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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5823
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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My sister is driving me crazy with her clingy to me and my

Resolved Question:

My sister is driving me crazy with her clingy to me and my family. She become very upset when thing don't go her way. She is 65 yrs old!!
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 6 years ago.

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

If this is a new behavior for your sister, she may need a checkup with her doctor. Changes in behavior, especially at her age, may be due to physical causes such as dementia, Alzheimer's or Pick's disease, which is a deterioration of the frontal lobe. If your sister will not go herself, consider going with her or have someone she is comfortable with go with her. The doctor needs to be aware she is acting like this so the evaluation can be accurate.

If she is cleared medically, then this becomes a psychological issue. Is there a reason you feel she is crying and clingy? Did something occur in her life recently, such as a death or major change of some sort (moving, health problems, etc). In that case, she may be depressed and not able to handle her emotions as well as she normally does.

Would she be willing to talk to either a counselor or a pastor? If she is, she can talk to her doctor for a referral. Or she can search on line for a therapist at

In coping with her behavior, you may want to try to suggest she stay busy, if she is not already. Help her find a group to join, a new hobby, or suggest a short vacation to visit other family or friends. She may need a change to help her feel better.

Also, try to not bring up her behavior directly. Instead of saying she is too clingy, suggest she help you in some way when she is around. Give her a chore or ask her help with something that needs done. Or be ready to leave your home when she has overstayed her welcome. That way, you at least can control the situation somewhat until it can be resolved.

I hope this has helped,


Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Her husband passed away 7 years ago, she doesn't have children and is retired. I have suggested numerous times for her to get involved in activities at church or people or own age. I don't enjoy being around her anymore because I never know what is going to make her mad. Mainly what makes her mad is when my children show me affection or talk to me when she is with us. I refuse to tell my kids to back off of me when she is around. I am sorry she didn't have kids but that was her choice. My kids are 18 & 19 and are very active between school, working, boyfriend and their friends. She gets upset because they are "growing up". She called me niece yelling at her because she didn't wish her a happy mothers day!! Now she is mad because my daughter's graduation party date "doesn't work for her" She is stressing me out to where it is affecting me which I know I should allow her to but this past weekend she wore me out!

Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 6 years ago.

It sounds like she is trying to make you and your family responsible for her feelings about the loss of her husband and her decision not to have children.

It may be that she sees your family and finds that she regrets her choices. Her husband's death may have left her with too much time on her hands and time to think.

If there is not a physical cause for her behavior, then it may be a matter of you having to set limits with her. It is hard to do because you care for her, but sometimes people need others to show them how to move on.

Start by limiting what you share with her and/or the time you spend with her, especially in your home. If she asks why, tell her. Do it gently, but firmly. Also, ignore any behavior that is upsetting or over the line. It may take a long time, but she will get the message. When she talks about how upset she gets about things like the kids growing up, give her a short answer like "I know" and change the topic. Keep changing it as needed. Once she realizes she cannot control you or your emotions, she should back off.


Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 6 years ago.

I haven't heard from you. Did you have more questions or want clarification?


Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I guess I need confirmation that it is ok to set boundaries for myself and my family athough she has always been a big of our lives. Now that she is acting all werid I feel so awful that she gets on my nerves. I feel sorry for her that she is so lonely but we can't always be there to fill that void in her life. She just doesn't understand that even though we love her there is situations that are for my husband and kids. Not every part of my life has to involve her. Although I would love to share things with her like I used to could, I can't because she gets mad if she wasn't invited to every thing we do. So I try to hide things that I don't want to do with her. It embarrasses me when she gets mad in front of my friends or my husband family. I realize there maybe a medical condition here but she has been treated for depression even before her husband passed away. She always tells me about her "meltdowns" she has. I feel awful because I have gotten to where these meltdowns annoy me rather that feeling compassion for her. I just miss

the sister she used to be....both our parents and bother passed away and we got thru all that together, she used to be my best friend. I guess I changed somewhere along the way too, 2 kids, full time job, my husband was involved in a major car accident, just trying to keep up with being a responsible parent and employer, death of family members, I don't know.....

Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 6 years ago.

It is good for her if you do set boundaries because what she is doing to you and your family is not healthy for her, or you. She is using the guilt you feel to keep you responsible for her behavior, and you are not responsible for how someone else feels. She needs to take that responsibility herself.

She is using your compassion for her as a way to avoid what is really bothering her, which is being alone and not having the motivation to seek out new (and therefore risky) relationships. She is playing it safe and trying to push her way into your family, the safest option for her.

It is ok if you feel annoyed at her or guilty about hiding from her. Keep in mind though, it is her behavior that is causing these feelings for you. If she respected you as much as you respect her, you would not be having these problems.

Setting boundaries for her is the best thing you can do. It does not mean you have to be cruel, just firm. Remind her that you love her but she needs to develop her own life. Then stick to it and allow her to have meltdowns or whatever it takes to help her move on. She will be ok, it will just take time. Offer to help, but limit your involvement to suggesting new places or friends for her. If you do this, she will eventually move on and find that having her own life makes her feel better and is very rewarding. Then hopefully the sister you knew will come back.


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