My Girlfriend Thinks She Has Supernatural Powers

Reader’s Question

I have a girlfriend. She is 24, but as mature as a 40-year-old — intelligent, wise, imaginative, romantic, sensitive, emotional. She values true feelings and truth in front of any human quality. But she says she has supernatural powers. She says she can: cook eggs in her hands, move objects with her mind, change the direction of the wind and of sea waves, can put a person in a coma or even kill or heal. But she would never hurt anyone, she says, and hate is something she never feels. Once I pushed her to move some objects with her mind she said I am not ready but explained her powers in magnificent details, having answers to every one of my questions. She answered all my questions for one hour. Then she cried for several hours in her room and we were about to break up but calmed down later and says I still love you and we are together again. I asked why she cried, and she said she felt like I was laughing at her.

She looks and behaves pretty normally, except she thinks she has supernatural powers. What kind of disorder is this?

Psychologist’s Reply

There are two disorders that have the symptoms you describe in your girlfriend. The first is a “Personality Disorder” called Schizotypal Personality. Individuals with Schizotypal Personality are often considered odd and eccentric during their school years, reaching adulthood with a group of unusual beliefs, behaviors, and interpretations of life. They are often preoccupied with paranormal, supernatural, extrasensory perception, and spirituality. They often believe they have special powers such as:

  • predicting the future,
  • the ability to read minds,
  • the ability to control others with their thoughts,
  • the ability to heal or diagnose,
  • the ability to receive messages from the deceased, and
  • a host of other powers and abilities not normally associated with their culture.

Schizotypal Personalities often report physical and perceptual experiences that tend to justify their belief in having supernatural powers. They typically report a variety of sensations and bodily changes that they link to their supernatural powers, as though a headache is receiving a signal from a spiritual source. As part of Schizotypal Personality, she would exhibit (according to the DSM-IV):

  • Ideas of reference: The belief that unrelated objects, experiences in her environment are directly related to her, perhaps feeling she could see patterns in the way people walk nearby or feeling that she knew the radio would play songs in a specific order. She may report the ability to read signs in nature.
  • Magical thinking: The belief that she has supernatural/magical control over her environment, control of the air or ocean waves, healing, etc. Mental telepathy and clairvoyance are often reported.
  • Unusual body and sensory perceptions.
  • Odd and unusual speech and thinking: Speech, thinking and language patterns may be viewed as peculiar by those around her, being overly elaborate, vague, or containing odd phrases/references.
  • Suspiciousness or paranoid behavior: This experience being created by the excessive ideas of reference, eventually feeling others dislike them or are planning against them.
  • Inappropriate or constricted affect: An impairment in their emotional response that may be unpredictable, very numb, or otherwise out of the expected range of emotional expression.
  • Odd and eccentric behavior and appearance: Exhibiting unusual rituals, superstitions, or strange behavior. Attire may be unusual and can take on a “costume” appearance.
  • Lack of friends due to excessive social anxiety.

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If her functioning in the community is as you describe — mature, imaginative, intelligent — this is the most likely explanation, a Schizotypal Personality. A more serious possibility is a Delusional Disorder in which the individual exhibits a false belief (delusion) that is present with little or no connection with reality. An individual with Schizotypal Personality may believe they can cook eggs with the warmth in their hands, while an individual with Delusional Disorder may think they can turn those eggs into chickens.

As a Personality Disorder — what you see is what you get. The fact that she has answers to all your questions tells us this has been present for many years at this point. In romance, it’s often very difficult to tell what your partner is thinking and feeling. In this case, it will be extremely difficult.

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