Brother Being Abusive to Critically Ill Mother

Reader’s Question

My brother has been using drugs and been an alcoholic since he was a teenager. He started selling drugs and did this for a couple of years after high school to support his habit. Our mom told him to stop and promised him a good paying job. So he quit selling about 6 years ago and has been yelling at her ever since. He says she promised him a good job that she never gave him and also promised him he could build a room in the attic. She is now on her death bed literally, yet he continues to scream at her and blame her for all his problems in life. He is 28. Their is no reasoning with him; it has been the exact same argument day in and day out for 6 years and 3 to 5 hours a day. The argument is she promised him a great job which she and I think is great. We’ve got him a job in construction getting paid 500 a week but he says it’s not enough for him and also he argues the fact that she promised him if he got a job he could build a room in the attic; she never allowed him to because it is her father’s house not hers. Who is wrong here? And what can I do? Because either one of two things is going to happen in the next few weeks. One, I’m going to call the police and have him removed and undergo a psychiatric evaluation, or it’s gonna end with me doing a lot of physical damage to him.

Psychologist’s Reply

Your brother is exhibiting classic signs of an Antisocial Personality, a type of Personality Disorder characterized by:

  • total selfishness,
  • social/personal irresponsibility,
  • a total lack of concern for the feelings/rights of others,
  • manipulation, intimidation, and the abuse of others,
  • total denial of responsibility for their own misbehavior,
  • willingness to abuse/use others to obtain their selfish goals, and
  • multiple other features listed in my article including a history of criminal behavior.

Your brother has been an Antisocial Personality for his entire adult life. His prior addiction and use of substances occurred in addition to his Antisocial Personality. But you’ve got another problem here.

Antisocial Personalities are often social parasites, having no interest in maintaining a normal adult level of functioning and responsibility in the community. They often live off others and use/intimidate others for financial, housing, and lifestyle support. With your mother’s health status and her anticipated passing, your Antisocial brother is now in a panic. Stress of any kind increases our normal personality — shy people become more shy under stress, that kind of thing. In his panic for his next support system, seeing that the current arrangement may be ending, he is now blatantly Antisocial and is exhibiting aggressive outbursts toward his mother and family members with no concern for how abusive he is toward your mother.

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In truth, in true Antisocial style, he is probably trying to intimidate your mother into leaving him all her assets. This is why he is focusing and tormenting her with the “good job” and extra room promise — to make her feel guilty. His yelling and screaming at her is his way of intimidating her to do what he wants. What can the family do?

  • One strategy is to move your mother to a location that limits his access. As long as she is in the family home, for example, he feels entitled to total access which allows his temper outbursts against her. If she can be moved to your home or a public location, his tantrums can be limited.
  • His behavior is abusive toward your mother. At the same time, he will have no problem being abusive to and fighting with you — it’s an Antisocial strategy. Call the police. Police and the courts are only concerned with abuse and physical intimidation. He can’t use the “good job” or “extra room” promise to explain his abusiveness. Antisocial personalities are never afraid of family members, but they are afraid of the local police and court system.
  • Contact law enforcement to review your options. Many communities have an agency for the protection of senior citizens, similar to a children protection agency. After reviewing your legal options, inform your brother that his abusive behavior will not be tolerated. If he brings up the excuses for his abusive behavior, remind him that due to her health status, all promises are null and void and upon her passing, those promises will not be honored by the remaining family members.
  • Check the status of her will. Recognize that your brother has no love or concern for you, his mother, or other family members. He will be planning and plotting to obtain what’s best for only him. It’s like having a shark in the family swimming pool. You may need to protect yourself legally.
  • Try to avoid an old-fashioned fist-fight. He will only use that incident to further torment your mother, yelling at her that “her son” tried to kill him and she should feel sorry for him. Try to keep this as business as possible. Keep in mind that you can’t embarrass, insult, or guilt trip an Antisocial as they have no concern for your opinion or feelings in the first place.
  • At your mother’s passing, your Antisocial brother will be looking for a new supporter. When he comes in your direction, assure him that the change in his lifestyle is an opportunity for him to become more independent. Then keep him at a safe distance in all areas of life.
  • Read my introduction to personality disorders article. Also review other questions about “personality disorders” by selecting that topic on from the sidebar menu.

With your mother’s health situation, it’s a struggle for the family to keep their head above water. It’s even more difficult when a shark is swimming nearby.

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