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Does My Mother Have a Mental Illness Problem?

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From Australia: I am losing hope and no one I contacted can give me help because no one knows what I’m going through which brings me here.

I have no idea if my mother is ill or not, I feel very sorry for her because of this. She is a single and very lonely 55 year old. I still live with her, but planning to move out as soon as possible because of her condition. My brother moved out because he couldn’t deal with her.

We both have a very bad relationship with her because she constantly accuses us and everyone else for stealing her things. She says ‘stop taking my toothpaste’ or ‘toilet paper’, just everyday objects around the house. Even when we deny it she still believes herself and goes ‘well the locals must have taken them.’ She says these types of things only when they have ran out. Every time my boyfriend is over, when he leaves she accuses him of taking things.

She is unemployed and hasn’t had a job for over 10 years because of this and being home 24/7 and being bored isn’t helping it. She has lost all of her friends because she accuses them of taking her things like the front door for example. Even with serious matters like paying the rent, she says she pays it but she obviously hasn’t seeing as we are getting evicted and she still is saying it’s all a lie and ignoring it.

My father is trying to help her, but he says it’s too difficult because she never listens to anyone. She is just believing her lies. I want to move out so badly, but I don’t want to leave her alone because all she has is me and no one else as my brother doesn’t talk to her.

Another example if something gets ran out of or broken she won’t buy a new one because she’ll think someone will steal it ‘again’. She doesn’t listen to us when we say get help so I have no idea what to do. Whenever she leaves the house she takes all her belongings with her because she’ll think I’ll take them. I seriously need answers because as much as I try to ignore it, it’s still extremely hard for me.

Does My Mother Have a Mental Illness Problem?

Answered by on -


I can’t make a specific diagnosis on the basis of a letter. I’d need to meet with your mom. But you’ve given me enough information to confirm that, yes, she does have a problem. It’s pointless to try to reason with her because her beliefs are irrational. You and the family need to take stronger steps toward getting her help that is helpful.

The first stop should be with her physician. There are a number of medical problems that can cause the type of paranoia you describe. It’s important to check for those before pursuing a mental health intervention. It may be that the problem is as simple as a vitamin deficiency, but it might also be a more complicated medical issue.

If she is medically okay, then it’s time for a mental health evaluation. It must be very difficult for her to live with the level of anxiety and fear that you described. A combination of some medication and talk therapy could help her live more comfortably in the world.

At 17, there is a limit to what you can do. It’s unfair for the rest of the family to leave it to you to manage and protect your mom. I hope you can enlist your father and perhaps other relatives to get her real help. I suggest that the most useful first step is to hold a family meeting without her. Talk about how you can work together to find out what help is available and how to provide the incentives she needs to accept your collective support.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Does My Mother Have a Mental Illness Problem?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Does My Mother Have a Mental Illness Problem?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 22 Jan 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.