I worry my mom’s fear of bugs is a sign of mental problems.

(Ben Claassen III/For Express) (Ben Claassen III/For Express)

My mother has a fear of bugs that is so intense that I swear she has serious mental problems. She is completely out of control — and has been for as long as I can remember. How can I get her to see that it is not normal to yell and scream just because there is a beetle or spider near her? -My Mom Has a Problem

Well, it’s not by telling her you think she has “serious mental problems.” Plenty of people live with abject fears of bugs.

What determines whether getting help is advisable is how much distress those fears cause her, and how much disruption there is in her life. If she’s yelling and screaming on a daily basis because of bugs, perhaps that passes the test, but you’ve got to get her on board. The good news is that specific phobias like this are among the most straightforward of disorders to treat, and a commitment to several weeks of cognitive-behavioral therapy could likely do her a lot of good. Notice, though, nothing in any of this says “serious mental problems,” and neither should you — especially if you want her to actually be willing to work on it.

You’re gonna hear her roar

My girlfriend and I have a good relationship. But she talks and laughs very, very loudly. I like how big her personality is when we are together. But when we are in restaurants and other places, I have to tell her to lower the volume. She resents this and gets sullen every single time it happens. -She’s Loud, DC

How we talk, just like how we look, is a fundamental part of who we are. For many people it feels impossible to separate this from how they view themselves as an individual.

So, no matter how you bring it up, she might take it as a criticism of her very nature, and she might think it’s impossible to change even if she wanted to. You like her personality: Might her loudness come along with a particular humor or boldness that is part of what you like? You might not be able to cherry-pick those parts while ditching the loudness. And is she truly disrupting others? Or are you just cringing because she stands out, and you haven’t gotten used to it yet? Dig deeper about whether you “have” to tell her to lower the volume, or if it’s something that you can and — if you want to be with her — should tolerate.

Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at baggage@wpost.com

Read Previous Columns:

My blogger boyfriend takes himself too seriously.

Can I ask my stay-at-home husband to earn some cash?

How do I tell my roommate to stop being such a potty mouth?

Dr. Andrea Bonior writes Express' advice column, Baggage Check.
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