Wife Displaying Odd Behavior

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My Wife has displaying odd behaviour such as delusional, grandiose, irrational, and illogical thinking. My wife was sexually, physically and verbally abused as a young child starting at the age of about five. For how long the sexual abuse was, I’m not sure, but the physical and verbal abuse continued until she was a young adult. (For example, her mother horse whipped her in the shower when she was about sixteen.) To this day, she is now forty-three, some members of her family still mistreat her in some form (both her parents have passed away). I know that she is severely affected by her past. She is highly sensitive in nearly every regard. There are moments when she makes sense in what she says and does. Then there are moments when she is very delusional. Sometimes she has threatened suicide, and has said things like “you’ll miss me when I’m gone.” She spends a lot of time on Facebook. There she really appreciates all the nice things people will post about her. I warn her, nicely, that many of those people may somewhat be misrepresenting who they really are. She never did believe me. During this past summer she decided to fly off to a far-away city to meet with one of these people. In her mind, she was going to make a music CD with someone who said they had a recording studio. (She sings karaoke. -She does sing pretty good too.) After a night in this far-away city she phones me while I’m at work. She’s crying, and telling me how bad this perosn is, and that she loves me, etc. (None of it turned out the way she fantisized it would.) When she got home she made up some excuses as to why things turned out the way they did. She removed those people from her Facebook page. She still spends a lot of time on Facebook and is a little wary but not much. She will eliminate anyone from her life, friends or family, who she feels is a negative person. This could be a dirty look she ‘thinks’ she got from someone, something someone said that she misinterprets, could even be something someone fails to say like a cashier not saying “hello, how are you?” She can get very upset at cashiers, waitresses, etc. She will often tell them off. I try to explain to her that maybe they are just having a bad day, but she refuses to accept that. She now refuses to see most members of her family and all members of my family. (She gets very mad when I visit my old parents.) She feels both sides of the family have done her wrong in some way, shape or form and are negative people that she doesn’t want in her life. This happens with friends she meets. At first she places them high on a pedestal (she can’t stop gushing about them), then something is said or done and my wife then separates from them (whether a friend or employer). She was having crying spells for no apparent reasons (for years). I asked her to see her doctor and he prescribed antidepressants. They stopped her crying spells but her opinions and reactions to people stayed the same or maybe even got worse. I managed to get her to go to a psychologist with me so that we could work out these problems as they severely affect our marriage. I went first and explained the problem. When we started therapy together my wife, at first was reluctant to even show up. I know why, she is severely affected by her early and mid childhood. The therapist thought otherwise, which is fine, I explained to the therapist whatever it takes. The therapist recommended we have separate counselling. Before I know it my wife is off her medication, having severe crying spells, planning to make a music CD (which is fine -could be done in our own city but she had other ideas), and wanting to leave the marriage. She also stopped seeing the therapist. I got to the point where I finally said, if you want to leave then pack up and leave. You’ll have to get a job, place to stay, etc. (All in a calm, relaxed way. I don’t argue with her anymore as I’ve learned from research that she may be looking for an argument to stimulate some part of her brain.) Well, she never does leave when things get like this and within a day she’s calling me terms of endearment like ‘babe’ and ‘sweetie’. At first I was really confused but now I can predict these odd behaviour patterns. She has problems at any job she has ever had (always with the complaint that certain people ‘treat her bad’), and now refuses to work to help out with expenses. For that matter, she refuses to want to plan for retirement, or be responsible in any fashion with expenses, holidays, etc. She says I should be lucky that I have her (basically indicating that I should be glad to keep working just to have her around no matter what age I should have to work to and that she could have married a millionaire.) She barely keeps the house clean. She has all kinds of body aches and pains, she sleeps late, refuses to go on outtings, for drives, or even out together much anymore. If we do she winds up arguing about silly things (basically gets herself worked up over very little things, complains about other drivers, me not signalling in time, just about anything will do it.) Also, she can’t go out of the house without full make-up on, won’t even answer the door. She looks completely different with make-up then without. I tell her she looks great without make-up and that she doesn’t need it. At first she really doubts what I’m saying but reluctantly agrees (still never goes out without it though). She always thinks she’s overweight. I always tell her she looks great. She used to be fairly overweight as a teenager and young adult but has since lost the extra weight. She can really fool people, in that no one we know realizes she’s as mixed up as she is. We’ve been married sixteen years and have no children. I love her and want to help her but I’m not sure what to do now. The psychologist was no help at all. In fact, the psychologist made things worse. She won’t go to the family doctor for her bodily aches or depression. I think she may need the services of a psychiratrist. Surprisingly I have come to terms with this state of affairs. Although I think I’m going to get counselling for myself. I hate to end our marriage and would rather get help for my wife. Is there anything I can do for her that might help her to seek good help? Or, anything I can do on my own to improve our lives? Thank you.

A. It is possible that your wife is suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. It is impossible for me to know what her diagnosis is or if she merits a mental health diagnosis, but much of what you have described is characteristic of one or more of those disorders. It is abnormal to be delusional, to have thoughts of grandiosity, to be irrational and to engage in illogical thinking. It is typically a sign of a serious mental health disorder.

There are many other aspects of your letter that lead me to believe that your wife may have a serious mental health disorder. One is the fact that she met someone (or a group of people) on Facebook and then decided to fly to another state for a meeting. The meeting apparently did not go well and unfortunately there’s no way to know with certainty what happened. All that you were able to gather (based on her response when she returned home) was that the meeting went very badly. That was a very risky thing for her to do. This is one example of her delusional and irrational thinking.

Other concerning symptoms include the fact that she misinterprets the actions of others. That is another sign of a serious mental illness. Other concerning symptoms include crying spells, the unusual manner in which she relates to friends and family, and her threats of suicide. In addition, it seems as though she is not functioning at an appropriate level.

You also mentioned that she complains of body aches. Body aches may be a sign of hypochondria, which is the belief that one is suffering from a physical ailment despite medical evidence to the contrary. She may in fact be suffering from a medical condition and the body aches may be real, but it is noteworthy because hypochondriasis is characteristic of some psychotic disorders, schizophrenia in particular.

You decided to seek treatment for yourself and that was a very wise decision. I also think it is important to have a therapist who understands the nature of serious mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder. Again, I cannot verify whether your wife has any one of those disorders, but her symptoms are indicative of some type of psychotic-based disorder.

You think your wife should see a psychiatrist. I wholeheartedly agree. She may also benefit from psychotherapy. The goal is to find a way for her to enter treatment, whether it is with a psychiatrist or another mental health professional, or both. You may also want to consider couples counseling. Perhaps you can do that in tandem with your own individual counseling. Consider family therapy if there are children or other relatives involved.

I think the most important aspect of this situation is the fact that your wife seems to be actively psychotic and is not in treatment. Antipsychotics could help her reduce her psychotic symptoms. Many people, understandably, do not like to take antipsychotic medication. There are many side effects, but perhaps she could take a low dose of an antipsychotic drug. It could help her and your marriage.

It is also important to know that many individuals who have psychotic disorders, schizophrenia in particular, often refuse to take their medications. It is a very common phenomenon. That is why it is important that you surround yourself with support. A competent therapist could provide that support for you.

Undoubtedly, you are dealing with a very difficult situation. You are headed toward divorce, most likely because of your wife’s bizarre behavior. Tragically, schizophrenia and other related disorders have led to many divorces and family breakups but that does not have to be the case for you. Realize that your wife may be very sick and needs help. If she were in treatment and her symptoms under control, then it might actually save the marriage. It may also save her life. Getting her into treatment should be the most important goal at this time. I would also encourage you to educate yourself about psychotic-based disorders and surround yourself with supportive people.

Please write back if you have any more questions. I will gladly answer any followup questions you may have.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Dec 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Wife Displaying Odd Behavior. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/12/17/wife-displaying-odd-behavior/

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