Tonya says she hears voices and has private conversations in her head with celebrities, including President Obama, Rob Kardashian, Clint Eastwood — and even Dr. Phil. Her mother, Diana, and niece, Ciera, are concerned that she may be mentally ill, but Tonya says she’s not crazy. Can Dr. Phil help her quiet the noise in her head? Then, Laura says her 20-year-old son, Hunter, is either a con man, a pathological liar or is mentally ill. What’s at the root of his deceptions?
Tonya’s mother and niece describe Tonya’s bizarre behavior. “[She] thinks that Rob Kardashian is her boyfriend.”
Tonya explains the voice she hears that scares her the most. “She threatens to kill my son and my mother and do things to my family.”
Diana tells Dr. Phil that the first strange behavior she noticed was when Tonya would laugh out loud for no reason, talk to herself and sometimes run out of the room, trying to suppress her laughter. She says Tonya also started talking about how she was in touch with various celebrities, including Dr. Phil.
Dr. Phil notes that out of all the celebrities that Tonya claims to talk with, he’ll be the first one she meets face to face.
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Tonya meets Dr. Phil. “You and I have talked before?”
Prior to the show, Dr. Charles Sophy, psychiatrist and author of Side by Side: The Revolutionary Mother-Daughter Program for Conflict-Free Communication
, spent some time with Tonya and discussed the voices she hears in her head. Onstage with Dr. Phil, he explains, “Simply said, she’s hearing, oftentimes, her thoughts. So, she may be thinking things that are then transmitted, because of a wire crossed, as a hallucination or a voice.”
When asked what she heard Dr. Sophy say, Tonya says, “It seems to me that he’s saying that people can think to each other.”
“Yeah, I didn’t hear it that way at all,” Dr. Phil says. He asks Tonya if she finds it hard to explain, for example, her relationship with Rob Kardashian, even though they’ve never met.
“I don’t know how to explain to people that I feel like I can talk to angels and to God, and that I can communicate to people a certain way,” she says. “I don’t know how to explain that, and I don’t want people to think that I’m crazy, but I do have trouble focusing because of what I do hear in my head.”
Dr. Phil offers Tonya help to quiet the noise in her head. “I think your mind is tricking you.”
Pathological Liar, Con Man or Mentally Ill?
Laura says her 20-year-old son, Hunter, often makes up elaborate lies, which include pretending to be the CEO of a multibillion dollar company, a professional wrestler — and even a cancer victim. “My son’s behavior is so unusual and bizarre,” she says. “There are times when I think he may be suffering from some type of mental illness.” She says he often lives in a fantasy world, like when he pretends to teach a mock high school in her house — complete with lectures and homework. She also says he lied for a month and a half about working at a fast food restaurant before she confronted him. “I never ridiculed Hunter for what he’s done because I thought he would outgrow it eventually, and now he’s 20, and he hasn’t.” She continues, “I blame myself for a lot of his behavior because Hunter doesn’t have the concept of consequences.”
Hunter admits that the last 10 years of his life have been a lie but says he just can’t stop.
Hunter explains the depths of his deceptions.
Dr. Phil is not buying Hunter’s story. “I think you’re a smug little con man.”
Dr. Sophy, who met with Hunter prior to the show, says, “He’s a 20-year-old but emotionally, he’s about 12 or 13. He’s angry, and it’s a choice. He knows when he’s lying. He just flips right into it, and it’s a choice. He’s got to learn to control himself and deal with the realities of his life. If somebody doesn’t like him, if somebody thinks he’s not as good as he thinks he is, then he’s got to deal with that discomfort a different way.”
Dr. Phil asks Hunter what his payoff is for lying.
“In order to not have confrontation, in order to not to be made out to be somebody who I truly may be. And that’s where I am now — I don’t know who I am,” Hunter says.
Dr. Phil explains that people lie for two reasons: to avoid accountability or to bridge a gap. “It’s like, who they really are is not who they want to be, so they make up this person — they lie to bridge the gap between who they are and who they wish to be. So, you’ve got to decide to give yourself permission to just be who you are,” he says.
Dr. Phil explains that he doesn’t believe that Hunter has a serious illness — he just needs accountability for his behavior. He offers him professional help with a life coach, who will create a plan to turn his life around and move forward in a productive direction. “And there will be one person for sure in your balcony cheering you on, and that’s me,” he says.
Dr. Sophy meets with Tonya and Hunter individually. See more of their discussion!
Tonya shares how her voices began.
Why does Hunter embellish his life with such elaborate lies?