My mum has had issues with alcoholism. She was diagnosed with severe pms which causes her so much stress that she turns to drink (and goes on week long benders). This has been happening for over 17 years. She is currently 43. During this time she gets extremely violent with me and my father, has trashed our house many times and fought with anyone- neighbours, police, etc. We have always suspected that it was more than pms, she’s practically an alcoholic and her behaviour isn’t cyclical as you would suspect from pms. Over time, her mental health has been getting worse. She has been on less benders in this time, however she is never happy. She is constantly stressed- even though there is no stress to worry about. She doesn’t take jokes, and we all have to choose our words very carefully in day to day life to avoid her going off. She has two other daughters under the age of 7, both of which she does not mother like a normal mum does. There’s distance and not much love. She has odd behaviour, like going shopping for groceries every day and buying things we don’t need. She associates herself with people who drink a lot of alcohol, so that when my father refuses to buy her any more she has someone to go and drink with. My father and I are under the impression that she may have an undiagnosed mental disorder like bipolar or schizophrenia (along those lines) and because her condition seems to be worsening with time, i wanted to reach out for an opinion. My family can’t live like this anymore. It’s unfair on all of us, and her. She is convinced that her issue is pms, so it would be hard to convince her to get help without premise such as advice in this forum. the drink will kill her one day, unless she stops. We want to live a normal life and have her back to the way she once was, if this means appropriate treatment for a potentially undiagnosed mental disorder, then so be it. Thank you for your help.

A. It’s unlikely that PMS is her problem. It seems more likely that drinking is her problem. Whether or not she has a disorder is not something that I could determine over the Internet. She would need to have an in-person evaluation, to know if a mental health disorder is present.

Family members, who have a loved one with a drinking problem, often utilize a program (in the United States) called Al-Anon. These are group meetings for friends and family members who have problem drinkers in their family. They provide great support to families in situations like yours. I don’t know if you have this type of program in your country, but if so, try to utilize this resource.

Sometimes families stage an intervention, which essentially means that they plan a meeting where they ask their loved one to seek help or face a set of consequences. You can read more about interventions online. Ideally, you should consult a professional who specializes in substance abuse or a trained interventionist for guidance.

Alcoholism affects the whole family. If your mother is unwilling to seek help, then you and your family members should consider individual counseling. It will assist you in dealing with your mother’s drinking. You can also learn about self-care which is important for your own mental health. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle