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Help for my family


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I'm 19 and I have a 17 year old cousin who has not been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, but many people in my family suspect he has it. He has horrible mood swings (sometimes he's really happy, sometimes miserable and sometimes VERY angry -- so much that it's scary), he talks so fast and with so many ideas at once that we can't understand him, he won't listen to anyone's advice, his grades have dropped drastically in certain subjects and he's causing HELL for his family -- he gets into screaming matches with his parents over nothing (for example, he wanted a straw for his orange juice but there weren't any in the house, so he started screaming at his mother), he stays out all night even though he has a curfew, he doesn't tell his mother where he is when he goes out, he physically attacks his father, and he makes his mother cry every day. This is wearing out my aunt and my uncle (who has had several heart attacks and doesn't need the stress) and his little brother (who can do nothing but watch and comfort his parents). He's causing so much trouble for his parents' marriage. And he wasn't always like this -- this has been going on for a while now, but when he was younger he didn't act this way.

He refuses to see a psychiatrist so if he DOES have Bipolar disorder or something else, it won't be treated or even diagnosed. Is there anything his parents can do? I mean, the kid REALLY needs help...


Edited by Rinoa
Forgot something.
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What you are describing might be bipolar disorder (hard to say), but it also might be an addiction to something like cocaine or meth - a stimulant drug of some sort. In the absence of any family history of bipolar or mood disorders - (you've not commented on that) I'd say start with the addiction idea and move on to bipolar or stuff like that later on. Addiction is in some sense more "reversible" than bipolar (although in practical terms that is often not the case)

If your cousin simply won't see a doctor, well - it's a very tricky thing to force treatment on anyone. He's 17 and so technically a minor, but old enough to make treatment decisions for himself. So I doubt that his parents could force him into any treatment, and if he isn't interested in treatment for himself on its own merits, it will be hard if not impossible to force it on him. This can be a painful thing to watch and an even more painful thing to experience as a parent, but it is a consequence of having civil liberties. I'm not a lawyer, but the basic idea is that your cousin owns himself and gets to make his own decisions until his behavior becomes eratic or dangerous enough so that he is endangering himself or others, at which point the police may get involved and he is more likely to end up in a jail than in a mental hospital. If it is a drug problem, there are a few more enlightened jurisdictions where courts refer addicts to rehab and treatment rather than jail, but it isn't the usual pattern which is jail. there are far more mentally ill people in the jails presently than in formal psychiatric hospitals (and there are far more jails than such hospitals these days too).

You can and should offer your cousin your love and your strong urgings to seek treatment and recognize that there is a real behavioral problem occurring. Other than that, since you can't force him really to be treated, you can help yourself and your family to try to recognize what you can do and can't do and in so doing, lessen the pain of watching this self-destruction somewhat. A good way to do this is to seek out support groups or (better still I think) psychotherapy for yourself (or family therapy for all members of your family that are dealing with this). The therapist would be in a position to advise you best on what is possible to do with regard to intervening. There are families that try to do confrontations (with regard to addiction usually) but I'm not in a position to advise you about that. This is probably hard advice to hear, but I don't have much better to offer, unfortunately. Wish I did.

Others here in the community have dealt with the problem of watching family members self-destruct. How have you all handled this difficult problem?


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