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My Nephew Sees Angels


My nephew has just revealed to me that he went through a psychotic break last year, and that he had been having mentsl health problems since he was 22. He is now 30. He told me that when he turns the lights out he sees lights that he thinks are angels. These are not lights from outside. Sometimes he sees them in one spot and sometimes he sees them move. Most of the lights are white or gold color but sometimes they are green and the bad ones are red. He is not particularly scared of these “angels” but doesn’t know why they appear. He said he tries to keep on the lights before returning home after work so that he won’t think about the lights. Sometimes he thinks about the lights and they appear. What can I do to help him?

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You can help him be seen by a Psychiatrist who can properly diagnose and medicate his condition. The “lights” are perhaps visual hallucinations. These sorts of things are fairly common when people have illnesses that lead them to become psychotic such as paranoid schizophrenia. Auditory hallucinations are more common, but visual ones are common too. Psychotic breaks are periods of exacerbation or waxing of the illness (times when it gets worse), but even during residual periods (between breaks) hallucinations and delusions can be common, although they will typically be less intense.

There are good medicines available which work to treat hallucinations, making them less likely to occur, or less intense. Such medications can also serve a prophilactic function, making it less likely that a new break will occur. You can help your nephew by helping him to gain access to these medications (if they are in fact appropriate – which only a Psychiatrist is really in a position to determine), and then helping him to stay on them. Medication compliance can be a problem for many schizophrenic patients, and it doesn’t help that your nephew is male and young either (No young man wants to feel dependent!). Patients sometimes need external structure, such as family reminders, to help them stay medication compliant.

You can also help your nephew by learning about whatever the illness is that he may have, and by not stigmatizing him or thinking less of him for it. More so than many other “mental illnesses”, schizophrenia and related psychotic conditions are truely brain diseases, no different in principle to other chronic diseases like MS, Cancer or Lupus. It is not his fault this is happening, and (so long as he is lucky enough to have a relatively mild case of whatever it is he has, access to medications and a supportive family, he has a good chance of living a more or less normal life.

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