothers’ feelings and causes them terrible guilt when you place the blame on them. And hurting a poor mother’s feeling IS JUST PLAIN WRONG. SO BACK OFF. GOT IT?
10) If anything, mothers are the greatest VICTIMS of schizophrenia. Do you know how PAINFUL it is to see your child expressing delusions and hallucinations that metaphorically tell the whole world just how horrible you were as a mother?
11) Schizophrenia is caused by excessive masturbation. I know that for a FACT. My mother told me.
12) Well, your mother may have caused YOU to be schizophrenic, but NOT MINE! So don’t you dare universalize your silly concept!
13) You Freudian ding-dong, not EVERYTHING is the mother’s fault. I suppose you also blame Multiple Personality Disorder on mothers?
14) Since one of the prime symptoms of schizophrenia is hallucinations, if the schizophrenogenic mother concept were true wouldn’t that also mean that some mothers are “hallucinogenic”? Totally ludicrous!
15) Mothers have a deep, innate, unbreakable instinct to protect – and not harm – their children. Everyone knows that!
16) Harry Harlow PROVED repeatedly that the worst, craziest, lousiest monkey mothers consistently raised the healthiest, most well-adjusted, non-psychotic monkey children. (Or did I get that backwards?)
17) Some people with schizophrenia were abandoned by their mothers at birth – and raised with no mother at all. So how in the world could a non-mother also be schizophrenogenic? Ponder that one, smarty-pants!
18) Here’s one for all you snooty anti-psychiatry folks: Thomas Szasz, in his book “The Myth of Mental Illness,” proved that there is no such thing as schizophrenia. Therefore, how could a mother cause something that doesn’t exist? Ha, gotcha!
19) Schizophrenia was long thought to be the result of demon possession. Mothers, on the other hand, have long been known to be saints. Therefore, it is nonsensical to think of a saint causing demon possession.
20) Identical twins separated at birth show higher concordance rates for schizophrenia, PROVING that schizophrenia is a genetic disorder! (And don’t even try holding mothers responsible for rejecting and separating their kids at birth. Maybe she gave them away for a good reason…)
21) If, hypothetically, a mother did cause schizophrenia, that would beg the question of what in her own childhood so severely damaged her to cause her to be such a horrible mother. And then we’d have to blame her parents, and her parents’ parents, and ultimately all parents, all the way back through the generations. And that would mean that our entire species is totally insane, which of course it isn’t!
22) All the pharmaceutical companies state that we don’t know what causes schizophrenia. And they are on the cutting edge of scientific research – because if they weren’t all the big universities and research institutions and academic researchers wouldn’t gobble up their money.
23) The National Alliance on Mental Illness (which also takes tons of drug company money) states pointblank that families (aka mommies) do NOT cause schizophrenia. And they know. They’re an organization started BY mothers! And mothers always know best!
24) What about all the terrible mothers out there who raise healthy, non-schizophrenic children? Take George W. Bush’s mother: She was lousy yet raised a perfectly sane, healthy, normal child.
25) Schizophrenics have a tendency to be violent. So it’s a very bad idea to go insulting their mothers.
26) Progressive modern research shows that people with schizophrenia were MUCH more likely to have been sexually abused when they were children. And everyone knows that mothers do NOT sexually abuse their children.
27) Just the fact that you, Daniel Mackler, agenda-laden creator of this parent-bashing website, would even consider exhuming and reconsidering this dead, evil concept is proof enough!
28) Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, creator of the “schizophrenogenic mother” concept, never had kids, and non-parents have no business criticizing parents. They lack the requisite perspective and empathy. (Granted, Fromm-Reichmann was the beloved therapist of Joanne Greenberg, who happens to be one of the most famous recovered schizophrenics, not to mention the author of “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.”)
29) The schizophrenogenic mother concept is politically incorrect, and therefore invalid. Period. Goodbye.
30) If you have ANY desire whatsoever to advance your career in the psychology field, I suggest you stop thinking about this matter immediately, navigate away from this website, and write your mother a nice, loving, greeting card.
31) Schizophrenia is caused by smoking marijuana. And NO mother supports that kind of sick, criminal behavior!
32) You sexist pig, mothers do NOT cause schizophrenia. It’s fathers that do. Those bastards! Pigs! Perverts! Scum!
So glad I found this website!
I love the humor and love the spirit of challenging the current psychiatric and psychological zeitgeist.
And yes, just because it is politically incorrect to say so, there is, in my experience, a STRONG corollary between being raised by a mother with massive (sociopathic) issues herself and then developing schizophrenia. It happens!
Thank you for this site!
I wonder if I could be labeled a “schizophrenic mother”? My son and I are estranged. It’s heartbreaking to me but sometimes I think it may be healthier for him not to have me in his life. So strange how the intergenerational traumas spiral down. I was traumatized in my childhood; felt hated by my mother, sexually assaulted by a stepfather at 11, very low self esteem. However, when I had my only child at age 20, I wanted him to know he was loved. I was a single parent so had to take on roles as nurturer and disciplinarian. I also worked full time to support us. I was drained at the end of the day yet still had to contend with the daily drudgery of housekeeping, laundry, cooking, etc. We do what we can.
I know I made so many mistakes; impatience, yelling, over-control, yet I still thought I was doing a better job than my mother. But my son turned to pot and other substances over the years. I did a lot of rescuing (legal, financial), which I am now seeing/reading is enabling and contributes to the problem.
How is it that I am able to function, have healthy relationships and balanced emotions with the adverse childhood events I had, while my son is not? I know I have been on a self help journey over many years. Why does he not pursue this?
This is very accurate! It’s really refreshing to hear things like that because everyone else is talking about those chemical imbalances myths and call it ”science”.
I’ve heard that during the 2nd wave many feminists thought that while motherhood itself is oppressive to women because of that uneven amount of work they do to raise their child and because they give up their autonomous selves while men can have everything if you decide to have a child you’re the powerful one in this relationship and you oppress your child which is true.
I consider myself a feminist and I don’t like it when some feminists get fixated on this idea that men are absolute evil while women are always innocent, no matter what, and mothers are perfect because of the sacrifices they make. But then this kind of thinking is also often a result of trauma and abuse they experienced + quite often it’s their denial about their own mothers or if they’re mothers themselves it’s a convenient self-denial.
In parts of Africa when people display symptoms of what is considered ‘schizophrenia’ they see that person has being highly spiritually evolved or going through a process of spiritual awakening.
Psychiatry does not like to address anything “spiritual” oh no, best not mention that word as that will get you in a whole host of trouble and will be reframed to make you look delusional.
Psychiatrists have not changed at all since the days of the Rosenham experiment which proved the validity and nature of a psychiatric diagnosis and how even when people say they feel healthy and back to “normal” they will not be believed once they have been given that label and every sane action can and will be pathologised as they are seen under the label and not as a real human and individual. The Rosenham experiment should have woke people up and that was done over 45 years ago.
Schizophrenia is something psychiatrists still do not understand yet they have not sought to understand it since the label was first addressed. Emmy Van Deurzan the existential psychotherapist did some great work around schizophrenia she actually lived for months in a psychiatric ward with schizophrenic patients and sought to understand each person as an individual and she ended up healing a lot of those people who went onto become psychotherapists themselves and she proved that they can be healed. She was another student and fan of RD Laing. Her work is remarkable and she really seems to have such a kind caring heart. She is a true healer and if only psychiatrists had the desire to truely understand the human mind and see people are complex beings and are all individual instead of looking at them in black and white terms and giving them labels which look to dehumanise and stigmatise them. Then when their patients commit suicide seeing that they are incurable and unable to heal they can always blame their suicide on just being another symptom of their label. Never do they seek to look past the label and study the person and find out if they had any trauma oh no, that would actually take time and empathy… they are simply given the message that they are not worth the effort and besides what is the psychiatrist getting out of that? Most of them are highly narcissistic which is why they tend to see people in black and white terms and get enraged with anyone seeking to challenge their diagnosis or opinion – they will conduct a full on character assassination if a patient disagrees with them, they lack empathy and the capacity to put themselves in the shoes of another so a lot of the time they project their own dysfunctional character traits onto their patients with their quick fire assumptions. They HATE empathic people who actually give a shit about others because those people remind them of what they are not. Drug mercenaries in white coats with letters after their names which gives them a licence to fuck up our kids and carry on profitting from the most vulnerable and sensitive members of society. The less they understand about schizophrenia is best for them. But a lot of beautiful souls who gifted us with incredible art, poetry, music and stories from the past, people such as hans christian anderson would have been labelled from a young age in todays society and drugged aka “medicated” up to their eyeballs and never ever gotten to give us with their unique spirit and works of art and genius. Poor Vincent Van Gogh never ever knew how amazing and inspiring he was and how his art work would be seen as one of the most famous art work in the world for hundreds of years to come. How many more amazing souls are being oppressed and drugged up to a dribbling dosile state under psychiatric “care” and never allowed to truely shine and be who they were meant to be. Psychiatrists want a compliant society where people do as their told and act in a way in which they deem acceptable because they are the infallible Gods which no one gets to question. Any one of them could easily be labelled with one of their made up diseases in or ‘disorders’. The DSM has turned nearly every human action or behaviour into a disorder they set it up that way that anything can be willfully misinterpreted into a box. They are making up new disorders every year. The cult of psychiatry is big business, big pharma make more than arms dealers and heroin tycoons
Thank you. This is a great and interesting post, esp. the stuff about Africa.
I tend to believe the double bind theory of schizophrenia where the most sensitive member of the dysfunctional emotionally damaging family ends up not conforming to spiritually sick family role that was designated to them and goes through serious cognitive dissonance unable to cope with the reality they experienced. Every single person I know labelled schizophrenia and that includes members of my own family were the black sheep of their family. They also emotionally neglected and felt a deep wound in their soul from that neglect and rejection from the very person who was supposed to be on their side, and love them and at best try and understand them. The reality and trauma was too much to bear and so they diss connected from the spiritual trauma.
My theory on schizophrenia: The schizophrenogenic mother is one “part “. The disturbed mother acts out the way she does because she accurately senses that the young boy is dealing with buried sexual abuse traumas. The two complex traumas “collide ” .
Hi Daniel, when I want to know more about the concept of the schizophrenogenic mother, what would you reccomend reading? Thanks
hmm, i’m not sure — haven’t read much on it in a while. maybe theodore lidz. and alice miller certainly writes about related subjects. all the best! daniel
I often wondered what my fathers facial tic was, I remember as a young boy my mother telling me that she did not know what it was and that when my mother and father met my father did not have the facial tic.
The facial tic developed after a few years of marriage. My father was born into a poor home, he left school at 15 to start work. The company he worked for spotted his talents and sent him to university. He obtained a degree in engineering. He then met my mother and got married.
I am an only child.
My father wanted a family?
I only found out at he age of fifty that he had been suffering from and diagnosed by a proper doctor:
PPD Paranoid personality disorder
OCD Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
My father is a self made property millionare.
I live in poverty?
I live in social housing?
Where I live there are many people who have been diagnosed with mental health issues and are reliant on state benefits.
I know that wealth and social status often influence legal decisions and can not help thinking that wealth and social status influence diagnoses when mental health is the issue.
Beware the evil spirits that will leave the mouth of a woman and poison the mind of an otherwise normal man. Wotan (Germanium god of storms and frenzies). C J Jung
Here is a lot of crap!(from a psychiatrist point of view)
How did your mother know schizophrenia is caused by excessive masturbation?;)
My mom knows everything. She’s a parent and that makes her an authority, even if you are a 40 year old diagnosed with bipolar with psychoses who is raising well loved, responsible, well behaved, securely attached teenagers. She knows your emotionally intelligent kids who only call her when they want a shopping spree are a result of nature over nurture. Like you, except your nature is pathological.
I have read your post taking into consideration that you have said “tongue in cheek” several times and yet I am still confused on your true outlook, as I see quite a few commenters are. Perhaps you could label it as ‘sarcasm’ or put clarifiers after the statements so it’s easier to get a sense of what you’d like to be taken away from it. That being said, I was made schizophrenic by my mother at a young age, it is not genetic and was clearly the outcome of grotesque abuse. While the symptoms have gone I will never be healed with or without medication from the complex ptsd that affects my every waking and sleeping moment decades later. I think that point on clarification is important as a function of helping people to feel less isolated in what they experience emotionally and psychologically. You have made a great start, and I thank you.
My understanding of schizophrenogenic is cultural acting out. For example,” lets play Cowboys and Indians. I got real action figures! Or how bout G.I. Joe and the Asian Menace. Maybe we could play Turks and Christians.Cops and Robbers? Real video game characters.” I quote here the lyrics of a popular song—There are no good guys there are no bad guys . There’s only you and me and we just disagree.
I ran across a research institute in the Niagara Peninsula Ontario Canada. The study subject.. ….the brain- does long term abuse cause changes to the brain size shape and chemistry? The conclusion YES and three generations of abuse results in cell mutations perceived cancers and brain changes. Unhappily the Canadian Cancer Society Statistics show the same region as having the highest mortality rate from cancer for all Canada. Right is right. Drunk driving is immoral. its wrong. But oh money. You see the haves and the have-nots. And any tool can be a weapon so its like this life is like a game of baseball. But the haves have regulation baseball bats and the have-nots have fallen tree branches. Or how homesickness is also a disease. Or we could have a shoot out at high noon only one gunslinger has no weapon.
About this post: I am a medical student doing my psychitary rotation. I’m currently researching on some theories about schizoprenia nd stumbled on this. Its obvious the writer has got biased ties to the mother and knows absolutely nothing about schizoprenia. If you have nothing knoweldgeable to share then don’t write. Masturbation and schizo…….? You should be examined.
hmm……..stephanie…….you didn’t make your point of view on the schizophrenogenic mother concept clear (pro or con), though it’s clear you were clearly rubbed the wrong way by my essay. but did you realize it was tongue-in-cheek? if not….then…….i’d be curious to know what you think of it now. if yes…..then…….aaaaaaaaaaaah!! daniel
Steph, I hope you can be mentored from a psychiatrist who received his or her training prior to political correctness and psychopharmacology.
It’s obvious to me that the writer knows a LOT about schizophrenia, but his understanding of the subject is probably way beyond the stunted minds of trainee medics being indoctrinated with mainstream psychiatry.
The idea that schizophrenia is caused by excessive masturbation is a tongue-in-cheek allusion to the sort of advice that might be given by a skewed mother . But whereas the average schizophrenic is smart enough to get the joke, it could go over the head of a psychiatry student who takes her subject too seriously.
I wonder if Steph is a qualified shrink by now and practising her ‘psychitary’?
Of course someone doing a psychiatry rotation would have no insight into the truth of schizophrenia…you’ve got pills to push my dear….move along!
“your DNA has nothing to do with your mother!”
you are a fucking idiot
DNA has everything to do with your relatives you dumb fuck. You just disqualified any truth within this post.
I guess you didn’t see that this whole list is tongue-in-cheek. Hmm…
It’s almost like you don’t understand satire…
As a non-medicated and recovered schizophrenic, I can say with certainty that my mother DID cause my problems, albeit unintentionally and unwittingly. But of course, if I’m schizophrenic, then I don’t have a valid opinion on the matter, as I have a “thought disorder”, which makes me not-responsible for my own thinking, particularly when it’s out of line with what she or psychiatry would like me to think. And if I’m a recovered schizophrenic, then of course I was never truly schizophrenic in the first place and therefore don’t know what I’m talking about.
My mother was actually a very pleasant woman, and our home would have passed any social services inspection. I was well-fed and had toys and bedtime stories and regular dental checks, and I was never beaten or abused or locked in a closet. But she had no respect for me as my own person or any sense that I was different from her.
I was brought up on teasing and ridicule. (“Oh don’t be so silly! I was only having fun!”) She said I could come to her with any problems, but she’d always laugh it off and tell me it was nothing to worry about. (“We’re so close. We share all our secrets.”) From my earliest memory, she told me who I was and what I thought and felt and wanted, whilst ignoring the real person inside. (“A mother knows her daughter best, and we’re so alike.”) Then when I got to teenage, she started criticising me for not being how she wanted me to be. (“You’re useless.” “You can be so selfish sometimes.” “Why can’t you think of things without being asked?”)
But luckily I read the right books and developed insight into my condition (insight being something that schizophrenics aren’t supposed to have). So then I cured myself, by keeping away from my mother and not-taking psychiatric medication. Which is why I’m now a well-balanced person and don’t suffer from tardive dyskinesia or atrophy of the brain.
My mother was probably very unhappy when she lost her daughter, but I had to think of my own interests first. (“You can be so selfish sometimes.”) Perhaps she would have been happier if I’d ended up mentally “ill”, because then she could have kept me with her and played the loving mother to the end.
nicely said, Wendy. What you write makes perfect sense. Thank you for posting! Daniel
What right books did you read?
And you don’t suffer from delusions or hallucinations either? 100% healed?
lots of people heal. most people just don’t talk about it publicly because no one believes them.
Sorry for the delay in answering, as I’d forgotten I’d posted here.
R D Laing – ‘The Divided Self’ and ‘Sanity, Madness and the Family’
Don’t bother with Laing’s later works, as he went a bit off the rails towards the end, but those early works were brilliant.
Wendy, thank you so much for having the courage to speak the truth. My own mother was a chronic “tease” which was the biggest part of my psychosis.
It’s been a long, hard road to become an unmedicated, healed (mostly!) non-psychotic.
It sounds like she may have been rather lacking in empathy if she couldn’t see that her teasing confused you. You need a strong sense of your own being before you can laugh at yourself. But some parents just see their children as playthings instead of real people with real feelings.
I hope you’re a long way along that road to recovery by now.
Hi , trust me to find the hardest one first. Hard for me that is…
I am a 62 yr old mother to a 29 yr old schizophrenic son. I’ve had 6 children. The eldest born in ’72, ( like you) was fathered by one man.. The
Other five by another.
My eldest son, Morgan, died suddenly in 04 of a heart attack.
My second son, Yeshe( who is schizophrenic), developed this during the yr after his brothers death. Culminating in hanging himself on the anniversary of Morgans death. His father found him in time, and revived him. But he sustained some mild brain injury( short term memory loss).
He was on medication, we with help of Drs took him off. But he had another episode/ meds again/ another episode/ different meds. Hard core meds. Now, several yrs later , he’s stable. Relationship with his father has broken down. His father has moved away. I’m his carer.
I accept that his father and I were very disturbed parents. I accept my contribution in helping create mental illness in my son( our other kids do well). Despite many yrs of reading books. Alice Miller. The whole tribe from the 70s.. I still fucked up..
Raising kids in nuclear families , Very very few get out alive and well.
During the last three yrs, since separating from my husband.. I’ve had to face so much. Had to look within, own my deep damage.. And the damage I’ve done.
So now what? How do I proceed helping my son repair?
this is a very intense message from you. i am wishing you the best. how to proceed? aaaah!! i wish there were an easy answer. if there were an easy answer i would probably say — just keep growing and healing your own inner traumas to the best of your ability…. same advice i give myself……. but often in my experience life’s answers aren’t so easy in practical terms…..
this essay…..yes…..a tough one. for years i didn’t have it linked from my website’s main page so it was hard to find…….because it was a tough one. but now….well…….i linked it. i don’t want to offend people, yet i also want, to some degree, to state my point of vew.
wishing you the best,
Thanks for replying. It’s 12.15 am here in Australia. Just reading before sleep, and my phone pinks several times.
And there you were.
I salute you having the courage to talk this way. I too have been horrified at how the medical profession just swept aside all the insights gained in the 60s-70s about causes of mental
Of course, I believe, so much of it comes from how children are treated.
And yes, drug taking contributes…
So it’s great to find a voice out there, stating the bleeding obvious.