Professionals Diagnose Randy and Evi Quaid: Call It 'The Madness of Two'
By Catherine Donaldson-Evans Posted Dec 1st 2010 01:40PM
He and wife Evi fancy themselves being hunted by a gang of murderous celebrity stalkers they call the "Star Whackers" -- whom they blame for the deaths of everyone from Heath Ledger to Michael Jackson. They swear that they're fairly high up on the hit list, and that the killers are shrewd enough to make the murders look like accidents or suicides. As a result, they're on the run. In Canada, no less, where they're seeking asylum after arrests for fraud and felony vandalism in the United States. They even claim to have caught the "Whackers" in the act of practicing to kill them. Evi says their deaths will be made to look like a double suicide.
"We're this close to solving our own murder," she tells Esquire. "It's the only way I'll be able to keep Randy alive."
Mental health experts say the couple may be suffering from a psychological condition known as "folie a deux" -- a French term meaning literally "the madness of two." The syndrome is a delusional state shared by two people who bolster each other's twisted take on the world.
"It applies in that they are a pair and they reinforce each other's bizarre hold on reality," Stuart Fischoff, a senior editor of the Journal of Media Psychology and an expert in celebrity psychology, tells PopEater. "So long as you stay with each other and you stay insular, it's a siege mentality. You're not open to contradictions from the outside world."
University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist Dr. Christos Ballas says the disorder only becomes apparent when one off-kilter person gets involved with another -- and then everything spirals downward.
"Independently, people with folie a deux might not be delusional, but because they have another person to reinforce it, it becomes quasi-real," Ballas tells PopEater. "Finally, he met the right person who shared his proclivity for wackiness, and off they went."
A pair with folie a deux often have little interaction with others and are hopelessly dependent on each other. In this case, the Quaids seem to have convinced themselves that their paranoid delusions are real.
"When you have no one else, it gets increasingly bizarre," says Fischoff. "They're reinforcing each other's paranoia. And there's a polarization of perspective: It becomes more and more extreme. They live in an increasingly fantastical world."
Among the possible causes, he says, are extreme stress and heavy drug use.
"It can be from substance abuse," Fischoff explains. "It could be that his career was on a slide and that could be an increasingly traumatic situation for him: 'Why am I not getting a job? People are against me.' All that could begin to feed on itself. There was something going on in their lives that was a destabilizing influence."
There's also always the chance that the whole thing could be an elaborate ruse. But Ballas believes that's highly unlikely.
"If they are faking it, they're going through a very real way of doing it," he says.
PopEater columnist Rob Shuter, a former publicist for Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Lopez among others, agrees with Ballas' assessment, saying the Quaids are "so out of their minds that if they're faking this, then they deserve an award. I have to believe it's real."
He adds: "I don't believe anybody, including J.K. Rowling, could come up with a plot like this."
While the Quaids are almost certainly delusional, what they don't seem to have is a more serious thought disorder like psychosis or schizophrenia, according to Ballas. If they did, their beliefs about what was going on around them would be even more preposterous.
"[Their story] is very implausible and highly unlikely, but not illogical," he explains. "Illogical would be, 'A group of people is coming to get me and they can fly.' [What they say] sounds crazy, but it's all logically consistent."
As for how to help people with folie a deux, it's fairly simple. For the Quaids, however, it would be devastating.
"The treatment for it is to separate them -- not medication, not psychoanalysis," Ballas says.
But it would take quite a force to tear Randy and Evi Quaid apart.
"I don't care if we wake up in Japan, as long as we're together," Evi tells Esquire. "Imagine if we didn't have each other."
Randy's Canadian Adventure
Randy Quaid talks with reporters in Vancouver outside a Canadian immigration hearing. The 'Kingpin' star and his wife Evi are trying to evade felony vandalism and misdemeanor trespass charges back in California. More Raaaaaaaaandy >>
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