It is difficult to determine what is happening to your partner. It doesn’t appear consistent with schizophrenia but only an in-depth, in-person clinical interview could determine a diagnosis.
She may be experiencing a form of disassociation or potentially dissociative identity disorder (DID). DID used to be called multiple personality disorder. It is a diagnosis contained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, however some mental health professionals are skeptical about whether DID is a valid diagnosis and thus it remains controversial.
Dissociative disorders are real and can be debilitating. She probably utilizes “the box” when she is feeling stressed or unsafe in the world. It seems as though “the box” is a form of protection for her that makes her feel safe. “The box” is a defense mechanism, however she is using it more often and for longer periods of time. She is now confused and apparently believes that she is interacting with other people while in “the box.” These are all concerning symptoms.
She needs to be evaluated by a mental health professional. She should see a specialist who is trained to deal with dissociative disorders or trauma. You may be able to find a therapist by visiting the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Disassociation, an organization of therapists who focus on assessing and treating dissociative disorders. Click on the “find a therapist” tab to locate a specialist in your community. Do your best to convince her to seek treatment. It is highly recommended that she seek professional help. She’s not well and intervention is needed. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle