Brother Is Mentally Unstable

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hi There, I really need help with dealing with my brother. He has serious mental problems and I think they are down to a lack of self esteem. Our dad (who still lives with us) is very aggressive but has never hit us, he just smashes things (although my brother is adamant that my dad kicked him and threw my mum down the stairs but he didn’t). My brother has ended up fearing my dad but won’t admit that he is scared of him and insists he would kill him if he could get away with it. My brother is 26, living at home and even though he has a degree is unable to get a job. He started to go bald when he was 19/20 and now just has no self worth and feels the whole world is against him. He is very self destructive, he used to cut himself quite badly and also took drugs for a number of years. He often breaks down when talking about our chilldhood exclaiming that we suffered abuse, (I am completely fine and feel although our dad obviously had mental problems himself, that our childhood was a very privileged one). I worry that if he doesn’t get help soon he will do something silly as he just hates his life and feels he is a complete failure, I find it difficult to help him as I disagree with what he is blaming his problems on. Please help as it is ruining my whole family, my mum is forever trying to keep the peace and feels it is all her fault and my dad ends up kicking off because my mum and brother are unjustly hostile with him due to a build up of issues which my dad thinks are sorted! Thank you.

A. This is a very difficult situation. My concern is that your brother may act out violently toward members of your family. If he is actively using alcohol or drugs, then the risk of violence increases significantly. Do not hesitate to call the authorities if you feel that you or your family members are in danger.

You disagree with your brother’s understanding of his problems. He views his childhood as having been abusive. He may have a skewed view of that time. You described your childhood as having been “privileged.” Perhaps you are correct and he is wrong. On the other hand, he may have experienced abuse. It is not unusual, and it is in fact common, for parents to treat each child differently. Also, children can live in the same home and have completely different experiences.

Ideally, it would be best if your brother went to therapy. It seems as though he is dealing with many issues and his behavior is negatively affecting the family. If you have not suggested therapy, then you should.

If he is not agreeable to individual therapy, perhaps he would be open to family therapy. In family therapy, everyone works together to solve the problems. The onus is on the family to solve the problem rather than on just one member of the family.

If your brother is unwilling to change his behavior, then it is up to the people around him to change their behavior. That may not seem fair but you can only control your behavior, not the behavior of others. You and your family may have to develop a new set of rules for the home or the conditions in which you interact with him. A therapist could provide guidance regarding the best way to properly address your brother’s behavior. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 May 2012

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2012). Brother Is Mentally Unstable. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/05/19/brother-is-mentally-unstable/