Q. My sister is 22 years old and has a lot of trouble with her temper. My parents stay with me now and she is working in another city. Whenever she comes to visit, my parents and I walk on eggshells as her temper flares up for no reason and at innocent remarks that we make. She starts arguing for no reason and it flares up into an violent rage and she shouts out hurful things like how we don’t love her or care for her. After a few hours or the next morning, she forgets what she said the earlier day and is all sweetness and light. She never apologises for her behaviour and when we bring it up, she says that she is right. We both grew up in the same city and we’ve been living in the same house for 20 years, till she moved out for her job. But she doesn’t have any close friends. She has trouble maintaining close relationships as she has extremely high expectations and has violent rages when they are not satisfied. We always dance to her tunes, as we are scared that her temper might flare up and yet she finds faults with her. She feels that she if perfect and it is all of us (family and friends) who aren’t treating her well. Does my sister suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder? I realise that she needs some kind of medical help, what sort of therapist should we be looking for? If the whole family goes for counselling with her, would it help?
A. I cannot know exactly what your sister is suffering from. What I do know is that she is need of help. I would suggest that the family get help too, in addition to your sister, precisely because the family has trouble handling her behavior. You all “dance to her tunes” and this only further intensifies the problem. When she regresses into her behavior it seems as though the family also regresses when you are giving into her. Please do not misunderstand; you are not causing the problem but giving in to her when she acts out of control indicates to me the family has not learned how to best handle her in difficult situations. You cannot control your sister but you can control how you react to her. There are appropriate ways to react to her and there are inappropriate ways. I would say that “walking on egg shells” and “dancing to her tune” are inappropriate reactions to her. I assure you there are better, more effective strategies. My advice is that you try to convince your sister to get help. She could benefit from family therapy. More importantly, even is she refuses to get help members of the family should consider individual therapy to learn more effective strategies to handle her when she acts out. She needs help but it would be wise if your family received help simultaneously. I hope this helps.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Jun 2007
Randle, K. (2007). Does my sister suffer from BPD?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/06/25/does-my-sister-suffer-from-bpd/