My boyfriend is a great person, very caring and encouraging. There are things about him that are hard for him to deal with, that bother him a lot, and some of it scares and/or confuses me but I really just want to help him get through these things in the best way possible. He has a lot of fears…he is terrified of driving and never has b/c he’s too afraid to learn it, he’s afraid of aliens or shadow people abducting/harming him, and of being physically away from me for too long. He was abused severely in his last serious relationship but doesn’t like to talk about it (which obviously I won’t pressure him to discuss, so I know very little). He also has a need to be a “vigilante” and physically harm criminals in a spree-style fashion. He says he wants to stop but it’s hard, like an addiction. I tried to come up with other ways for him to deal with emotions and fears, but I admittedly don’t really know what I’m doing. I see this awesome person struggling a lot inside and don’t know what to do to help.
A: It sounds like you care about your boyfriend a great deal and have tried to help him in the best ways you know how. But it also sounds like your boyfriend’s issues go beyond what a friend, girlfriend or even family member could help him through. The best thing for him would be to get help from a trained mental health professional. However, if someone doesn’t want help, it can be very difficult to guide them to it.
If you haven’t already, you might do some research on therapists or mental health agencies in your area, reducing the leg work he would have to do himself. In order to get the ball rolling, you might also consider seeing someone yourself and then asking him to join you for a few couple’s sessions. This might make it less threatening for him.
The other part of your question that concerns me is his need to be a “vigilante.” This could lead him down a very destructive path, endangering himself and others, and could possibly lead to him becoming a criminal himself. Violence is violence. If he breaks the law to harm someone else, even if he deems them to be a criminal, he puts himself on their level. I know it would be very difficult to do when you love someone, but if you have knowledge of him hurting or planning to hurt someone, I would suggest that you contact the police.
I’m sorry that your boyfriend has so many fears and was abused in a prior relationship. I appreciate the fact that you love him and want to help him, but I really hope you involve the professionals in that pursuit.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Jun 2014
Counts, H. (2014). I Don’t Know How to Help, or Even if I Should. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/06/19/i-dont-know-how-to-help-or-even-if-i-should/