Does my brother have a mental disorder?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: My brother wont stop lying and stealing from family. He even steals when he has everything. He has his own RX for pain meds and he takes my grandmothers, knowing she is in need of them as well. His response to her is that she knows she cant trust him with med’s or money. If he knows he has a problem why does he continue this behavior? He was recently homeless and my grandmother took him in. She took him to the dr. cause he said he had alot of pain, sleeping problems, etcs. He doesnt have to pay for anything and she is not pressing him to get a job. She pays for all the bills. He has had several jobs and exlaims he is the best at everyone of them. Soon after, he quits or gets fired for various reasons. His reasons always change. Whenever he is in a relationship he will tell the girl lies about having money and college degrees. I have paid for a college corse online and he gives me excuses why he hasnt been doing his school. I gave him money for his bills i.e. cell phone. He didnt pay it but lied and said he did. The phone was shut off and he still insisted that he paid it until i asked for the reciept. Then he told the truth. He never tells the truth unless he knows he has been caught. He has threaten to kill himself more than once. My mother had Paranoid Schizophrena Disorder and she attempted suicide as well. Is this a pattern he is following? He has substance abuse problem with narcotics, street drugs, and alcohol. When he takes pain pills or when he drinks he will do so until he takes too much. He doesnt know his own physical limits. He has lived with family off an on. The family cant trust him and are in need of help. He knows my grandmother wont throw him out on the streets so he keeps taking for her for granted.

A: This is heart-breaking. Your brother is a mess! He takes no responsibility for himself and manipulates the family into giving him a place to live and taking care of his bills. He’s acting like an out of control 15-year-old. Either there is something charming about him that you all continue to fall for his lies or you are all so terrified he will hurt himself that you will let him take advantage of you to try to keep him off the streets and safe. I’m sure the situation is hard on everyone.

You all need some help. You can’t make him straighten out. But you can learn some ways to change how you respond to him that may be more helpful. I suggest you and your grandmother start with a visit to an Al-anon meeting. Al-anon helps families of people who are alcohol- or drug-addicted. The program will teach your family how to stay in a loving relationship with your brother but not inadvertently support his addictions and general bad behavior. It is unclear whether there is a mental illness at work here as well. But the addictive behavior is at least a place to start. If you are uncomfortable with a meeting, then please consider seeing a family therapist to help you sort out what might help this situation. Even if your brother won’t go, the rest of the family can talk about the situation and get some practical help and support.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Dec 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Does my brother have a mental disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/12/28/does-my-brother-have-a-mental-disorder/