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Heidi LPC
Heidi LPC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 278
Experience:  Licensed Professional Counselor
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I have a 21 year old younger sister who, I believe, has some

Customer Question

I have a 21 year old younger sister who, I believe, has some serious mental health issues. For years she has always been a problem that has destroyed my parents' marriage and our family entirely. She is violently angry, unapproachable, manipulative and destructive. For as long as I can remember she has always pinned one parent against the other to get what she wants, lied extensively without regard to consequence, parties wildly and has absolutely no respect for anyone. She was sent to rehab nearly 2 years ago after she was arrested for assaulting my father in our home (tried to stab him with pruning shears and broke his hand while beating him with a frying pan. He is 70 and frail). I know she continues to drink and smoke pot, beyond that I do not know what she does. What concerns me most are her violent mood swings-just yesterday she was pleasant and helpful, and today she has been in a rage, disrespectful and inconsolable for no apparent reason. Our house is full of holes in the drywall and broken picture frames, mirrors, etc. When you try to talk or reason with her, she gets angry-screams and curses at you for hours, breaks into uncontrollable sobbing and storms out of the house. We have tried many times to get her to see a therapist-she goes once or twice and then stops.

She sleeps til noon, does nothing all day and then goes out to party. She has tried school and despite her high IQ she cannot complete a full semester of work. She has had several jobs but can never hold them for more than a month-she gets into a confrontation with a coworker or boss and is fired, or stops showing up and gets fired. Several members in our family have tried to reach out and be helpful-helping her with money, finding a job, a place to stay (she is thrown out of the house almost monthly). All to no avail.

While a realize that my parents' enabling plays a role in her behavior, I also know that something is not right with her. And it hasn't been right since as long as I can remember.

At 21, what options do we have to help her? We cannot force her to see a mental health professional, and short of violating her probation (stemming from assaulting our father), she cannot be committed or forced into treatment. At this point I feel the best thing for her would be jail or a hospital. What should we do?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Heidi LPC replied 3 years ago.

Heidi LPC :

Hi there! My name is Heidi and I hope to be of some assistance to you tonight. Your situation sounds extremely complicated, and I commend you for reaching out in an attempt to make some sense of it all.

Heidi LPC :

Your description of her behavior certainly points to the concept that she is in some type of emotional pain, and is self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. This is not going to help resolve the problem, but it is all she knows. I am wondering if she has ever been prescribed any anti-depressants or such? Just curious is therapy has ever gotten far enough for a psychiatrist to evaluate her condition...

Heidi LPC :

In cases where the person is of age, you are in challenging territory as far as forcing her to get treatment. And sadly, I must agree with you that a hospitalization or tough love in terms of imprisonment may end up being the wake up call she might need to get the help she needs. Yet, does she respect you and your opinions? You describe enabling behavior by your parents; you are 100% on target there. Boundaries must be put into place and firmly adhered to in terms of what is acceptable and what isn't. Are you capable of being that person for her, as in staying connected to her until she crosses the boundaries of behavior, but letting her know that you are not afraid to call the police or an ambulance if she gets out of control?

Heidi LPC :

She will have to suffer the natural consequences of her behavior in order to feel their effects, in that family will have to disconnect and stop enabling her, and she will have to eventually feel the results of alienating those who love her.

Heidi LPC :

If this seems impossible, given the circumstances, my answer would be that you will have to await some type of action on her part that causes the authorities to have to become involved. I would hope that someone in the family, or outside, could reason with her and convince her that help is available to her and that her quality of life would be improved ten-fold if she took some time to focus on herself and resolve any personal issues she may be facing. Otherwise, she will end up losing the support of her family.

Heidi LPC :

I am truly sorry that you are stuck in such complicated circumstances. Mental illness is real and can destroy many lives; I hope that you have some support for yourself and can separate her behavior from your own life so that you aren't suffering along with her. Time has a way of bringing things to a head, and if it isn't today, it will happen eventually. In the meantime, take care of yourself. I commend you for asking the question, and I thank you for trying to help her. Thanks for using the site today; let me know if I can be of any further assistance to you.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you heidi, it has been very frustrating and heartbreaking watching her behavior rip my family apart. In addition to what i had mentioned, she also habitually steals from all of us and threatens suicide when something gets tough for her to deal with. It is an increasingly common occurrence.

Thankfully my aunt was able to convince her to go back on the mood stabilizer she was taking while in rehab, and got her into a doctor last week. She has just started the medication, so hopefully she stays with it and my parents get her to see a psychiatrist regularly.


I suppose my final question would be if it would be more beneficial for us to seek therapy as a family rather than just her own her own-to fix the awful dynamic we have and also for the doctor to see some perspective from other family members?

Expert:  Heidi LPC replied 3 years ago.
Alexandra, I am so glad to hear that she saw a Dr. and starting taking her medication. Whenever there is one cog on a family wheel that is a bit off center, it affects the entire system. Getting some time together with a professional who is skilled in family therapy will expose the dysfunctional patterns of behavior in a family which may have contributed to any imbalance in the family dynamic. It is helpful to be proactive in preventing problems in a family system as opposed to only being reactive to problems once they exist... but either way, getting help when a family needs it can only help. Working together to work things out can increase everyone's quality of life and strengthen the family bond with the people you love so dearly. Once again, I hope this was helpful and I wish you and your family all the very best.... and let me know how things work out! I am here if you need anything further! :-)

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