How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Dr. Michael Your Own Question
Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
Type Your Mental Health Question Here...
Dr. Michael is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I am very worried about a family member (sister) who is a medical

This answer was rated:

I am very worried about a family member (sister) who is a medical doctor, but who at times can seem phased out. I recently stayed with her and heard her ranting in her sleep and also she can do this during the day, when she is in her bedroom or or on her own, say in the kitchen, but I am in the same house and can hear it. This happened when I visited her over Christmas. I notice paranoid traits as well, possibly inherited from my father and a tendency to hoard things, buy clothes, but not wear them. She also cast off nearly all of the way in which we were brought up, except she still has reasonable values. She had a bad relationship with my mother, so she abandoned all the tips re how to dress etc and she also leaves her house in a mess, even though her behaviour can border on the irrational at times. Please help as I dont know how to cope. She also tries to paint me as not normal, but this is not the case= she is in denial. I had a good relationship with my mother, but not with a very emotionally abusive father. I am 52 now and want to get a strategy to get myself into a safer place of awareness, where she cannot hurt me. I also told her I care about her, but that it is very bad for me to spend a lot of time with eccentrics.

Optional Information:
Gender: Female
Age: 52

Already Tried:
Counselling and hypnotherapy for myself, but she still downs me a lot in company and she is able to upset me. I suppose I thought I could trigger some awareness in her, but to no avail. Also, being medical, she thinks she is invincible. Also, I believe she hides things from me and does not tell the truth about things that have happened to her. She is always moving from job to job and is armour plated- few can reach her and point out her issues, so she is stuck in this paranoid state
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

At age 52, it would be well known if your sister had schizophrenia, because the onset of this disorder is nearly always before around age 35 and certainly before age 45. Your sister would be well past the age of initial onset for this particular disorder. However, your sister clearly has considerable anxiety management problems, possibly an anxiety disorder. She likely has absolutely no true, trusted confidants---people she can really relax and be herself with; no one to really talk about her thoughts and beliefs. (I presume this woman is not married and has not long-term partners). As you suggest, she uses her medical degree and career as the primary sign of her self-worth and it serves to protect her from the challenges and threats of intimacy.

Can you please go into more detail about what she says or does when you observe her to be 'phased out'? For example, do you ever get the sense she is hallucinating? Any indication that she might be abusing prescription drugs? Alcohol?

It isn't terribly unusual for people to talk to themselves or talk aloud in the privacy of their home, when they think no one else is listening. Typically, this happens when people don't have genuine, trusted social outlets. If she had someone to really talk to, whom she trusted, she might not talk aloud like this. Having someone to regularly talk to can also help correct and shape paranoid thinking----talking and hearing others respond helps provide a reality check on one's thinking. It doesn't sound as if your sister has many quality 'reality checks' on her thoughts.

I will await your reaction to what I've written here, and your answers to the questions I've posed. Thanks.

Edited by DoctorMichael on 1/1/2011 at 9:38 PM EST
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for this comprehensive and insightful answer. I just wonder if I should be worried about malevolence towards me. I know my mother was very worried about her, even when she was 24 or so and working as a registrar in England. I feel she has never dealt with the underlying cause of these outbursts- I think my late mother believed she, being the elder of two girls, picked up my mother's fear and unhappiness, when she was a baby.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

i do not believe that she abuses drugs. She also has some faith and a long term male friend. However, even though this man is 20 years older than her and they were partners once, he has no emotional insights himself and I feel it is a replay of my sister's own relationship with her father, who was emotionally abusive to us all, was a Walter Mitty character and was very nasty to me, after my beloved mother died. My sister and my father took over the family assets, and I was deprived of some of my father's estate. However, I have come through all of that with the help of my mother's brother, my uncle and godfather. I suffer from anxiety myself, but am a high achiever, but sorely affected my losing my mother to Alzheimers when I was only 20- then left to deal with a father who picked on me a lot, escaped into an ill advised marriage, which broke up early. I have a good career, but feel very frustrated at times- I need to be more wordly to be able to deal with my sister. She left for Canada and the US in her twenties, so escaping the worst of the fallout from my mother's illness and subsequent death. My sister sought validation from my crazy father and now I feel this relationship with this older man, who is emotionally Asperger like, is stopping her move into a space of confronting these issues with intimacy. I just have to protect myself I think, if she is never going to deal with these issues. I also think she fights with other medics at work and doesnt ever tell me, when I visit her on holidays. I have sought therapy and this New YEar am determined to make changes and find a happier life. I also announced over Christmas to her that I was fed up of eccentric people, and that they could fly around me, but are not going to nest in my hair!



Rather than malevolence, your sister probably views herself as somewhat 'superior' to you because of her career status and accomplishments (despite the fact that you are quite accomplished yourself). So unless she feels threatened by you in some way, or if you happen to activate her paranoia by something you say or do, she is more likely to be dismissive and condescending toward you. I would tend to be cordial, but 'steer clear' of her if you feel she is unpredictable and perhaps, getting worse (anxiety, paranoia, etc.)
I have to say, you have really put together some highly plausible and likely accurate hypotheses about your sisters problems, psychological defenses, etc. I could find no fault with anything you wrote in terms of their likely accuracy or plausibility.

You are also quite right about the general modeling influences parents have on their children. That is, many kids literally learn to become needlessly fearful, suspicious, etc., from observing and the modeling the behavior of their parents. Kids probably learn more than 80% of their childhood 'learnings' based on observational learning.

I hope this information is helpful to you. Please let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question. Please hit the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen.
Dr. Michael and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you