Out of Control 19 Year Old Brother

My little brother is 19 years old, and I'm very concerned about his depression. I guess I really didn't know the extent of it until last night, and I think it may be worse than even I realize. I've known for sometime that he was depressed, but the only symptoms I was aware of are his insomnia, and his anti-social personality. His ex girlfriend, who is living at the house, came to me last night and told me that he is verbally abusive to her. He constantly makes her feel inferior and as if she doesn't belong here. While she was talking to me, he was balled up on the bathroom floor, right next to my room, drunk and nauseous. She says he drinks heavily without my family's knowledge. He was listening in on our conversation and called her out. She came back a short time later saying he was pushing her around, held her down in a chair and demanded to know what she had told me. When she didn't answer he started rampaging through the upstairs throwing things. This was at 4:30 AM. He came downstairs with a drink, and she asked me to talk to him. She said she didn't know if he was on anything, but his eyes were wild and she thought he was going to lose it. She also said she saw that there were scratches all over his arms. When I tried to approach him he walked off and threw his drink into a room, shattering it. Then he walked out the back door. We got him to come back inside, but he refused to talk to any of us.


My family is falling apart. My mom is a severely depressed individual who I also believe is an emotional manipulator. Because of this, me and my older brother are moving in less than two weeks. Neither of us has talked to either parent in weeks. My stepdad (little brother's father) also only really cares about what he can get out of me and my brother. They have been using us to support themselves for quite a long time. I feel that everything in this house will collapse when we leave. I think my mother may kill herself, but she also uses that threat to get what she wants out of me. My little brother doesn't threaten, but I believe he is a danger to himself.

I overheard my parents talking upstairs this morning. My mother says she thinks my little brother is immature and needs a job to help him learn to grow up. They know he struggles from depression, but I think they kid themselves about how serious it is. She should have set him up with a therapist long ago. He should be treated. When I felt my older brother was suicidal years ago, I tried to talk to her, and she did nothing. She does nothing to intervene. I guess she just hopes things will work out for the best. How do you just ignore the fact that your child is this sick? I don't feel that my parents will do anything to truly help my little brother. He is the youngest, and has been handed things, instead of learning to be independent. They now feel they've created a monster and they must continue to do for him, I suppose in order for him to survive. They will coddle him, but not address the real issues. I have no idea what to do here. I can try to open her eyes... but I feel I will be unsuccessful. She's too wrapped up in her own problems to care about anyone else's.

Ben's Answer:

Your little brother seems to have some serious issues - the possibility of depression being only one of them. It sounds to me like he is abusing both alcohol and other drugs - possibly methamphetamines. The scratches on his arms could be from withdrawal symptoms from stimulants, or intentionally self inflicted "cutting." His agitation, and wild eyed rages are not what you would expect to see in someone who is simply depressed. Either this is all due to his substance abuse, or there is more going on, like Bipolar Disorder. Whenever drugs and alcohol are being abused, it can be nearly impossible to get a conclusive diagnosis of any psychiatric issues.

Your brother clearly needs help. But you can't force a 19 year old to see a therapist. Your parents may have some leverage if they're willing to stop babying him and set some serious limits. As for yourself - I don't think it's helpful to go down with a sinking ship if you have a way out and can save yourself. Parents who manipulate and control with threats of suicide will never get what they want. You can't make her happy. And if you sacrifice your own freedom for her you will only end up bitter and resentful. It's a very cruel form of manipulation to use on your kids because it plays on their worst fears.

Those who can't or wont change, can't stand to see others better their lives.

Once you get free you may be in a better position to help your little brother.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist









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