Is a person certifiably crazy if they see ‘hidden’ messages or connections in seemingly random coincidences? (More…)
September 10, 2007 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Is a person certifiably crazy if they see ‘hidden’ messages or connections in seemingly random coincidences? (More…)

Someone I know can easily see and interpret a slew of so-called ‘hidden’ words, messages, etc. from normal everyday things, places and occurrences…this person also has an odd ability to extract seemingly endless and different combinations of words, meanings, etc. from countless juxtapositions of said words, numbers, places, etc. And from all these curious ways of deconstruction/construction, this person draws a lot of false conclusions about things to the point of pseudo-mania or the inner workings of a conspiracy theorist nut-case.

For instance, here are a few examples, with this person’s conclusions about them:

1) I used to work with someone last year with the last name ‘Castle’. There is a house in my neighborhood about a block away that looks like a miniature castle. Conclusion: I have some sort of bond/connection to this ‘Castle’ person, even though I’ve said probably less than 50 words to them.

2) Myspace shenanigans…someone in my friends list leaves a comment typed backwards (!ahahaH !!llew gniod er'uoy epoh ,nam yeH), seemingly for comedic effect. Months later, another friend leaves a religious oriented comment, quoting John 3:16. I happened to update my profile at a time/date that is some sort of backwards variation of “3:16”, say at 6:13 PM or 9:13 AM, or on June 13th or Sept. 13th . Conclusion: because my profile was updated at that particular moment in time, there is a sort of secret, unspoken communication of some nature going on between myself and friend #2, who left the “John 3:16” comment – based solely on the fact that the backwards message from friend #1 relates to the updated profile time/date being backwards, which in turn relates to the number “3:16” message. STILL WITH ME SO FAR?

3) Myspace shenanigans, part II…another person on my friends list has a woman in their top 5 who happens to share the same name and is of the same ethnicity of someone I had a relationship with about 3 years ago. Conclusion: I am still holding a candle for this woman I was involved with, even 3 years after our relationship ended.

4) I’m watching a movie/DVD with this particular person (the conspiracy theorist), and there’s a part on-screen where a band performs a song that uses the same name of the person I had the relationship with in the song title (see #3 above). The song is of an overtly sexual nature. I am not familiar with the song, but my friend has known it for years. Coincidentally, the pet cat does something nearby that makes me chuckle, right at the same time this band starts playing the song. Conclusion: I am REALLY holding a candle for the woman in example #3.

5) Two of my former addresses where I had once lived have the same street names as the towns/states that this person (the conspiracy theorist) lived in, say, Ohio St. and Houston Dr. Conclusion: Because they once lived in the state of Ohio and in the city of Houston, TX, there is a connection/link between us.

6) Fun with numbers…the beginning and end of my phone number supposedly sounds like ‘Two for sex’ and ‘I want sex’, respectively. Plus my area code has a ‘6’ and ‘9’ in it, a.k.a. ‘69’. Conclusion: I am a sex fiend.

7) Fun with words and letters…this happens a lot, but suffice to say, any word this person sees can have multiple meanings and contain numerous messages – simply by rearranging a letter or two, turning an ‘M’ upright to make the letter ‘E’ or number ‘3’, etc. and so on. And it just so happens that those hidden words/messages coincide with every goddamn other random coincidence. Conclusion: Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is connected. And everything is that way on purpose.........

There are lots more instances of this that I’ve chosen to forget. On purpose.

So, the ultimate, final conclusion that this person gives me is that I’m stupid and ignorant because I don’t see these things, connections - whatever you want to call them - without them being pointed out to me. They are right – I don’t look at things this particular way, nor do I draw any sort of conclusion from such things….they are merely random coincidences to me! This person says they are bombarded constantly by these messages/coincidences and admits that it drives them insane. Frankly, I think it does.

Then the next day rolls around, and this person acts completely normal. What the fuck.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (51 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Probably not very helpful, but I instantly thought of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind in the scene where he "decodes" hidden messages in ladies' magazine ads. He had schizophrenia. Maybe reading up on that might give you some insight into your friend's mind?
posted by Quietgal at 6:58 PM on September 10, 2007

Wow. Does anyone else in this person's life think something is amiss? I mean, IANAPsychiatrist, but
posted by cooker girl at 6:59 PM on September 10, 2007

Sounds very much like some of the diagnostic criteria of schizophrenia. Does your friend have a doctor they trust and could speak with?
posted by scody at 7:04 PM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I dated someone with very similar preoccupations once, and I can tell you that she was, indeed, certifiably crazy. As in she had spent some time in a mental ward, believed she was waging interdimensional battles against "evil," saw signs in birds flying overhead or dead bugs on the ground, etc. Tiger in the sack, though...

Anyway, there are absolutely no "hidden messages" or connections between any random coincidences. Ever.

Seeing these sorts of things can be evidence of the onset of schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, or other such illnesses. Or, this person could just be odd. Or autistic.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:05 PM on September 10, 2007

Quietgal: I thought the same exact thing... I'd recommend at least a check with a physician or psychiatrist but I don't know how well that would be received.
posted by wangarific at 7:06 PM on September 10, 2007

On preview, yeah. What they said.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:06 PM on September 10, 2007

Either they have a serious mental issue, or they're a very committed prankster.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 7:09 PM on September 10, 2007

Sounds like (s)he's really fishing for connections. And it sounds like this person is pretty creative. I see a lot of interesting relationships like this too, and I've met people (actually had a girlfriend) who saw more things like that. For my former girlfriend and I, we would use it as a sort of wordless communication. We would both notice something and then look at each other knowing that we both caught on. I've learned to be able to kind of block it out because few people I meet see those kinds of things.

I wouldn't say that you're stupid or ignorant, but I would say that your friend is very intelligent in a creative way, as opposed to a linear way.

The connections mentioned though are not strong connections. I'm sure you could play the game back and invent ridiculous connections by inverting letters or number or whatever to back up your own assertions about whatever you want. Try it and see if that person agrees or disagrees. Give them a taste of their own medicine!

Maybe you can suggest them to write a story, kind of along the lines of Signs, or The Bible Code.
posted by strangeguitars at 7:10 PM on September 10, 2007

First off 'certifiably crazy' is a meaningless term. We call it mental illness. Mental illness is an issue usually only when it interferes with healthy functioning like holding down a job, keeping friends, feeling good. This is absolutely nothing wrong with "crazy" beliefs. The religious beliefs you hold or the ones your parents held are so much more zany.

If anything this shows something with a mild preoccupation with numbers and coincidences. In my part of the world this person is most likely just someone with some mild to moderate OCD at best, not BPD or autistic. An austtic person is usually barely functional and a BDP person would have either broken down crying or pulled a knife on you.

Yes, severly mentally ill people believe in delusions but not all delusions are caused by mental illness. What you should do is bring this up to your friend and suggest they see a doctor if he thinks this is truly a problem.

I would be suprised if this is the kind of thing he grows out off. Tell him to lay off the Celestial Philosophy and Robert Anton Wilson for a while.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:13 PM on September 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

You're describing classic apophenia, which may or may not be connected with a diagnosable mental illness. Such delusions are quite common among people with a number of mental illnesses, including but certainly not limited to schizophrenia.

(Someone who's literally "certifiable" is someone whose mental illness is bad enough that they can be certified as insane, and presumably then involuntarily committed to a treatment facility. You friend does not sound anywhere near that bad, though they do sound as if they could do with treatment.)
posted by dansdata at 7:14 PM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

It certainly sounds like a symptom of schizophrenia or a similar mental disorder. I'm not sure how you can do it gently, but you should encourage your friend to see a psychiatrist.
posted by robcorr at 7:14 PM on September 10, 2007

See the association of ideas, synchronicity, and paranoia.

Your friend reports, you decide.
posted by alms at 7:15 PM on September 10, 2007

IANAPsychiatrist, but this reads like something which may develop into something quite serious. Please get this person to a doctor in as friendly and loving a way as you can. Obsessively determining such irrational, self-centered conclusions from inert phenomena is one of the signs of schizophrenia (or a related disorder).

I personally know exactly two people who are almost exactly like your friend - one is a bona fide paranoid schizophrenic who needs more help than she'll ever agree to seek out, and the other is an eccentric musician who is actually quite self-aware and (relatively) successful. While it's possible your friend may simply be a whimsical dreamer, I encourage you to take this as a serious sign of something which may become far worse.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:15 PM on September 10, 2007

By the way, the term for what your friend is experiencing is "delusions of reference".
posted by robcorr at 7:16 PM on September 10, 2007

Sounds to me a lot like what can happen in bipolar mania, at the psychotic end of the episode, from what I understand of it.

This, of course, does not rule out schizophrenia or any other disorder along that axis of the spectrum.

Let's just say that it's probably not just somebody with a highly creative imagination. These kinds of puns, anagrams, puzzles, codes, coincidences, hidden messages & so on belong very strongly to the orbit of psychosis.

[not a psychiatrist; just have some lay interest in these things]
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:18 PM on September 10, 2007

Actually, they might just be ideas of reference, but I think a professional needs to make that judgment.
posted by robcorr at 7:21 PM on September 10, 2007

Don't try the "intervention" approach or bring up psychiatrists / doctors unless the friend is unable to maintain a job, or sabotages otherwise good relationships, can't make rent or has other serious problems with normal life. You'd be risking a friendship just to have the doc say that the behavior is odd, but within the normal range of human wackiness.

Do intervene if the friend in question starts to have trouble with normal life as a result of coincidence seeking.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 7:26 PM on September 10, 2007

Yes, that's not normal.

As noted by others, "certifiable" isn't a technical term.

Where I live, for someone to be committed for treatment against their will, no matter how batshitinsane they might be, they have to have:

"... an abnormal state of mind of such a degree that it poses a serious danger to the health or safety of the person or of others, or seriously diminishes the capacity of the person to take care of himself or herself."

I suspect that wherever you are, a legal assessment for treatment would be similarly strict. So if your crazy friend is taking care of themselves ok, and not trying to kill you, you're shit out of luck.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:29 PM on September 10, 2007

Before you go hauling your friend off in a straitjacket, consider the seriousness of what they are saying. In your post, all of your examples are very lighthearted, suggesting that there are connections between things or people, etc. I would strongly avoid bringing up the idea of going to a psychiatrist unless:

1. You see that this thinking/behavior is negatively affecting that person's life in some way.

2. They become afraid or paranoid by what they see.

3. They become obsessed with a self-invented conspiracy theory.

It's one thing to come up with conspiracy theory ideas. It's another thing to believe in them and let them take over your life.

Fun and games are just fun and games, no matter how weird. And your post makes it sound like they're just weird fun and games.
posted by strangeguitars at 7:34 PM on September 10, 2007

It's worth underscoring that kilohertz writes that This person says they are bombarded constantly by these messages/coincidences and admits that it drives them insane. So it sounds less like a whimsically creative way of viewing the world and more like a problem that is indeed interfering, to at least some degree, in in the friend's life.
posted by scody at 7:34 PM on September 10, 2007

I take it that this is your same girlfriend from all your other posts?

I think you should take a long hard look at the other things you've written on here about her, and ask yourself what you would say to a friend of yours who was involved in a relationship like this. Someone above said something about borderline personality disorder, which now that I look at your history of posts sounds closer to the mark. It sounds like she is more than ordinarily insecure, jealous, controlling. It sounds like you are walking on eggshells to avoid setting her off. It sounds like it's not getting better. It sounds like it's time to go to a counselor/head-doc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:52 PM on September 10, 2007

(If not same person, obviously set that aside.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:56 PM on September 10, 2007

I guess it's not normal if this person lets it negativly affect their life, but I personally think that they have a talent for noticing details. Maybe they could get work as a detective.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 8:02 PM on September 10, 2007

Probably should see a doctor to...take the edge off a little.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:05 PM on September 10, 2007

Some of what you're describing fits the description of ideas and/or delusions of reference. It's consistent with some psychotic disorders (like schizophrenia). This person should see a psychiatrist.
posted by Miko at 8:14 PM on September 10, 2007

I got a lot of that kind of stuff happening in the leadup to psychosis, and it got a lot stronger during. So I suspect there's something not quite right there.
posted by flabdablet at 8:15 PM on September 10, 2007

If this person isn't deliberately trying to annoy you (and he/she could be) and is really serious about all the "delusion of reference" (great term, by the way, I was not familiar with it), I think seeing a counselor of some kind would be very beneficial.

I would also, if I were you, seriously think of documenting all of the instances you can remember, and continue to document them in the future. If the person turns violent (I think very unlikely), you have evidence. If not, you could have a really intriguing book on your hands one day. I would read it.
posted by misha at 8:17 PM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, I doubt this person is trying to annoy. What's being described is really pretty commonly seen stuff in psychotic/paranoid disorders. It would be awfully hard to think this way without brain-chemical help. IANA mental health worker, but I've known a couple of people with schizophrenia and related conditions.
posted by Miko at 8:26 PM on September 10, 2007

This person says they are bombarded constantly by these messages/coincidences and admits that it drives them insane.

I agree with the others that this person should see a psychiatrist. There is a middle ground between "no treatment" and "straitjacket and electrotherapy". It's possible that all this person needs is a diagnosis, a sympathetic ear, and some medication.

Just the diagnosis itself may help; I think I'd be happier knowing that my brain is throwing around random noise than just thinking the world is going slightly off-kilter. A shrink may also be able to help recommend some lifestyle habits that keep this under control; like a balanced sleep cycle, nutrition, low stress, mindfulness exercises ("this is random noise, I will ignore it"), et cetera. Your friend may want to keep a journal, not of the content of these ideas, but seeing what sets him or her off. "Only slept 2 hours last night. Walls are talking to me."
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:42 PM on September 10, 2007

It's hard to say how incapacitating this is from your description: it could be imagination, searching really hard for meaning, schizowhatever, being interesting. I mean, "seemingly random" is your description, and it seems like your friend would beg to differ. The scenarios you mention are pretty whacked out though, I'd probably be pretty annoyed with that person if they were hanging around me.
posted by rhizome at 8:43 PM on September 10, 2007

Has your friend read The Celestine Prophecy? One of the major themes is being open to subtle messages from the universe. It's the first thing I thought of when reading your post.
posted by MayNicholas at 8:46 PM on September 10, 2007

Definitely nuts. Help your friend get help.
posted by LarryC at 9:04 PM on September 10, 2007

I strongly agree with LobsterMitten, if indeed your questions have all been about the same person. Part of the problem with mental illness (and something that distinguishes it from most other kinds of illness) is that it often involves distorted thinking. Distorted thinking often prevents sufferers from recognizing that something is wrong, and causes them to be resistant when someone else suggests it.

Please educate yourself about how to help someone with mental illness - here are a webpage and a book to get you started: FAQ

When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness - Rebecca Willis

I was in college when I became severely depressed and suicidal. I spent a long time suffering before my then-boyfriend gently talked me into going to the counseling center. I was petrified of going (something that he had a hard time understanding; his dad is a psychiatrist). He offered to go with me, and did just that when I finally got the courage to go (he probably made the appointment for me, too - I can't remember). He stood with me as I cried from a combination of relief and fear after the first appointment. I do think that my life would be very different today if he hadn't helped me see that things weren't right, and that I needed to address the situation. He followed through, and did so in a way that made me feel safe to continue treatment on my own.

If it's the case that your girlfriend is experiencing mental illness, keep in mind that this is stressful not just for her, but for you and her other friends/family (I'm sure you know this already!). It takes a lot of energy, and can be extremely frustrating, to help someone in that situation. I know I put a few very close friends through absolute hell as I struggled to deal with the torment of my own mental illness, but now that I've got control over things these few friends have a special place in my heart. I'll always be deeply thankful that they were there when I was unable to be there for myself.

It takes someone really special (i.e., patient, compassionate, caring, concerned, etc.) to be able to help with something like this - the first step is for you to educate yourself to the point where you can help your friend get the help she seems to need.

Good luck.
posted by splendid animal at 9:04 PM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Delusions are false beliefs or misinterpretations of events & their significance....Everyone tends to personalize & misinterpret events, especially during times of stress or fatigue. What is characteristic of the schizophrenic, however, especially during an acute period, is that the conviction is fixed & alternate explanations for the events experienced are not even considered. Usually attempts at reasoning or discussion about possible other meanings of the bumping or the noise in the night can only lead to the further conviction that the reasoner must be in on the plot, too. Arguing with a delusion only leads to further mistrust or anger. The beliefs are tenaciously held, against all reason, & they are characteristically not shared beliefs. They are held only by the person himself & by no one else.
From "The World of People with Schizophrenia":
Delusions are false personal beliefs that are not subject to reason or contradictory evidence and are not explained by a person’s usual cultural concepts. Delusions may take on different themes. For example, patients suffering from paranoid-type symptoms – roughly one-third of people with schizophrenia – often have delusions of persecution, or false and irrational beliefs that they are being cheated, harassed, poisoned, or conspired against. These patients may believe that they, or a member of the family or someone close to them, are the focus of this persecution. In addition, delusions of grandeur, in which a person may believe he or she is a famous or important figure, may occur in schizophrenia. Sometimes the delusions experienced by people with schizophrenia are quite bizarre; for instance, believing that a neighbor is controlling their behavior with magnetic waves; that people on television are directing special messages to them; or that their thoughts are being broadcast aloud to others
From the Mayo Clinic:

When people have delusions
, they believe something to be true that essentially no one else in their culture believes. A person with paranoid schizophrenia misinterprets experiences and then holds on to those interpretations despite evidence or reasoning to the contrary.

Delusions are commonly focused on the perception of being persecuted and often result in the mistrust of other people:

* The FBI is spying on me.
* Someone is poisoning my food.
* My thoughts are being broadcast over the radio.

Delusions can become complex stories, and interpretations of experiences often "confirm" the person's view of reality. For example, a traffic officer blowing a whistle is alerting FBI agents on the trail of the person with paranoid schizophrenia. A man who looks at the officer is an agent. When he uses his cell phone, he's reporting the person's location...
Again -- This isn't my field and I'm in no position to suggest a possble diagnosis. I just gathered these so you can see there is some similarity to the pattern-finding you describe to the delusions of certain mental illnesses. Others here are far more equipped than I am to talk about where your incidents fall on the spectrum that runs from imagination and normal social fears to paranoia. And all I can add is that what you're describing is familiar to me from interacting with people with schizophrenia. The bottom line is, your friend could have a fairly serious mental illness and should see a psychiatrist.

From what these links say, it doesn't sound as though you'll make much progress by telling your friend they're crazy or insane or that their fears are unfounded. You've already seen resistance to that, and the person could be deeply convinced that what they're experiencing is true. So you may want to call a hotline or a professional you know to find out the best way to present your recommendation of treatment, or at least discuss how to proceed with heloing your friend get an evaluation. If it were to turn out to be schizophrenia, I came across some stuff which suggested that the earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome for the sufferer.
posted by Miko at 9:07 PM on September 10, 2007

This reminded me strangely of this thread, although the subject of that movie had a lot more circumscribed behavior (and understands that it's basically pathological).

Although most of us are occasionally prone to magical, sign-seeking thinking, given the extremity and combined with the compulsive word-manipulation games it seems fairly clear this individual has a pathology of some description. If they were my friend, honestly, I would be trying to encourage them to seek help.
posted by nanojath at 9:17 PM on September 10, 2007

You are telling only one side of the story and leaving out some crucial information.

You omit the nature of your relationship to this friend, which makes it hard to get the full picture of what is going on. If the person you describe is a platonic friend, then it would be strange and unbalanced that they take such an extreme and obsessive interest in your personal business.

However, if the person is a romantic partner, as someone alludes to above; then the situation is completely different and it sounds like you are looking at some hardcore jealousy issues in your relationship, as well as possible borderline personality disorder. I'm guessing that the friend you describe is fairly young. It's possible to outgrow obsessive jealousy but it takes work from both parties. There might be something about your relationship that is preventing your friend from feeling secure or validated.

Do you value your relationship with this person? If you do, you will need to learn to communicate more clearly and establish some boundaries. If you are in this relationship for the long haul, you'll want to seek relationship counseling.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:22 PM on September 10, 2007

There is a person like this in my English Lit PhD program. He loves to find obscure connections between minor details based on very tenuous evidence. His oddness is not helped by the fact that he is often hopped up on pain medication for a back injury. Nor is it helped by the fact that he really isn't very smart. Now, while attention to detail and ability to think in complexity are useful skills in the study of Literature, this guy just has no critical faculty that allows him to sift through all the random connections that we all make but automatically discount because they are meaningless. He also has an almost pathological obsession with penises and vaginas (that is, he's always doing a kind of vulgar Freudian scavenger hunt for phallic and vaginal imagery). He makes very broad and very nonsensical conclusions based on basically nothing. I believe that he, like your friend, probably has a severe mental illness.
posted by papakwanz at 9:25 PM on September 10, 2007

Even if these hidden messages aren't full-on life-wrecking delusions, if the friend is bothered by them ("admits that it drives them insane") they might want to see a psychiatrist or therapist, just to get some relief. In the same way that someone might seek out a shrink if they have an irrational phobia or depression or OCD. Even one or two sessions with a psychiatrist could help them find out whether the problem is serious enough to be worth trying drugs or therapy, or if it's just something to learn to cope with. It doesn't have to be a "Hi doc, please put my friend in a padded room kthx" situation.
posted by hattifattener at 9:31 PM on September 10, 2007

I guess I'll be the lone voice of dissent here. Seeing these sorts of connections is, I think, a pretty basic and pre-rational cognitive act. Our brains are hard-wired to notice this kind of stuff and some of us do it better than others. Art, religion and criticism are built on this intuitive capacity. It can get creepy when a) the connections being made are banal and unilluminating or, b) when the person making them takes them too seriously.

Honestly, I have this kind of experience all the time. The connections that strike me as illuminating, I try to turn into something interesting. The ones that are lame or embarrassing, I try to forget about immediately. I'd hardly want to give up the latter bunch in order to live a life of perfectly ordered and uncontroversial rationality.

Being nuts is not a matter of drawing bizarre or strange conclusions. It's a matter of not knowing when those conclusions are too stupid or too idiosyncratic to be repeated. Your friend's sin lies in forcing you to respond to the random static of her brain. She's aggrandizing her own disordered intuitions at the expense of your own sense of yourself. That's hardly gentle and it's certainly unkind. You should ask her to stop.
posted by felix betachat at 10:13 PM on September 10, 2007 [4 favorites]

Fair enough, felix, but worth pointing out that you're talking about "ideas of reference", and not "delusions of reference" (see upthread).

An angle I might add to what you said is that there may be some...*confirmation bias* going on. The friend's ideas/delusions, as reported, all seem to relate to kilohertz (the OP), mostly in sexual/relationship terms.

If they were merely pointing out wordgames, coincidences etc all around & related to all kinds of things, then it would be more harmless. If they all centre around kilohertz, then it sounds a bit like the friend is looking for magical significance to try to talk up the strength of a (small or big R) relationship, when that relationship itself - devoid of all the messages - may not be living up to what they want from the situation.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:00 PM on September 10, 2007

In my comment above, I got the name of the author wrong. Corrected:

When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness - Rebecca Woolis
posted by splendid animal at 12:23 AM on September 11, 2007

Everyone seems to have piled in suggesting full-blown schizophrenia, but have you considered schizoptypal personality disorder? From your question, your friend could have at least the requisite 5 diagnostic criteria:
"ideas of reference"
"odd beliefs or magical thinking that influences behavior and is inconsistent with subcultural norms "
"unusual perceptual experiences, including bodily illusions"
"suspiciousness or paranoid ideation"
"behavior or appearance that is odd, eccentric, or peculiar"
posted by roofus at 1:49 AM on September 11, 2007

I think this is something that is biologically hardwired in the human brain. You see your friend getting eaten by a lion and thereby learn that you should avoid lions.

Trouble comes when you are exposed to randomness and make connections between things that are random. A book that explores this subject with many examples from the arts, science and markets is Fooled by randomness.
posted by ilike at 2:10 AM on September 11, 2007

I may be the lone dissenting voice (and arguably called crazy/manic by some, except those who know me in person).... but I have stuff like this happen to me all the time (not on a daily basis... but definitely atleast once a week.)

Most of them I write off as low level random occurrences, but other times the exactitude and timing are so utterly bizarre that it makes me pause to reflect.

The concern I would have (much like conspiracy theorists tend to do) is draw conclusions or "reach" for explanations that arent there. If your friend is going all Jim Carrey "23" on you - then he/she needs to see a therapist or do a bong hit and calm down :P
posted by jmnugent at 2:40 AM on September 11, 2007

For those making the "hardwired" argument: you're correct, but only to a point, and this is important.

Yes, we all see connections and have beliefs about the connections - it's part of normal thinking, and if we couldn't do it, we'd be unable to reason. However, when this faculty is overactive, constant, resists disproof, disrupts relationshios, and is connected with emotional upset, it has crossed a line from normal human thinking mechanisms and has become extreme. It's not the nature, but the extremity, of these thinking patterns that characterizes some symptoms of mental illness.

Compare this to an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system is overactive. Yes, it's a normal process, but when overactive, it creates problems for the entire system.

Go back and read the descriptions of the behavior again, and ask yourself what you'd think if your friend or SO behaved this way. Then take into account that we've been told these are just a few examples and that the connection-finding and accusations are apparently constant events.

The intensity and frequency of the problem are important factors in my suggestions that there may be mental illness.
posted by Miko at 5:09 AM on September 11, 2007

Just curious.... is your friend's name Hal Turner?
posted by Doohickie at 5:46 AM on September 11, 2007

Well, it can be a bipolar thing...

Anyway, the ability to see patterns where others cannot or do not is also a hallmark of creativity. If it veers off into something deeper, then there very well can be mental problems.
posted by konolia at 6:10 AM on September 11, 2007

I'd try to convince her to see a doctor sooner than later. She may be willing to go see someone now, since she's saying that it's bothering her so much she feels like she's going insane. If this gets worse and is the beginning of a more serious mental illness, it will only get harder to help her since someone with a serious mental illness becomes more and more convinced of their own reality and doesn't experience this abnormal thinking as abnormal, therefore, there is no need for help. And if this gets worse to the point where you feel that you must force treatment, there is absolutely no way that you can get her into a hospital, unless she is actively suicidal or homicidal. There just is no way. Spoken from experience with a family member.
posted by la petite marie at 6:56 AM on September 11, 2007

Maybe she's just eastern european? One branch of my family is, and a lot of them are like that, lots of magical thinking, faith in old wives tales, and every damn random coincidence is a major portent of some sort. None of them are ill, just really, really annoying.
posted by zarah at 8:22 AM on September 11, 2007

One man's delusion is another man's religion. If it's not interfering with her/his life, leave it alone.
posted by kamikazegopher at 9:04 AM on September 11, 2007

Also, see #3 on this list.
posted by Kensational at 6:42 AM on September 12, 2007

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