You have described your cousin as someone who has difficulty maintaining relationships, might be a loner, is sad, experiences delusions (though it’s unclear how often they occur), is paranoid, and might be hallucinating. It’s impossible to diagnose her over the Internet, but given her symptoms it’s plausible to believe that she might have schizophrenia or a related psychotic disorder.
Mental health disorders are determined using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders. This manual provides specific criteria that must be met in order for a diagnosis to be given.
I suspect that you are less interested in gaining a technical diagnosis for your cousin and are more concerned with how to help her, given her symptoms.
You can encourage her to seek mental health treatment, adhere to her prescribed treatment regimen and provide social and emotional support.
For instance, if she were frightened about her belief that magnets have been placed in her body, the proper response might include: “It must be very frightening to think that your close friends are placing magnets in your body. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Don’t attempt to debate whether or not her delusion is true. Try to respond to her feelings and reinforce the idea that she is safe with you.
It’s also best to remain calm when interacting with her. Stress could intensify her symptoms. By remaining calm, it will reinforce the idea that she is safe.
If she attempts to discuss her delusions or hallucinations, try changing the subject to shift the focus onto something less stressful. Focusing on them might make her feel more frightened.
You might be interested in the book I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help by Dr. Xavier Amador. He provides suggestions for interacting with individuals with psychosis. It might give you some ideas about how to interact with your cousin. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle