Hello, My mom has had a very troubled past. She was sexually abused as a young child and for most of her life, she was in an abusive marriage, and she has attempted suicide twice (that I know of). She also struggled with alcohol and drug abuse as a young adult.

But overall, she is quite a cheerful person! She’s a great mom, and she does everything possible to keep my sibling and I safe and happy! She isn’t paranoid about spies, or stalkers. She doesn’t have any memory loss or cognitive “slowness”. She is never violent or crude. And she doesn’t have a speech disorder or general fatigue.

But what worries me is that she says she can see/hear demons. She says that she has been able to for her entire life. Sometimes they are shadows or auras, and other times they are seemingly normal people. She also says that her dreams predict the future. One time she also seemed to have this alternate personality or something. She kept saying “my name is -her name-, yes that’s me!” and giggling for about 30 minutes or so. She had similar “giggle fits” after she got divorced. She would sit on the floor and just laugh for an hour saying “I finally understand!”. But nothing like that has happened for a while.

Recently it seems to be getting worse. I’ve caught her talking to the demons multiple times, and during dinner today she started yelling for them to go away. She also told me that she’s been having flashbacks of scenes from places that we used to live.

Her father has admitted to seeing a demon once, and my mom claims that my younger sibling can see them too. So it may be a genetic thing? But she says that God has given her the gift to see the demons (I’m not very religious, so I find this hard to believe, however I may just be narrow-minded)

So my question to you is what is this that she’s experiencing? I was thinking that it’s a sort of coping mechanism for PTSD that correlates with high levels of stress. But I’m not a professional or anything. Another likely option is Schizophrenia. Or maybe it really is a religious thing.

Anyways, I would really appreciate your help so that she can get treatment if necessary. Thank you for your time.

A. Without having personally examined her, it’s impossible to determine what might be wrong. It is estimated that approximately 10% of the population experiences hallucinations. That would suggest that hallucinations are not rare. Hallucinations can be caused by sleep disorders, organic brain syndromes, drug use, trauma, and psychotic-based mental illnesses.

However, you are right to be concerned. Her hallucinations have increased as have her flashbacks. This might suggest that she is experiencing prodromal symptoms of psychosis. Prodromal refers to symptoms that precede the onset of psychosis. The prodromal phase can last for weeks or months. The symptoms are typically mild in intensity but slowly become worse over time. Without treatment prodromal symptoms can progress into full-blown psychotic episodes.

The solution is treatment. Specifically consult a psychiatrist and ask that they perform an evaluation. Medication can prevent the worsening of symptoms. Treatment will help her to stay grounded in reality. The sooner she begins treatment, the better the prognosis. Do your best to convince her to begin treatment as soon as possible. Waiting might only make things worse. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle