Hello, my name is —- and I have a question regarding my partner’s mental health. I’ve been worried about my boyfriend for the past few weeks, as he very recently seems to be displaying psychotic issues. I’ve been dating him for about 4 mos, and he, in the past few weeks, has been acting oddly. For background, we are both 20 years old. In the past year, he was kicked out of his mothers house for being transgender, and has spent some time being homeless. He recently got into an apartment, and registered an emotional support animal. He also says he is very happy in his relationship with me. So things seem to be looking up in his life, yet his mental state gets worse and worse. A few months ago he told me that schizophrenia runs in his family, but the symptoms he described his relatives as having didn’t line up with schizophrenia at all (no paranoia, hallucinations, disorganized thoughts/speech). I told him that maybe they were misdiagnosed, and that seemed to ease his mind a bit.
Now, we are both Wiccan (this is how we met), but lately his religious beliefs seem to be taking over his life. Two weeks ago, we got in a car accident. He had some sort of panic attack where he went non-verbal, and when he could speak, none of the words made sense with each other. Like, they didn’t form complete sentences, or follow any grammatical rules. Later, he began saying that the Goddess was trying to kill him in that accident, because he claims that she never intended for him to be born. Later that week we were hanging out, and out of the blue he became very distressed, saying there was a demon in the house. He kept asking me if I saw the ‘thing’ in the corner of the room, and pressed his back to the wall, saying if he did not he would be open for attack. He also says that the thing he saw was an Egyptian demon from an episode of courage the cowardly dog? which is very confusing. He asked me to ward the room, which I did because he was very upset. This calmed him down somewhat.
Now, I don’t want to discount his religious beliefs. Again, we share (or used to share?) the same ideas about spirituality. But this is not in line with anything he used to believe, or even in line with the beliefs of most Wiccans. He now regularly talks about this demon following him and has had more non-verbal episodes like the one I described. He has not, however, claimed to have seen the demon since.
I am obviously very worried for him. I love him very much, and want to do whatever I can to help, but I feel very scared and out of my depth. He is quite convinced that this thing is real, and I am afraid that confronting him might alienate him from me. Is it possible that this is just a product of life stresses and nothing to worry about? If I DO need to confront him, how should I go about it? Any advice you have would be GREATLY appreciated.
Reactions to stress vary greatly person to person but his are unusual. Believing in demons and goddesses suggest the possible development of paranoia and delusions — symptoms associated with psychosis. Psychosis is a break with reality. It can happen apart from more serious mental illnesses or it can be a sign of the development of a serious mental illness. Only time will tell which one may be the case.
It is also important to say that I only have a limited amount of “second hand” information about this case, so I cannot know with certainty if he is experiencing psychosis. I would not “confront” him in any manner because a confrontation suggests something jarring and negative. It would be better to suggest that he seek treatment.
Of course, a therapist will attempt to determine the difference between delusion and reality. Put a different way, the therapist will attempt to determine false beliefs from reality. What is real and what is not real? There either are gods and goddesses and demons or there are not. If there really are demons then there would be nothing unusual at all about one hiding in a dark corner. If there are not demons then logically, none could be following him or hiding in a dark corner of a room. But if there are demons, as he believes, then why would it be unusual or delusional for one to be followed by a demon?
Do you recognize the dilemma that a therapist would have in this situation? The therapist cannot accept the legitimacy of demons and goddesses and the efficacy of wandering a room and then deny them at the same time. A therapist must constantly challenge false beliefs. For instance, if someone believes that they will die if they leave their home the therapist will challenge that belief. The therapist will need to prove to the client that their fear is not founded in reality. If the client claims that it is their religious belief and that their fear of leaving the house is founded soundly upon religious beliefs, the therapist will nonetheless need to prove those religious beliefs to be false.
I hope you understand what I’m telling you. You need to believe only that which is real. You are never entitled to believe something to be true without proof that it is true. If you do not know if something is true, then you do not know if something is real.
In reality, you are not entitled to believe anything that you choose to believe. That applies to absolutely all areas of life. You are not entitled to believe that anti-freeze, is good for your health, even if it is a part of your religion. Why do I say that you are not entitled? Because no one is entitled to disagree with what is real. There will be a penalty to pay. Anyone, who partakes in a refreshing 16-ounce glass of antifreeze for its healing and medicinal properties, even if the ingestion of such is highly recommended by one’s religion, will be severely punished by reality. That punishment, is usually violent death.
Reality does not take second place to religion. Is this last example too extreme, too ridiculous? Of course not, that’s exactly what happened in Jonestown, where religious followers drank poison for their religious beliefs.
Please allow me to be as succinct as possible. If it’s okay with you for your boyfriend to believe in demons, then why isn’t it okay for him to see them? I wish you both the best of luck.
Dr. Kristina Randle