Girlfriend Seeing Shadows

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I am a senior and I have been going out with this girl for about 8 months now. Everything has been fine up until about two weeks ago. She began telling me she is hearing voices at night, seeing shadows, and feeling like people are there. I am never around for this. This all happens at night. She calls me in a panic from time to time and tells me what has happened. It is usually the same thing every night but i feel it iis worsening. I was on the phone and she called crying hysterically saying she was hearing voices and she was scared. She then said hold on and went to brush her hair in the bathroom. She starts to freak out and says she can’t look at myself in the mirror and she says that she doesnt know that person in the mirror. She heads back into her room and we talk for a little bit and she starts to clam down until she says it is in front of her bedroom door and she can’t move because she is too scared. I go on saying none of its real and I’m am going to try to get you help by talking to your parents and make you see a psychiatrist. She then tells me there is nothing wrong with her and that she will only get in trouble.

I am growing scared now. It gets worse each day, i feel helpless, I do not know what to do. Please help me. I need some guidance because i fear something bad will happen soon. Please, i greatly look forward from hearing from you. Sincerely, Justin

A. Hello Justin. You are correct to be concerned. Your instinct is for her to seek help. I completely agree. You have tried all that you can. You help her when she feels frightened. You reassure her that everything will be okay. She is very fortunate to have your help. You are able to calm her down temporarily but it seems that these episodes continue to occur. At this time, she needs more help than you can offer.

I would encourage you to do one or several of the following:

  • Speak to your parents. They may have good advice for you. They can support you and perhaps her as well. Your parents could also serve as a source of support if you decide to approach her parents about your concerns. It is also possible that your parents could speak to her parents, on your behalf.

  • Speak to her parents. I am not sure what type of relationship (if any) you have with her parents but if you feel comfortable, you may want to approach them on her behalf. You can inform her parents that she is concerned about their reaction. She may be upset if you tell them but it is in her best interest for her parents to know the truth.
  • Offer to be there when she speaks to her parents. If you accompany her, she may feel less frightened.

Another idea, if she’s not willing to tell her parents, is to encourage her to write them a letter. The idea is that you want to encourage her to tell her parents. If she’s not comfortable telling her parents, perhaps she would be willing to tell a school counselor, the school nurse, a trusted teacher, or another family member. I cannot identify what precisely is causing her panic-like episodes but the sooner she seeks treatment, the sooner they can be dealt with.

Perhaps she is frightened about what is ultimately the cause of her problems. She may also worry about being labeled with a mental health disorder. This is speculation. The goal for you is to encourage her to seek help. That’s all you can do. You cannot force someone into treatment if they do not want it. Keep encouraging her. Do the best you can. I hope for her sake, she takes your advice.

I wish you luck, Justin. Your girlfriend is lucky to have a caring person in her life. Please consider writing back and letting me know the outcome of this situation. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 May 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Girlfriend Seeing Shadows. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/05/15/girlfriend-seeing-shadows/