Talking to Someone with Schizophrenia What Not to Say

Schizophrenia is a multifaceted mental condition that impacts an individual’s capacity to think, feel, and act.
clearly. It can have a significant impact on every aspect of their life, from relationships to work
performance. When caring for someone with paranoid schizophrenia, it’s crucial to choose your words
carefully to avoid agitating them, hurting their feelings, or appearing insensitive. This article will provide
insights into effective communication strategies and highlight what you should never say to someone
with schizophrenia.

Table of Contents

Understanding Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is characterized by impaired perception, inappropriate behavior or feelings, withdrawal
from reality, and a sense of mental fragmentation. People with schizophrenia often struggle to
understand or have insight into their illness, which can be incredibly stressful for both the individual and
their loved ones. While it may appear as if they have completely lost touch with reality, it’s essential to
remember that their experiences are valid, and they require support and understanding.

The Power of Words: Dos and Don'ts

When communicating with someone with schizophrenia, the words you choose can significantly impact
their well-being and self-esteem.Here are some guidelines and cautions to remember:
Avoid Saying: “Why Are You Behaving Irrationally?”

Using derogatory or hurtful language like “crazy,” “cuckoo,” “nuts,” or “basketcase” is not only
disrespectful but can also deepen their feelings of shame or inadequacy. Media portrayals of
schizophrenia often perpetuate misconceptions, depicting individuals as crazy, violent, or aggressive. It’s
crucial to avoid using such language and instead focus on showing empathy and understanding.

Do Listen More Than You Speak

Do Listen More Than You Speak​

When assisting someone with schizophrenia, it’s essential to listen actively and avoid making
assumptions about their needs. Honor their independence and include them in the decision-making journey.
Taking control of their life or making decisions for them without their input can be frustrating and
disempowering. Avoid falling into patterns of codependency and work together to find the best solutions.

Don't Discuss Their Condition with Others Without Permission

Don't Discuss Their Condition with Others Without Permission​

Respect the individual’s privacy and confidentiality. Conversing about their status with others without their permission
consent can perpetuate harmful rumors and misconceptions. Many people lack understanding about
schizophrenia, and sharing information without permission may lead to insensitive or hurtful comments.
Unless explicitly authorized or initiated by the individual, refrain from discussing their condition with

Do Use a Gentle Voice

Using an aggressive or confrontational tone can make someone with schizophrenia feel cornered or
attacked. Remember, schizophrenia is already a challenging condition to cope with, and individuals may
not always be aware of the harm or pain they may cause. Speak gently and honestly, expressing your
concerns without resorting to harsh or aggressive language. They rely on your support, so it’s crucial to
communicate with kindness and compassion.

Don't Attempt to Diagnose Them

Unless you are a qualified healthcare professional, refrain from attempting to diagnose your loved one.
Offering unsolicited diagnoses can be insensitive and dismissive of their experiences. If you suspect that
they may have a mental health condition, encourage them to seek professional medical advice.
Misdiagnoses can have serious consequences, and it’s essential to support them in obtaining an
accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Do Use Simple Directions and Language

During episodes of schizophrenia, individuals may struggle to process complex information or directions.
When communicating with them, use simple and straightforward language to guide and reassure them.
Instead of overwhelming them with elaborate explanations, offer clear and concise instructions. Allow
them to express themselves without interruption, and maintain a patient and understanding demeanor.

Don't Discuss Their Fears During an Episode

If your loved one is experiencing a specific fear or phobia, avoid discussing it while they are in the midst
of an episode. Talking about their fears can intensify their anxiety and make them feel even more
overwhelmed. Focus on providing comfort and reassurance, allowing them the space to process their
emotions without unnecessary triggers.

Do Explain Your Actions

Do Explain Your Actions​

Individuals with schizophrenia may struggle to interpret non-verbal cues or understand the intentions
behind certain actions. During episodes, they may feel extremely afraid or paranoid. It’s crucial to explain
your actions verbally, providing context and ensuring they feel safe and secure. For example, if you’re
pulling out a chair or reaching for your phone, communicate your intentions clearly. Small details and
explanations can make a significant difference in their perception of the situation.

Avoid attempting to persuade them that their delusions are false.

Attempting to convince someone with schizophrenia that their delusions or hallucinations are not real is
unlikely to be effective. Delusions are a common symptom of schizophrenia, and simply dismissing or
denying their experiences can cause additional distress. Instead, focus on providing support and
reassurance, emphasizing that you are there for them and ready to help them navigate their challenges.

Do Encourage Professional Treatment

Do Encourage Professional Treatment​

Encourage your loved one to seek professional treatment for their schizophrenia. Qualified healthcare
professionals can provide the appropriate interventions, including medication management and therapy.
Support them in finding a mental health specialist who specializes in schizophrenia treatment. Treatment
plans may include a combination of medication, therapy, and social support systems to help manage
symptoms and improve overall well-being.


When communicating with someone with schizophrenia, choosing the right words and approach can make a significant difference in their well-being. Steer clear of offensive or harmful words and instead opt for focus on empathy, understanding, and active listening. Honor their independence and include them in decision-making processes. Encourage professional treatment and provide a supportive environment where they can comfortably share their feelings and thoughts. By adopting these strategies, you can foster a positive and constructive relationship with your loved one, promoting their overall mental health
and well-being.

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