Abandonment and Mental Health Workers’ Phobia in a Case of Folie A Famille

Abstract

Dr. Onofa Lucky Umukoro

Shared Psychotic Disorder (SPD) is a rare clinical syndrome characterized by the transference of delusional ideas from one person to one or more other people in close association with the primary affected patient. Folie a famille, a more rare form of SPD is classified as a shared psychotic disorder within a family in more than two members in a usually close relationship and are isolated from others. The available literature on folie a famille is scant and this condition is rarely looked at in common clinical practice in Psychiatry. We present here a case of folie a famille within a nuclear family consisting of the mother and her seven children. The primary patient suffered from Schizoaffective disorder with florid paranoid delusions which were shared by her children. In the course of her illness, there was a shift in the paranoid delusion shared by the children towards the mother as they saw her as their main persecutor. Consequently, the children withdrew their supports and patient was eventually abandoned. On admission, the mental health workers shared in the delusional beliefs of the children as they saw her as a spiritual threat with the consequent disruption of the therapeutic alliance. Psychological therapies and the application of religious and socio-cultural resources helped to reduce the delusional beliefs among the children and the mental health workers.

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