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Has My Mother Lost Her Mind?

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From a teen in the U.S.: I am concerned that my mother has lost her mind. Let me start off by saying that unlike many similar stories, my mother is not elderly. She is 36 and I am 19, the oldest of her children.

I have always shared a strong emotional connection with my mother. Ever since I was a child, I have been her biggest fan. I can remember being absolutely ecstatic for her to come home from work when I was younger so that I could spend time with her. Lately I feel very distant from her, she is a completely different person and I no longer feel that I share the same connection, a feeling that is far worse than heartbreak.

It began three years ago, very slowly at first. My mom was always a working woman who was independent and supported herself. She recently remarried (Maybe 8 years ago) and became a stay at home mom to my little sister. I believe this is where the issue ultimately stems from.

It started with her skin. My mom has always been vehemently vain and placed a lot of importance on her appearance. At first, she said she was seeing weird breakouts on her back and chest that would sometimes flare up and then eventually go away. She seemed to place a lot of time and energy into these “break outs” which kind of looked like welts on her skin. She would pick at them and constantly look things up on the internet (which we all know makes things worse) and obsessively buy creams/lotions to help with whatever her skin condition might be.

Eventually we moved to another state and things went further downhill. I graduated high school shortly afterwards and moved to another state to start my own life. When I visited my mother for the first time after moving out, I never looked at her the same way again. She looked like she had aged several years and I had only been gone six months. She had a horrible break out all over the sides of her face and her skin was red and irritated. She rambled on and on about random subjects. She was extremely manic and almost delusional. constantly talking about conspiracy theories and how she can hear things and sense emotions.

She always had different suspicions as to what is going on with her skin, for example, first she thought she had parasites, then she thought it was fungus, and after that she thought it was mold in the house somewhere. It has been almost three years since this began and to this day I do not think there is any physical factor contributing to her skin issue, I firmly believe it started as something small that she has blown completely out of proportion with her own mind and has caused it to worsen purely by picking at it and thinking about it constantly.

She has accumulated quite a collection of medications, lotions. Creams. she even tried putting VAGISIL on her face at one point. For those of you who do not know what that is, it’s medication used to treat yeast infections in women’s vaginas.

Now she is so deep in her insanity that I can barely have a normal conversation with her without her going on some ridiculously long tangent. She always wants to talk about how the government is watching us, or how she thinks that our neighbourhood is full of child molesters and drug dealers or how there’s a halfway house on the end of the street (she lives in an upscale neighbourhood with an HOA; there is no way any of this is true)

At this point, it has been so long I honestly fear that I will never have my mom back. Her husband is completely useless and has most likely made the situation worse; he is horribly emotionally manipulative and physically abusive with a drinking problem. My mom is very isolated and does not have many friends any more because she is too self conscious to go outside of the house so he is the only person she has to talk to.

I have tried many times to talk to my mom and ask her to get a divorce, I’ve tried telling her that she needs to get away from the house and get mental help because it seems like most of this is in her head but she gets extremely angry and insists there’s no possible way that’s the case. She shuts me down every time and will not consider anything I say so I am so worried I will never be able to get her the help that she needs.

She has seen countless doctors (none of them have been for mental health) and not one of them has been able to pinpoint what her issue is with her skin so because of this I know that it has to be something that she has created herself. I don’t know how to get her out of this and I am sick to my stomach at night thinking about her being in this living hell that she is trapped in. I love her so much I feel it is my responsibility to save her.. Any advice?

Has My Mother Lost Her Mind?

Answered by on -

A.

Your mother is very lucky to have such a caring and sensitive daughter. I understand why this is so heart breaking for you.

I can’t make a diagnosis on the basis of a letter, but I can certainly say that your mother is in serious difficulty. It is very discouraging that none of the multitude of doctors she has talked to has referred her to a mental health counselor for an evaluation. (She may have been able to hold it together during her doctors’ appointments so they didn’t see what you see.)

What you are reporting are symptoms of psychosis or a major depressive disorder. It must be terribly hard for her to live this way. She may be fending off her fear of being mentally unstable by finding other people to blame — thus the conspiracy theories. She must be terrified.

I suggest you do some research to find out what resources are available where your mother lives. You could even make an appointment with a therapist to talk about what you can do to get her evaluated.

It’s unfortunate that her husband isn’t interested in helping her. Usually, a spouse has the most leverage for persuading someone to get help they need. I can tell you don’t like him much but try to find a way to get him to support your efforts to get your mom some help. My guess is that he would like his wife back.

I wonder how you are talking to your mom about getting help. If she is feeling at all blamed or shamed, you won’t get anywhere. Talking about divorce and leaving her home is just too big and overwhelming for her to contemplate in her current state.

Start smaller. Much smaller. Maybe if you start by asking her to go to an appointment with you to ease your fears about her, she can be more responsive. You can’t “make” her do that. But you can love her, love her, love her, and keep talking to her as kindly and as compassionately as you can.

She’s not your “responsibility” but she is the mother you love. I don’t think you can abandon her in this state. My best suggestion is that you make that appointment with a therapist to to figure out what to do next.

I wish you well.
Dr. Maire

Has My Mother Lost Her Mind?

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). Has My Mother Lost Her Mind?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 12, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2018/04/22/has-my-mother-lost-her-mind/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 18 Apr 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 18 Apr 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.