I hear my mother whispering to herself for long periods of time, several times a day, every day. We can be in different rooms, but I still hear the whispering. I now become very stressed when I hear her doing this, and it has gotten quite annoying. She does it while doing dishes, while in the swimming pool, while walking around the house cleaning up, etc. I have read that talking to oneself is ‘normal’, however the the general rule to that seems to be that it’s only normal if you do it when you’re alone. I have become concerned that this is beyond what is considered ‘normal’ talking to oneself because of the fact that she doesn’t restrict this behavior to when she is alone, and she doesn’t seem to be able to control it. I’ve never tried to listen to what she is saying, and honestly I really don’t want to know. I don’t feel comfortable confronting her about this, as I don’t want to embarrass her. At this point, I just really need her to stop this behavior because it is really negatively affecting me because of the anxiety it causes me. I live with her, so I don’t have the choice of limiting the time I am around her.

A: Thank you for writing. You are correct that this isn’t “normal.” She isn’t doing it to bother you. She probably is unware of how much she does talk to herself. Instead of being annoyed, you need to get busy. Your mother needs some help.

You didn’t mention your mother’s age. Since you are in your 30s, I’m guessing that she is in her 50s. This is early for the onset of dementia but it does happen. It could also be a sign that she has a vitamin B12 deficiency. The first step, then, is to take her to a doctor for a complete checkup. Ask your mother for permission to go with her so that you can describe what she is doing. An accurate diagnosis is the first step toward getting the right treatment in place.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie