Angry Brother Rules Family

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My older brother who is 20 has taken control of my family. I haven’t talked to him since I was 7, but he still lives with us. My parents and I must do anything he says, get out of the same room he is in, and not talk to him or he will go insane. He is large and throws tantrums frequently. He’s punched holes in the wall, thrown things around, and has caused significant damage to our home. My parents still give him whatever he wants, even though he’ll spit in their face if he doesn’t like it. He’s hit me and my mom, and has attempted my dad. My dog runs off every time he comes downstairs, which reassures me that he is dangerous, if she can sense it.

Other things I’ve noticed is that he doesn’t act normal for his age. He tries desperately to fit in, which is one of the reasons he won’t go to therapy or take medicine. He tries to dress “cool” to impress people, get attention, acts immature, buys brand-names, and acts in a certain manner that obviously shows he is trying too hard. He doesn’t have any friends, I’m sure because people have seen how bizarre he acts. You can usually tell in someone’s expressions if they aren’t “all there”, and I can tell. We can’t call the cops because we don’t have a “good enough” excuse to, according to the law. Please help us.

A: I can’t make a diagnosis on the basis of a letter but your letter certainly sets off my inner alarms. Your whole family is under siege. You haven’t talked to him for 11 years even though you live in the same house? Things must be really bad!

Your brother sounds very troubled. I understand completely that, besides being afraid of him, your parents want to protect him and help him if they can. But it doesn’t help him to be allowed to continue to tyrannize the family. He isn’t getting treatment he probably needs and he isn’t learning how to be socially acceptable.

I urge you to investigate whether there is a domestic violence program in your city. Although most of the people who come to them are victims of spousal abuse, most such programs are also familiar with other variations of family violence. Counselors there will be able to give you valuable information about how to handle your brother and what resources are available to the whole family. They can also offer you and your parents important emotional support as you start trying to manage the situation differently.

No one should live under the constant threat of violence. I hope you will share your letter and this response with your parents. I very much hope they will seek out the practical advice and support your whole family desperately needs.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Apr 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Angry Brother Rules Family. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/04/11/angry-brother-rules-family/

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