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Is Constant Rummaging Something to Worry About?

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This is causing issues w/ 2 family members both w/ diagnosed disorders. My mother is diagnosed with anxiety and is on meds for years, though it doesn’t seem to be severe (her panic attacks are rare, and she socializes quite well). She is currently living with my dad and adult brother, who have both complained in the past how she’d move/take things without informing, so we would spend time looking for things that we’d later find out were just with her. I remember her telling me she took my old cellphone “just in case” – but that was my work phone and I kept it for a reason.

All those years I always let it slide or I’d simply tell her how it’s frustrating to have personal belongings taken or moved around without me knowing. All is fine now since I moved out, but my brother is diagnosed with Bipolar and is on meds as well (has been for years), and she has become the target of his outbursts lately.

This is where it gets worrying. Mom is aging with health issues. He has sent her several long, angry paragraphs about her moving his things, including swearing and complaints about what she did over 10 years ago that he is still upset about. I don’t believe this to be a healthy setup at all, especially with her condition. I’ve never figured out why she continues to do those things especially knowing how her own son is with his mental/emotional issues.

If it’s an important detail, we were extremely sheltered as kids, and I’ll admit it affected me emotionally and mentally. While I always had a gut that my mother had this kind of impulse to rummage, I always chucked it up (even as an adult) as “just being a mother.” I’ve never been able pinpoint that this behavior may be something specific – All I’d get is info about Kleptomaniacs (which she isn’t).

Of course, I don’t blame her for the barrage of angry messages she got from my brother as what he did was no excuse. While my dad and I are trying to get help for our family, I just wish I knew what could be done (for now) for her to stop giving in to this “impulse” so that could at least prevent her from being the target of my brother’s rage. He CAN move out (another story), but this is what we’ve been dealing with. (From the Phillippines)

Is Constant Rummaging Something to Worry About?

Answered by on -


  There are too many things going on within the family for it to simply be a matter of trying to get your mom to stop moving things — and for your brother to calm down. I’d encourage you, your mother, brother and father to have family therapy. These ongoing issues are likely to need an adjustment where the entire family is given the opportunity to work in greater harmony. A family therapist would be a good place to start. From there he or she can make recommendations, which should improve the dynamics within the household.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Is Constant Rummaging Something to Worry About?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Is Constant Rummaging Something to Worry About?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 29 Oct 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.