Get information and advice - Sibling FAQs - What can I do to help my sister when she is withdrawn?
My sister used to be really outgoing and good fun but two years ago she had an episode of psychosis and ended up in hospital. Since then she's become really withdrawn - what can I do to help?
Social withdrawal can be a negative symptom of a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia, but it can also be a symptom of depression and other disorders. Although social withdrawal can be a symptom of mental illness, it can also be a consequence of other symptoms that people are experiencing.
People may start to see themselves as different, feeling unable to ‘fit in’ with friends and family and so they may withdraw. It can start with staying at home and not socialising, to not speaking or even not showing emotions.
It is important to remember that someone with a serious mental illness has suffered a blow to their self-confidence and sense of identity. They may lack confidence in their ability to manage even ordinary day-to-day social situations and in order to cope with this, they may cut themselves off from them. Social contact both inside and outside the family is likely to decrease.
What can you do to help?
You can help to reduce the effects of mental illness by:
- understand your sisters vulnerability in social settings
- lower your expectation of her to a realistic level – but assess that regularly as things do change
- provide uncomplicated and undemanding social activity to help rebuild her confidence - keep numbers to a minimum and keep conversations short and free of issues that generate high emotions
- don’t be disappointed if progress is slow, take small steps and give her every encouragement to achieve them
- hope is really important in recovering from mental ill health – so reassure and encourage her by noting and praising each small success made , and not concentrating on the things that are unsuccessful
Ask her where she would feel most comfortable. Often people with a mental illness feel isolated by society because of stigma they may have experienced or think they will experience.
Encouragement to socialise with others who have had similar experiences, can be helpful in the short term as can reading about other people who have recovered their quality of life
For more information please read our Dealing with a sibling's unusual thoughts and behaviour factsheet
You might also like to join Rethink Mental Illness campaigns and activities with your sibling so you can meet other people who have experienced the same thing together.
Need practical advice & info? We can help.
Contact our Advice team about mental health & related issues
0300 5000 927 Monday - Friday 9.30am - 4pm, not including bank holidays