Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Attention seeking behavior


Dear Dr. Harrop,

  I am also an expert here at All Experts with a situation that I need help with. My expertise is in paranormal phenomena. Now before you roll your eyes and consider me psychotic myself, I am not a typical paranormal fanatic. I have academically studied parapsychology and maintain a well stocked library of 900 books dealing with not only the paranormal, but subjects that would explain paranormal-like situations such as sleep medicine, the DSM-IV, neuroscience, psychology, neuropsychology, consciousness, to allow me a better understanding of what is "normal" and what may be considered  "paranormal" once all avenues of rational and scientific subjects fail an answer. In short Ochman's razor works 90% of the time in my field, at least the way I practice it. I am the last one to assume that everything has a paranormal cause, regardless of the oddity of the accounts. Normal before paranormal, rational before irrational!

  Currently I am dealing with clients that are claiming "poltergeist" activity. They are a couple living together, not married and interracial. Things that have been witnessed are pictures breaking, pictures turning upside down, decorative items being moved and positioned to another location, all of the kitchen cabinet doors and drawers being found open where she had left the apartment to meet him so she was the last person in it, "Knock Knock" written on a shaving mirror with the females eyeliner marker, the female being attacked with finger marks on one are, her claiming to have been choked complete with a finger nail mark on her neck, being hit in the head with a vase causing it to break, and having a stone fly from the bedroom to the living room [having to tack a left turn followed by a right turn to do so.

I gave a gut feeling that since these events are never witnessed or even occur when the two parties are with-in eye range of each other, being separated by walls, that the female is causing the phenomena herself, faking a series of 'poltergeist' attacks. I have searched the internet and my library but can not find the condition that she may be suffering from.

The attacks only started approximately a month ago with no prior attacks. Ad they had recently moved into the apartment the mail also assumes that the apartment must have some paranormal cause for the effects. He told me that until recently he would have laughed in the face of any one even suggesting ghosts, a haunting or anything else paranormal in nature. Incidentally the female has a history of sleepwalking. If important she immigrated from Germany three years ago. She is also overweight. This might point to some type of parasomnia issue, I just don't know.

What puzzles me the most is the span in which the events are happening. If she had a DID for example the change of personality would have to occur in seconds from host to alter back to host. My guess is that she is aware of what she is doing. I just can't figure out why outside of a need for the attention that she is creating. Of the disorders that I have looked at it always seems to be a matter of, "well it has symptoms of this but not in entirety. It has a little bit of this and a little bit of that depending on what disorder I've researched." Schizophrenia [and related diseases] include a bizarre belief, and although she claims to have a mild interest in the supernatural, it does not outwardly seem prevalent. She does have a history of sleep walking, and when I had the male client use motion detection video recording the activity stopped, then began again outside the range of the cameras.  As I stated, other personality disorders come close, but no ringers.
I have assumed a parapsychological idea of Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis or Stress Induced Psychokinesis, but neither include self harm.
Incidentally, the events that are occurring are text book examples of poltergeist activity, literally as if one had researched what happens during such phenomena and them does it. As well, she claims to be being 'cyberstalked' by an distant acquaintance who told her to beware of witchcraft and black magic, so a possible paranoid delusion is a possibility.

  In my opinion there is nothing paranormal about the case. I would appreciate your opinion on what is happening and perhaps why. My final remark is that both are highly educated and both working as instructors at the University here.

Dr. Harrop, you have no idea how much your opinion would be of benefit, to me at least, as I have been racking my brains for some time over this.

Warmest regards,

Well, several options.

Obviously, she might be "malingering" or causing this for attention -- that might come out in some couples counseling for attention (you have correctly considered this possibility).

She could have temporal lobe seizures, but the activities seem too organized for this.

She could be under the influence of drugs and having blackout episodes in which cases she acts out but does not remember such, but again, these seem too frequent.

You may have ruled out D.I.D. too quickly.  A fragmented personality would explain this -- why now would again only come out in therapy (was there a recent trauma, or an event that is causing remembrance of a prior trauma?).

Fugue states are usually more lengthy.

Psychiatry & Psychology--General

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Daniel S. Harrop, M.D.


Dr. Daniel S. Harrop received his B.A. and his M.D., both from Brown, and his M.B.A. from the Edinburgh Business School, Scotland. Board-certified in adult and geriatric psychiatry, he is a past president of the R.I. Psychiatric Society and a member of the Committee on Medical Quality of the American Psychiatric Association and the Committee on Continuing Medical Education of the R.I Medical Society. He serves as a consultant to four of the top five major medical management companies, including OptumHealth/United Healthcare, Magellan Behavioral Health Services, ValueOptions and APS Healthcare, and maintains a private practice in Providence, R.I. He also serves as chief psychiatric consultant on the Medical Advisory Board at the R.I. Workers Compensation Court. He was formerly on the faculty at the medical schools at both Brown University and Harvard University.

©2016 All rights reserved.