Family issues - I just don't know what to do any more.


Sorry for using the forum to discuss this but I could really do with some outside opinions on this, as I am getting to the end of my tether and it is becoming very stressful.

The problem stems from my brother's attitude and behaviour, although this isn't a "my brother is so annoying and I can't stand him" post, it is more that I have actual concerns about him and why he is behaving in this way. He is 21 and I am 23 - we are both living at home at the moment because I am doing a full time PhD with no funding and can't afford to move out. He is living at home because he is an undergraduate and he failed a previous year at university when he lived away from home, and now my parents don't trust him to move out and be responsible for his studies. We have never got on brilliantly, we don't have much in common, but at the same time we can have a laugh together and chat etc.

The main problem is his huge mood swings and the temper that comes with it. He can be very difficult to talk to and rants a lot, for example if I say "Hello, you alright?" if I haven't seen him all day he will often launch into a tirade about how I shouldn't say hello to him, and how I am stupid for doing so. I still talk to him because I think he has to learn that communication is a normal and valuable skill, in my opinion he shouldn't be able to dictate when people speak to him. He is constantly criticizing me for all sorts of things, being ugly, pathetic, stupid, mentally ill (I am on anti depressants but wouldn't consider myself to be mentally ill).. the list goes on. And when I answer him back I'm often told to "take my medication and go and commit suicide". When he starts it is as if he can't stop, this used to upset me but I find it more irritating now.

The most difficult problem though is how erratic his behaviour is, he can go from being ok and playing with my dog or whatever, to being how I have just described, and then back again, all in about 10 minutes. He can be quite unpredictable as well. When I have discussed this with my parents, they have said that he is clearly not a happy person, but they don't know what to do with him. He can be especially insulting towards my dad, in terms of how he isn't masculine, he's actually called him a creep before (for no reason), and my dad was clearly upset about this but just told my brother that he didn't care about what he said.

We are different sorts of people, he has never really had a job apart from gardening (he puts adverts up and can be reasonably busy as a result), however I have been working in various roles since I was 15. He isn't very responsible, and has never really had to answer to anybody. I feel quite emotional writing this which is probably why it isn't very well written... I'd be really grateful for any advice because I can't cope for much longer. He is definitely getting worse and I want him to improve for himself more than me or anyone else.

Thanks in advance, Natassia x


This is horrible! Believe me I know families where a super bright sibling was toppled to the bottom due to such comments. I have 3 GPs among my siblings, super rich and successful who behaved very much like your brother in their teens and even <=25. My parents were always more(90%) concerned about their well being and in the process I was very much neglected.

I was into self destruction phase for almost 10years, but still trying to recover due to my sensitive nature. A sadistic person only flourishes on your pain. I hope your brother is not that kind of person, the problem could be very simple like hating your friends etc.

You are very young and so is your brother. In most cases maturity comes with age. So try to remain focused about the things you do. Try to safeguard your health, sanity by dealing such issues with logic rather than with anger. best of luck

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

======= Date Modified 21 Sep 2011 16:18:17 =======
Your brother's mood swings (assuming no substances are involved) suggest developing manic depression (bipolar disorder being the modern name) at first glance. Have any of your family sought help for him?

Has he ever threatened to turn violent? If so, the situation needs to be sorted sooner rather than later.

I have no true perception of what is actually happening, so things might not be as bad as that. 'Unhappiness' may be he's in a situation he doesn't want to be in. He may not want to be at Uni. He may have personal problems he might not wish to talk about - men are notoriously bad at opening up.

A specialist would be the best person for him to talk to, before he harms himself or anyone else.

I know you say you can't afford to move out, but doing so short term until a solution begins to be worked on may be the best option. Putting some distance between you and him may take some heat out of the situation.


======= Date Modified 21 Sep 2011 17:10:23 =======
Hey Natassia! This sounds like an awful situation to be in, for the whole family. To have to listen to someone saying those things must truly be horrible, especially since you don't understand what's going on with him. It's difficult to say what is going on with him- it could be some sort of mental health problem but although bipolar causes major mood swings, it isn't about people being horrible and angry. My boyf used to think that having bipolar meant being in a 'bad mood', but of course it's nothing like that, it's all about severe depression and mania, and very few people with bipolar are violent (it's a pretty negative stereotype of people with mental illness, but not true of many). When you refer to mood swings, do you mean depression-type moods, or more typical (but extreme) 'bad/angry moods'? It is also strange that his moods can change so quickly as well- again this isn't really indicative of bipolar, although there is a subtype of bipolar (rapid cycling) that is more to do with very frequent mood swings, but again it's depression/mania, and I'm not sure that's what you're describing. You know yourself what depression is like anyway, so perhaps you can judge whether it could be something similar. Of course, none of us are qualified to properly judge that anyway. Is there any chance drink/drugs could be involved? Is he having any other problems in his personal life that could be responsible? Either way, it sounds like he needs some help, for his own sake and yours, although what form this would take, I'm not sure without knowing more about it. Sounds like you are best limiting your contact with him since it is upsetting you so much. Perhaps he would benefit from not being isolated and having someone to talk to, but if you're not close anyway then that's probably not going to be you. Best, KB


Thank you all very much for replying, it really means a lot. I understand what you are saying when bipolar is suggested, but I really don't think there is anything like that wrong with him. My mum has suggested that he could be unhappy with himself and turning it outwards instead and I think that is more the case. He is quite immature in some ways, e.g. he has 'seen' girls but never had a proper girlfriend, and he has never really taken responsibility for anything (my parent's don't encourage it) - so he could be feeling down about that. I really want to be able to help him, but when he abuses me (and I think it can verge on abuse sometimes), I wonder whether he is worth my concern.

Mackem Beefy - he doesn't really want to be at uni (he wants to train as a fireman when he graduates I think), and he is worse when he has to do something he doesn't want to do, like in the ten minutes before he leaves for work he is horrid, then ok when he gets back. But he should realise that life isn't all about having fun and relaxing, like he says it is. He often tells me that my life is sh*t, although I work very hard I am quite fulfilled and generally happy with my life. As I've described above, I think the personal problems are there, but not discussed so I don't know what they are. And he has been violent towards me and the dogs a few times in the past few months. He used to be worse when we were younger. This is quite rare though, and more agression with too much strength rather than proper violence, like he is more likely to push me very agressively than punch me in the face. With the dogs he kicks them and this makes me really cross - when I tell him off for it he just tells me that I'm mad and need to take my medication. I don't think he'd ever be physically aggressive towards my parents.

He just seems to get very cross at the smallest things, like the dogs barking at the postman. He has a lot of anger inside him that he seems to need to vent, and I am usually the recipient. I can't wait for him to go back to uni so he is out all day, although then I worry about him when he is staying late there. It's strange and difficult because although he really does make my life miserable a lot of the time, I still look out for him all the time and I really want to be able to have a good relationship with him.

In terms of other substances that could be causing this, I know that he is difficult when he wants a cigarette, but then he doesn't smoke very much. I am pretty sure that he smokes weed as he mentions it, but then says that he hasn't smoked it since he went to Amsterdam and that was a couple of months ago now. He spends a lot of time with his friends so he has plenty of opportunity. A close friend of mine used to smoke a lot of weed (I don't smoke it) and he said that how my brother is behaving is typical for someone who smokes it, but then I think it affects everyone differently. I do think there is a substance making him behave like this though, he is very erratic sometimes.

Again, sorry for the garbled message and thank you for the replies, Nx


======= Date Modified 21 Sep 2011 21:49:42 =======
Hey Natassia. I tend to agree- this doesn't really sound like bipolar to me at all, much more like a response to some sort of substance (or coming off it). Although I have to say, the thought of anyone kicking a dog (or a person) would really infuriate me, and I think that is quite worrying. I can't help being reminded of some of the teenagers on 'The World's Strictest Parents'. I don't know if you've ever seen it, but basically it features a lot of very angry and confused youngsters, most of whom have a lack of direction, are on drink/drugs, and have serious issues with anger management etc. I don't know if that describes your bro, but that's what your post reminds me of. Does your brother talk to anyone or does he bottle things up? Is he close to your parents? Do his friends do drugs? As horrible as it must be for you, I'm guessing he's probably feeling really rubbish as well if he's behaving like that...I doubt he's being that difficult with no reason at all. But some people are difficult to help until they realise that they need help. Best, KB

Edit: Ignore his comments about your meds, sounds like he's just trying to wind you up on that one. When I first suffered with depression my brother called me all sorts of things ('mental', 'nutcase' etc) basically because he just had no clue what I was going through and didn't understand my behaviour. I hasten to add, now that we're older and wiser he's the best and most supportive big bro I could ask for.

Avatar for sneaks

it does sound exactly like substance abuse tbh, very difficult to tell on a forum though! My hubby's cousin is a bit like this, is extremely paranoid e.g. at a meal out with the rest of the family will suddenly jump at and scream at the whole table because he thought someone was looking at him and thinking he was gay - so strange! He's since started hitting his gf and gets extremely angry, it all stems from the weed unfortunately.

I've also seen this type of behaviour from steroid abuse.

Avatar for Batfink27

Oh, what a difficult situation for you!

I have to say, the behaviour you describe does remind me of my own brother - who is fairly immature, selfish, slightly spoilt by parents - although the target of his mood swings tend to either be himself or the world in general (immigrants, benefit cheats, politicians, bankers, the tax office, etc, it can get pretty unpleasant at times) rather than the family. Different targets, maybe, but it does sound very familiar otherwise. And with my brother, the problem is fairly extreme depression made worse by smoking cannabis (actually, skunk, which is of course stupidly potent stuff) and also some other health problems (mainly epilepsy-related). But the depression stems from him feeling trapped (his health issues mean he can't work at the moment and has had to move back in with my parents), and this is where I see the greatest similarity with your brother.

That doesn't make his situation any easier to deal with, but it does sound like there might be external causes - frustration at university etc. The difficulty is getting him to address those issues (and even if they aren't really the cause of his bad behaviour towards you and your parents, it couldn't do him any harm to address those issues!) It took my brother a very long time to recognise he had any problems at all, but now after lots of encouragement he is seeking help.

In terms of your own situation - I'm afraid sometimes you have to be a bit hard and self-protective. It'll be extra difficult for you as you live in the same house (if there was any way you could change that I'd take it if I were you), but his problems are not yours to solve. That's not to suggest you should be unsupportive or unsympathetic, but it won't do anyone any good if you end up suffering or not achieving as much as you'd like because of his behaviour - it won't ever be recognised by him or anyone else, and is likely to be buried anyway once he's sorted himself out, so it would only end up causing you resentment. So anything you can do to distance yourself from the effects of whatever he's going through is only a good thing, and you mustn't feel guilty about stepping away from the situation to focus on your own needs and your own ambitions.

A really difficult situation - I hope you find a way through it.

Avatar for sneaks

Have you tried defusing the situations? From memory my hubby tried to be like this to me when we first dated - would get stupidly angry (never violent) about stuff. It soon stopped once he realised I just laughed at him. He's not done it since, I think it may be a thing that a lot of young men go through - his dad was the same and it caused a divorce between him and his mum when they were early 20s, maybe its testosterone levelling out or something?


hi natassia, i wouldn't be quick to suggest that this is either a bipolar issue or that your brother is a substance abuser. he may have psychological issues with dealing with stress, depression and being told what to do. it sounds like a form of depression to me. your parents will obviously be proud of you for being at phd level but your brother is clearly struggling to deal with that fact (as he has struggled at undergrad level) and he may be finding it difficult to move out of your shadow, especially if he feels physically trapped within it (by being somewhat forced into staying at home). I'm not suggesting that you are to blame or that you should change, but perhaps this is a possible alternative cause to substance abuse or an unflagged bipolar illness. if your parents share your concerns perhaps suggesting counselling may help


I totally agree with TPhD. Substance abuse is not a grass root problem. It could be a consequence of problems like what TPhD has mentioned. I started smoking to end the continuous pain my brother tried to inflict on me, when there was no obvious solution. It killed my brain cells and a major relief for time being.
That was not the source of my problems? Every doctor/counselor would emphasize finding the root cause very much like the last post...well done Thumbs up


Hi Natassia,
Sorry to hear about your brother. From your description it could also be ADHD? The sudden mood swings, anger, tempers, unpredictability sound very much like it, you can find lists of symptoms and checklists on the internet for example. Somebody very close to me has recently been diagnosed and frequently displays similar behaviour.
Greetings, Kamtil


I agree it could be any of the reasons suggested, but I would add that it is not something you can sort out. He may need someone outside the family to talk to about what is really the matter. Hitting people or animals is not on and needs to be nipped in the bud. You may need to take more drastic action, you and your parents. Get him to the GP to sort out some psychological help for him. Does he want to go backto uni? Does he know what he wants to do afterwards? being a fireman is not easy job to get into I know of people who have had to wait ages for an opening. Does he come back in a better mood if he has been gardening? Maybe he would be better off with a course in that field. He probably sees you getting on with things and is annoyed his life is, at the moment at least, not what he wants but on the other hand he might not know how to go about getting what he does want. Maybe he has a lot of pent up energy and no way of dissipating it. I hesitate to suggest this, not being in the least sporty myself unless it is something I can do in the privacy of my own home (Thank you wii) but maybe he needs to get out and do something sporty to get rid of the excess, it might help.

You need to look after yourself too. Working on a PhD is no joke if you have many other worries to contend with. Give yourself a bit of space. Don't take anything he says to heart, just imagine you are both small children again and treat it in the same way as you did then - thats not going off and saying mummeeee he's taken my toys again:-) - but remembering that he is exhibiting the same behaviour as then, and you coped, and can do so again. if he has been particularly bad, do something just for you that you like doing ( not too much choc though that is the nemesis of PhD students) to heal the pain a bit and then get on with whatever you have to do to reach your own goal. Remember you can never lead anyone else's life for them, you can help if they are willing to accept it, and if you offer it, it is up to them to decide if they will take it or not. This doesn't mean you give up on them, just that you are aware of your limitations in this area and accept that they are in charge of their own destiny and must make their own mistakes this should make it easier to cope with when you know they should be doing one thing but are doing another.

good luck and keep going, J :-)