My 16-year old sister is not the social type; she has very few friends and hates going out of the house. She stays in her room with the lights off for hours everyday and talks loudly to no one in the dark. I don’t exactly understand what she says but it’s never a normal conversation, just one or few words that she keeps repeating out loud. She has to stay in the dark; she hates it when anyone turns on the lights in her room. She is smart and talented but lately she has been doing horribly in school. She doesn’t even want to go to school anymore and never studies. We moved recently and now she shares a room with her twin sister so she leaves the room and goes to a dark isolated part of the house where she talks out loud to no one and hides in random spots. We are really concerned about her behavior. Nothing is wrong with our family, and it’s not about the moving because she has been doing the same before our move. We never asked her why she does that. I don’t know what to do or how to talk to her.

A. Her behavior is unusual and indicates that something may be wrong. Since you have yet to ask her what’s wrong, that’s the best place to start. Be honest about your concerns. Tell her that you want to help.

You and your family could do this together or individually depending upon how well each of you relate to her. For instance, if you and she are close, perhaps she would be willing to talk to you over another family member. Maybe she’s closer with her twin sister than you. Discuss your options with your family and try to determine the best approach.

You should also strongly encourage her to consult a mental health professional. Do what you can to help her and to encourage her to seek professional help, but recognize that there may be only so much that you can do. If she’s unwilling to seek help, then you and your family should consult a mental health professional for advice. They can help you strategize and make a plan for how to help your sister. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle