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I’m Scared of My Brother

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From a teen in the U.S.: I think my brother has schizophrenia or another mental illness.  Recently my brother has been acting really strange, like talking excessively, really sensitive to criticism, talking about uncomfortable and kind of scary topics all with a blank, dead stare in his face.

Last night we were talking, and he suddenly became aware that he was talking a lot and told me to “yell at him” to shut up;. I didn’t want to because i like hearing him talk ( He is/was depressed for a while and we didn’t talk a lot) So, he wouldn’t go onto another topic until I told him to shut up. He got really aggravated when i wouldn’t.

At first i thought he was just joking, but it’s really hard to tell sometimes because he doesn’t give off any social cues, and basically lacks expression. He has been speaking more articulately and it just doesn’t feel like how he used to talk.

Anyways, we both dealt with forms of abuse from our stepdad at younger ages, and my brother was always picked on and lonely at school.  (he’s a senior this year) He got really depressed a few years back and never got therapy because he didn’t know how to talk to my mom about it.

A few months ago i started noticing changes in his behavior, like he was desensitizing death, talking about conspiracies, wanting to experiment with drugs, and over all got a really uncomfortable vibe to him. It’s gotten noticeably worse over the past few weeks, like i explained in the beginning. I’m genuinely scared of my brother sometimes and it always feels like he could explode at any second if i say something wrong. We’ve always had a good bond, so I’m positive that this isn’t how he usually acts. I talked to my mom about it briefly and she said she wants to get both of us real therapy after quarantine ends.
I guess i’d just like to know if schizophrenia could be a serious possibility with my brother and if I should talk to my mom about getting serious help for him.

I’m Scared of My Brother

Answered by on -


Your brother is very lucky to have such a concerned and loving sister. Thank you for writing.

I can’t make a diagnosis on the basis of your letter. I can tell you that I think you are right to be concerned. You were right to talk to your mom. And your mom is right to want to get therapy for you both. You and your brother both deserve the support you need to move forward from trauma. You should not have to live in fear in your home. Your brother seems to be barely holding it together.

With a history of abuse and of being bullied, your brother has plenty to be angry about. Depression can show up as anger and irritability as well as sadness and withdrawal. It may well be that he never did recover from the depression of years ago. It’s also possible that his lack of expression, and his musings about trying drugs, is his way of shutting down feelings that are overwhelming him. It’s possible that his demands that you tell him to “shut up” were the only way he could think of to shake himself out of some kind of dissociation.

I do think sooner is better than later for getting your brother assessed. Your mother may not know that there are therapists who are able to do assessments and start therapy online. Please talk to your mom about consulting with your school counselor and/or your family doctor about your concerns. They may be able to give her names of local counselors who will start therapy via platforms like Zoom. If they are unaware of where to get help, call a local mental health clinic for advice.

Trust yourself. You know your brother well. Your concerns are legitimate. Share this response with your mom so she can get started on getting your brother the help he needs.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

I’m Scared of My Brother

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. (2020). I’m Scared of My Brother. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 5 Jul 2020 (Originally: 7 Jul 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 5 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.