I'm pretty sure I'm watching a schizophrenic episode unfold on facebook

I have a facebook friend who I don’t know outside of facebook, who until about a week ago wrote a lot of long posts with fairly clearly argued logical and philosophical points about theological topics. (I mean, I won’t oversell these posts–they had a lot of logical problems. But fundamentally, they were coherent, and it was clear he generally knew how reasoning works.)

In the past weeks, his posts have become increasingly unreadable, starting out seeming more disorganized in argument structure, and gradually getting worse, until today he is posting long chains of private-message conversations he’s been having with various people (all poorly formatted so as to be barely readable–not something I expect from him given his past writing) and interjected with comments that make no sense about how (in paraphrase) “See? How this?! Is connected?! To that?!”

In the past day or two he’s started to talk about how he’s “receiving” new information that will change the course of human history.


So the guy is married, so I know he’s not just sitting alone in his house with all this, but in their conversations it is clear she supports him in–whatever is happening.

Not my business. But I’m connected to him at least through facebook, and he’s PMing me a lot because he’s sure I’m going to help him logic all this out somehow. (At the same time being completely not substantively responsive to any of the logical points I do try to make about what he’s writing.)

Given a bit of effort, I could probably figure out exactly where this guy is. I could probably like maybe really stick my nose in by getting in touch with the person in charge of his diocese maybe? (The fellow I’m talking about is a very devout catholic.) It has already been suggested to the person–by me and by one other person–that he could do well to check in with a psychologist, but he has roundly rejected that. So my mind goes to possible people whose authority concerning the stuff he’s talking about he might trust.

Of course, that particular option involves an assumption that the person in charge of the diocese would take anything I say seriously AND would not indulge whatever is going on.

I feel like I should do something.

But this is none of my business, right? Or what?

What do you think you would do?

do something.

He’s excited about stuff. It is impairing his ability to separate wheat from chaff and also his ability to communicate clearly.

The stuff he is excited about may be genuinely exciting stuff.

His feet may regain contact with the turf.

Do nothing, or at least do nothing that is not at his request.

I agree.

Either it’s a schizophrenic episode, or a manic episode. Either requires hospitalization. Good luck.

Cut and Run.

So get in contact with his diocese. Talk with the priest. Say, 'hey, you don’t know me, I’m a facebook friend with so-and-so, and he’s been acting weird lately, could you check on him?"

Priest takes it from there. It’s his job.

If your friend stops posting, or posts from jail or psych ward, you’ll wish you’d done something.

If all he is doing (at this point) is posting crazy talk it’s unlikely someone, even a priest, is going to the trouble and risk of trying to institutionalize this guy. This is one of those situations where you have no power and trying to play good Samaritan will only cause his undying hostility toward you. The people around him have probably have seen behavior this many times before and you will not be telling them anything new.

Unless he is acting out physically or threatening violence you need to let this go. You do not have the agency or authority to stop his decline unless you want to invest yourself in his life on a very substantive basis and even then he will reject you.

This. The diocese can find out which parish does he normally attend, or if he is part of any specific groups (neochatecumenate, bible study, etc.), and get a priest who knows the guy.

Even if he’s gone somewhat off his rocker before, it may be the first episode this big, or the people close to him may be ignoring it. A classmate once started exhibiting unusual behavior (doing things like pay back the sort of absurd debts nobody else had been tracking, like “I’ve bummed a bunch of pens off you, here’s a pack”), we joked pointing out it looked like he was about to sail for America or somesuch but otherwise ignored it because “hey, he lives with his parents and his brother, his brother is right here beside him in class”… and a week later we were at his funeral; the people closest to someone isn’t always the person in the best position to see someone is way off.

If it is a manic episode, (desription in link it http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-a-manic-episode/ the behavior can have unfoldel all in a week. If this guy lives alone, and has no job, there may not have been a loved one or a boss around him to even notice the worrying behavior you describe.

The danger of a manic episode is most often just exhaustion and alieniating bystanders. The danger for self- harm is when the manic episode crashes into a depressive episode. Which it does not always.

Does he seem to be doing anything else, like spending money or planning something against the law?

Um, no.

Being excited about stuff doesn’t normally cause you to suddenly become incoherent, or to think that everything is somehow connected to everything else, or to believe that you are on the verge of something that will forever change the course of human history.

Those kinds of behaviors clearly indicate some sort of mental disorder is involved.

He’s nuts, but he doesn’t need to be hospitalized if he’s feeling relatively positive about life. Mental illness becomes dangerous when it mixes with, or causes, negative feelings like anger, fear, or shame. You should be more concerned about his mood than his perception of reality.

His wife really seems to be the person at ground zero in terms of knowing the entire situation. I would try to talk to her some more, to share your concerns and get a feel for why she thinks things are under control. Unless she’s in total denial mode, she is much more likely to know what is best for him than you will at this point. And given the state of things if you say one thing and she says another, she’s going to win.

He sounds manic.

A friend of mine went through this. It was so weird, because right before he went full off the rails crazy, I noticed his “IQ” level (or astuteness) shot up by a significant margin. The whole thing was very surreal.

You should definitely do something, but you really need someone who has personal contact with the guy to evaluate what’s going on. All you see are FB posts.

Best bet would be his wife, next would be a local friend and/or church. If you can figure out a way to contact them, just express that you are concerned about him and wanted to make sure everything is OK. You’ll have to let them take it from there.

Except when it crashes to terrible depths in the space of minutes and people end up saying “I can’t understand why he killed himself! He seemed so HAPPY!”

If you could track down his parish priest, that might help. Of course, whatever your friend is experiencing may put him at odds with that priest, so the priest’s intervention might be perceived through a filter that tells your friend that “they” are conspiring against him, which will only reinforce his sense that he’s on the right track.

And if your friend is a devout Catholic who’s gotten mixed up with something like the Society of St. Pius X, his parish priest might be encouraging this whole thing. Does your friend talk a lot about how the Latin Mass is the only valid Mass, or does he claim that the current Pope is not a valid Pope, or anything like that?

But all in all, in an ordinary Catholic parish, the priest really might be able to help, and is very, very unlikely to indulge delusional behavior or thinking.

If he’s just yammering on the internet regardless of how incoherently, this could be her idea of him in a “good place” vs curled up in a ball in a dark room.

Um, yes. Speaking from experience here. Being excited about stuff does abnormally (but not necessarily pathologically) cause some individuals to start to think everything is connected to everything else, or, more accurately, to think that everything is connected to what they are currently obsessed with; and oh yes very definitely to think they are on the verge of somethign that will forever change the course of human history.

Just keep in mind that having a harmless kook involuntarily committed is something the bad guy in a Disney movie tried to do.

All I know is that, if I had told someone that I did not want to go to a psychiatrist, I would not remotely respond well if suddenly someone who had no other way of knowing suddenly showed up and tried to deal with it. It has nothing to do with paranoia. It’s that I know my mental illness and you don’t.

Granted, with a schizophrenic, there’s the issue of losing touch with reality. But he’s got a caregiver, and that person is someone he probably shares intimate details with. If she says it’s okay, then she likely knows what she’s talking about.

Especially if, as AHunter (who has managed schizophrenia in real life) says, it is just a minor episode that will resolve itself. You’ll just burn bridges and accomplish nothing. He doesn’t have to be paranoid to be mad at you. And if you’ve already tried to talk to him about it, he’ll know it was you.