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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I wonder if you can help me. I wanted to get some more info

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HI there. I wonder if you can help me. I wanted to get some more info after a repetitive family issue we had this weekend. My sister who is now turning 23 seems to "switch between 2 personalities" after excessive drinking. This has come about in the past 2 years i believe and what happens is that she switches between her "drunk normal self" and then another "suicidal" person in periods of between 10-15 mins...which results after having drinking until she really has sobered up.

I experienced this, this weekend and the only thing i can call it is: alcohol induced schitzophrenia. She suddenly gets a glaze over her eyes and becomes "possessed" and starts to scream and shout and want to jump out cars, or windows and "kill herself". She also does not remember these bouts but only remembers when she switches to her "drunk self" and has flashbacks of this.

The other night resulted in me taking her the hospital as she was trying to jump out the car door and screaming and also did not recognise me as her brother. At the hospital she switched between her drunk self and this "other person" which really scared me. I wanted to book her into get assessed as she seems to cut herself and want to hurt herself by smashing walls with her fist in this rage. When she is this person she says such hateful and hurtful words and is totally at risk of commiting suicide...then switched round to someone else. She has now been recommended to a psychitrist next week but i am so concerned about her., The doctors say it could be a religious possessed deamon in her or alternatively some chemical imbalance due to excessive alcohol in her brain which causes another personality to switch. She does not drink often or have a drinking problem but this issue only occurs when she goes out on the town and parties hard and drinks excessively. She also had blood tests at the hospitals...( the next day ) and there were no traces of drugs in her blod or anything like this. She does not take drugs but it seems that i have witnessed 3 episodes of this after some heavy drinking the worst of which lasted about 3 hours on sunday night. she will only cut herself with a razor after a drinking spree, or only have these episodes of hatred, suicide and killing people in these circumstances only. It also seems that her hatred for someone is based on those she loves most like myself and parents and her boyfriend. I really need some help or advice or assistance. my sister has stopped drinking under strict instructions from the hospital until she has seen a psychiatrist,,,however, she is totally upset by this and cannot believe she has a disorder as she does not see what other people see. she has no recollection of the "blackout" moments she has when switching personalities but only remembers the drunk personality the day after...but not the suicidal episodes and outbursts of hatred or not recognising her family. please help as i fear for my sisters life if she drinks too much and i am not there to protect her and prevent her from doing something drastic. I search for answers.....i need your help....and advice....many thanks

I am happy to provide more information if needed to assist you as i am now back in London and my sister is back home in South Africa, so am happy to update this for you. I am worried for her as this is not a normal condition i have experienced nor is this a typical intoxicated behaviour expected from my sister. This is an extreme condition which i believe may be due to the alcohol causing some imbalance in the brain releasing some psychotic behaviour.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 6 years ago.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your problem.

I am sorry to hear that you experienced this with your sister. It was very smart of you to take your sister for help. Whenever you have someone threatening themselves or someone else like that, getting help is the wisest move.

It is common for alcohol users to develop a different personality while under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol, as you probably already know, is a depressant. When someone uses alcohol, it depresses reactions as well as mood. Someone who is normally fine while sober can suddenly become tearful, moody and suicidal while using alcohol. It is not uncommon that the user also does not recall their actions while drinking.

However, in your sister's situation, it appears that she may have an underlying psychological issue going on here. The fact that she acts out so violently and becomes not only suicidal but homicidal and also has such a drastic change in personality while using is a concern. Oftentimes, someone with mental health issues will use alcohol and it causes an extreme reaction and change in personality. It can make the symptoms they already have much worse. Although misuse of alcohol can cause cognitive dysfunction and other damage to a person, the same is true in reverse. Those with psychological issues can use alcohol and end up with symptoms that are overwhelming and frightening.

It is difficult to say exactly what your sister is dealing with. It is very good that she has an upcoming appointment with a psychiatrist to find out the underlying problem. It can range anywhere from simple anxiety and depression to organic brain disorder, psychosis or a personality disorder. Schizophrenia is also another possibility, however, it may sometimes be confused with other mental health disorders because the use of alcohol confuses the symptoms and makes the person harder to diagnose. Sometimes the person may also have two or more possible diagnosis and therefore, a thorough psychological exam needs to be performed to get an accurate diagnosis so treatment can help.

Once your sister sees the doctor and a diagnosis is made, she may also want to find a recovery program for alcohol users. You mentioned that you thought she might not be an alcohol abuser so she may be an alcohol user. This is someone who doesn't use on a regular basis but when she does, she drinks to excess. However, that still means she needs help, especially given her reactions when she does drink and the fact that drinking alcohol may be dangerous if she ends up on psych medication.

If your sister is not willing to go for help, you and your family may want to follow through yourselves to gain support and have a place to turn if the behavior continues. Two great places to start are mental health assistance and for families dealing with an alcohol user or abuser.

A couple of books that may help you are Sober Siblings: How to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister-and Not Lose Yourself by Patricia Olsen and M.D. Petros Levounis M.D. and When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness by Rebecca Woolis. They are available on or your local library may be able to get them for you.

Keep in mind you are doing what you can to help. Your support is important, even if she cannot acknowledge it at this point. In the meanwhile, take some time to care for yourself and don't allow yourself to become over stressed. If you feel you need to talk with someone, try a counselor. If you attend church, a pastor might also be a good option. Rely on friends and family to help as well. You will be in better condition to help your sister if you are doing ok yourself.

I hope this has helped you,


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