A friend of mine believes that people are listening to her phone calls, reading her txt messages, coming into her home when she’s not there, messing with her tv and DVD by planting electronics in them, daring her phone battery, messing with her car, hav planted a GPS system in her car. She’ll txt me and suddenly believe it’s someone else getting them or reading them. She seems normal when we meet for coffee though if I or she brings up the subject she’s goes back to talking about “them” whoever them is. She told me this has been going on for 5 years. She and I recently connected over LinkedIn so I’ve only experienced this from her about two months. Apparently she’s lost all her friends and I’m her only friend at the moment. Her family lives in NY, she’s on her sisters phone plan and speaks to her mother. So her family is aware. She’s 38 yrs ok’d, single and presently unemployed and desperate for work. She won’t ask her sisters for work because they will only do it if she sees a doctor. She would rather be homeless and do anything than do that she says. I try to just listen and act like I believe some of what she says. I once said that something sounds crazy and she went off. I learned quickly not to use the word nuts or crazy. She’ll txt me everyday, 5 10 15 at a time. I want her to see a doctor but how do I do that. She’s an adult, hasn’t harmed anyone, has held a job until her office closed in Sept. How can I get her to see someone? What can I do to help her? My wife and I thought asking a psychiatrist for guidance couldn’t hurt.
A. You can’t force your friend to seek help. You can recommend that she seek help and you can and should encourage her to do so but you can’t force her into treatment. Only on rare occasions can someone be forced into treatment. Most states have strict imminent danger laws which indicate that a person can be involuntarily committed to a hospital only when they are on the verge of harming themselves or others. Individuals who are “just” paranoid, delusional and hallucinating, generally would not qualify as being imminently dangerous. These symptoms are often the initial symptoms of schizophrenia.
You might try to suggest that she see a mental health professional and that you or your wife will attend the appointment with her. She might be open to treatment if she knew she had support. Alternatively, she may reject the idea and if so, you will have to accept her answer.
Another approach is to contact her family and report your concerns. They may be familiar with her behavior and have a plan for how to help her. You said that her family is aware of her symptoms but they may not be fully aware. If they’re willing to take your phone call, then you should report what you have observed.
Your friend is fortunate to have people in her life who care about her well-being. You can try to recommend that she seek treatment but don’t be surprised if she rejects the idea. Also, try not to take it personally if she says no. Her symptoms indicate that she is not thinking logically. I hope that you can convince her to seek treatment. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle
Randle, K. (2013). Paranoid Friend. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 11, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/12/11/paranoid-friend/