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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Identifying Mental Issues

04/06/2005

Question:

My boyfriend and I have been together for a year 1/2 and i knew him for 2 years before that,we also have a 2 month old son. Let me start off with saying I have never cheated on him. When he first started accusing me it was probably once every few months. But for the past month or 2 it has been an everyday thing no matter what situtaion we are in. He thinks that just about any man I come into contact with I'm cheating with. He has even gotten to the point where he hears and sees stuff that doesn't happen. The thing is he knows I haven't cheated on him. He gets these feelings and they make him think he sees or hears something that says I'm cheating. It's like one part of him knows the truth but the other is trying to tell him different and he kinda has to fight with himself and push these feelings away. But its hard and nine times out of ten he lets these feelings take over and thats when he starts accusing me and the arguements start. He has told me that he doesnt know why he thinks these things or how to stop them. Could he have a mental condition?

Answer:

It certainly sounds like there are problems going on in the relationship.  From an e-mail, it is impossible for me to diagnose your boyfriend, but I will tell you some of my concerns.

Men who are abusers, both physically and emotionally towards their partners often exhibit extreme jealousy.  At times this includes imagining situations (such as cheating) that don't really exist.  These men become controlling and domineering, often putting down their partners, not allowing them to leave the home, get a job, see friends, etc.  Abusive men are mentally ill, and do need counseling, anger management and treatment.

Some men who imagine situations that don't really exist can be suffering from a serious mental illness like schizophrenia.  In schizophrenia, people really do have a separate reality --- they may hear voices or see things that don't exist, or more commonly, perceive common everyday situations as being threatening to them.  This is very serious, and needs medical attention.

I recommend that both you and your boyfriend consider some joint counseling as a place to start.  I would encourage your boyfriend to also seek an individual assessment by a mental health professional.  If he won't go with you or by himself, I still recommend that you get some counseling.  This is not a healthy relationship for you or your child, and you need to learn how to deal with it and decide if it is safe for you.

Good luck.

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati