Q: Someone who lives with me has their gf over. The guy and his gf go off with someone I don’t know. Each time they come back, she starts flailing around and making weird noises and asking invisible people to help her. She claims it’s just a panic attack. So ultimately….. is flailing and yelling and irritability a normal sign of panic attacks? Because I also work in mental health and have never seen anything like that. Not unless the patient was in chemical dependency.

A: Hi there,

Roommate situations can be difficult at times and you certainly seem to be having a challenge. Most importantly, I encourage you to ensure your safety and those in the apartment. It may involve an emergency call to 911. I can imagine this is very disruptive and upsetting to you. We don’t want to jump to diagnosing when we have partial information. We really don’t know what is happening with your roommate’s girlfriend. 

Substance-induced mental health issues are complex and require medical and behavioral evaluations. Chemical dependency is a term that we no longer use in the mental health field. The terminology we use now is substance use disorder, but again, we don’t know if this is accurate in this situation.

Have an open and caring discussion with your roommate expressing your concerns. This might be difficult for them to hear. It might be helpful to include others who have experienced or witnessed the same behavior and are able to be compassionate. You can also offer resources to your roommates if they are open to it. 

  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: In July 2022, a universal mental health crisis line was launched nationwide. Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.
  • 911 Emergency: You can also call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room in case of an emergency.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday
  • In October 2023 NAMI launched a Teen & Young Adult HelpLine, for nationwide peer support and resource referrals. Text “Friend” to 62640; call 800-950-6264. Available Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET.


Valerie Proctor, LICSW