My brother is 29 years old and has never had a job or driver’s license, and rarely leaves the house. Hi, I am concerned about my brother. He is 29 years old, still lives at home with my mother, has never had a job or a driver’s license, and rarely leaves the house. He has no friends other than people he may talk to online. He does not take very good care of himself and is in the process of getting a full set of dentures. He either forgets to shower or he doesn’t care to shower. He’s been a little different ever since we were younger and he was bullied extensively in high school. He did have a few friends in high school but they’ve all moved on with their lives. He never went to college or did much at all after graduation.
My mother defends him tirelessly and I’m not sure she likes the idea of anything being wrong with him. Other family members seem to insinuate that he is “just lazy” — but this seems to go beyond laziness, I think! He also has strange obsessions with like cleaning off the tops of soda cans before he drinks them and washing his hands multiple times a day. I think he needs professional help, but I’m sure he won’t want to get it (he really doesn’t like talking to people, especially strangers) and I’m sure it would be hard on my mother to admit something is wrong with him. But she is getting older and my step-father just passed away and she is already caring for my elderly grandmother on her own, so I don’t know how much longer she can support my brother. I honestly think this has been going on for far too long and I think he probably should have talked to someone in high school, but we didn’t have insurance then (my mother and him still don’t, in fact) so we all just let it go. He is able to communicate openly with my mother and myself, but around other people he doesn’t say much and often stays in his room when people come over to our house.
Is he really just lazy or does it sound as if he should be evaluated? What could he have? I’ve researched everything from autism to schizoid personality disorder to OCD, but I’m certainly not an expert and I don’t know how to get him professional help. What do people do in these situations? I don’t think he needs to be committed or anything, he’s not dangerous, but he isn’t really capable of taking care of himself either. I just want him to be happy. I worry about what will happen if my mother passes away.
Worried SisterWorried about My Brother
Worried about My Brother
Dear worried sister, on the basis of a short letter, it’s difficult for me to identify the exact nature of the problem. Your brother may be mentally ill, but he needs to be evaluated by a mental health professional to determine if a disorder is present.
Mental illness might be part of the problem but so might your mother’s treatment of your brother. She protects and defends him. She is enabling his lifestyle. Your brother doesn’t have to change because your mother fully supports his lifestyle.
This is a complicated situation because of the family dynamics. If your brother were open to seeing a mental health professional, and if you arranged the consultation, your mother may not even allow it. She might see your attempt to help him as interference.
You should encourage your brother to seek help but realize that you have very little control over this situation. Maybe he will take your advice but be prepared for him to reject your ideas. You can’t force your brother into treatment if he is unwilling and, as you noted, he is not dangerous and thus not committable to a hospital.
I wish I had a more actionable plan for you, but in life there are situations where you have little or no control and this may be one of them. It can be a difficult psychological realization. Encourage your brother to seek help and perhaps, eventually, he will take your advice. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle