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Poor Contact with Reality

These people have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality. Their thinking is typically illogical, confused, or irrational (e.g., jumping from one topic to another with no connection). Their emotional responses may be incongruent or inappropriate. Behavior may be bizarre and disturbing, such as hallucinations and hearing voices. Academic work or performance may be unintelligible (using words that don’t make sense). While these people may alarm or frighten you, they are generally not dangerous or violent.

  • When encountering someone who appears to be out of touch with reality:

    1. Seek assistance. The following resources are available to help you.

    2. Submit a Care Report.

    Submit a CARE Report

  • DO

    • If the person is an immediate danger to her/himself or others, call 9-1-1.
    • Acknowledge her/his feelings or fears without supporting the misconceptions (e.g., “I understand you think someone is following you, and it must seem real to you, but I don’t see anyone and I believe you’re safe.”).
    • Remove extra stimulation (e.g., step outside the classroom, office, turn off the radio, etc.).
    • Acknowledge your concerns and verbalize that s/he needs help.
    • Acknowledge your difficulty in understanding. Ask for clarification.
    • Respond with warmth and kindness, but use firm reasoning.
    • Focus on the here and now.
    • Be aware that the person may lack emotions, exhibit intense emotions, be extremely fearful, possibly paranoid, not understand you or understand only pieces of what is being said.


    • Crowd the person’s space.
    • Assume the person will be able to take care of him/herself.
    • Agitate the student. Be flexible in how you precede with the person.
    • Argue with the person’s erroneous thought processes. Trying to convince her/him of the irrationality of her/his thinking commonly produces a stronger defense of a false perception.
    • Play along (e.g., “Oh, yes, I hear the voices, too.”). Don’t encourage further discussion.
    • Don’t demand the person to do something to change her/his perceptions.
    • Chase after a person who decides to run. Call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance.
    • Allow a person’s friends to take care of the person without getting a professional opinion.

    Submit a Care Report

    Submit a CARE Report