23 yr old brother needs help

Hi all,

Some googling led me to your forums, and I'm glad to have found my way here. I apologize in advance that this is sooooooo very long, but thanks for reading if you do!

My 23 year old brother lives at home and is becoming an increasing burden on my parents (both in their 60s). My brother was always a quiet, timid kid growing up. Kept to himself, didn't make friends easily. Lots of social anxiety, even with family. He had some physical health concerns which kept him out of school sporadically in elementary school, but he also struggled with bouts of defiance with wanting to attend school (he was bullied a bit as well).

By the time my brother hit high school, he was "checked out" of school. He grew increasingly defiant and would refuse to go to school. My mother accepted this as his grades were ok. He missed the majority of his senior year. No friends, no social interactions. It was around this time he began withdrawing at home. He began spending all waking hours in his room, glued to the tv or a video game. He would stay home from family functions and stay in his room during holidays. He'd eat meals alone in his bed. In his teenage years he began to be increasingly avoidant and defiant toward my father (avoiding him when he could, locking and slamming doors, telling him to basically F off).

Then I went off to college. I'm 25 now, but I spent six years away, only to return for holidays and breaks. During this time, I only interacted with my brother a handful of times. When I was home and not working, he'd be up all night playing games and sleep all day (honestly I wonder if this has been an avoidance tactic). Over the course of six years, I've seen what appears to be extreme social anxiety worsen and cripple my sibling. I now live on my own and only hear reports of how things are going.

My brother still spends all night watching films/playing games. He has one friend he met gaming (only social interaction) who now lives in a group home 30 miles away. My brother has never held a job nor held a desire to work. He writes fanfic and tells my mom he is waiting on a break to start his career as a writer. He has never driven and has no desire to learn, hence my mom drives him wherever he wants to go. He refuses to speak to my father and will hide from him. He will text my mom or pound on the walls of his bedroom until the rattling gets her attention and he essentially receives room service. He refuses to eat my mother's dinner and will special request dinners of his choice. As he does not work, he receive allowance, which he blows online buying trinkets and dvds (he will not go to the store). He exhibits strong signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and has great difficulty verbalizing thoughts or needs, and is prone to "manic" behaviors when upset (not violence, just screaming and talking to himself irrationally).

This past summer, physical health concerns arose and my brother blurted out to a nurse at the family doctors that he was mentally ill, had self labeled himself as autistic, and needed help to function. This got him counseling. He loved going, until the doctor diagnosed him with severe anxiety and depression and prescribed medications. My brother panicked, stormed out of the office and told my mom he would never go see a counselor again. Which, my mom, has respected.

So obviously this is a very messy picture. Both parents appear to walk on eggshells around him. My father has accepted his son has this extreme anxiety toward him and avoids his son, and my mother coddles and caters to his every demand. This is heartbreaking, as I know this is all they can do. They don't know what else to do. Countless conversations with both my parents on this matter suggest a growing feeling of defeat.

Since the counseling, my mother has been pursuing SSI benefits, to get him a diagnosis and help/support he needs. Unfortunately, her claim was denied last month. I came over for Christmas and saw first hand how much this is dragging on my aging parents. I just feel as lost as they do.

I'm not immediately in the picture, but I'm hoping to gain insight and help my folks through this.


Well-Known Member
As I read this I thought, "he's autistic." I believe from your description he is and is being misdiagnosed, as my own son was. In our case we never gave up and today at 23 with minimum supports he lives alone, works part time and has one close friend, and many love him, but he still likes his solitute and, like most spectrum adults, has a love of repetition and things he is used to, a love of videogames and maybe movies too. This is because autistics lack imagination so they love when it is created for them. They most certainly tend to be uncomfortable in social groups and are often mislabeled as mentally ill with social phobia being a huge misinterpretation.

My son does not need or take medication. Autism is a neurological difference not a mental illness. Oh yeah...Son doesn't want to drive either. Common in autistic people who don't do well when bombarded with sensory stuff...Noise, lights, etc. They tend to be overly sensitive to those things, which is partly why they like stability and sameness and familiarity. My son is much better now, but still sensitive. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) traits also very common. My son too. It is part of his autism, not separate. To me your brother sounds classic.

Having said that, and thinking it, the truth is that it does not matter what your brothers label is. It is caring and kind of you to want to help, but you can't.

I am not sure what you want to do, but you can neither force your brother, a legal adult, to get help or to force your competent parents to do things differently. We all only have control over one person, ourselves. This is true no matter how upset we are about what loved ones choose to do. You have no legal power and. I assume you've talked to everyone ad nauseum only to see no change. Nor willl you unless the players all want to change things. You are a family member, but not a real participant in this game. You care but you can not do. Legally you can't.

My suggestion is to back off. Trying to put in your two cents has not and will not work and the truth is you don't really know what is wrong with your brother. There are no blood tests for either psychiatric problems or autism, which he sounds like to me, but either way even a professional can only guess since there are no defining tests. That means you can't know what's wrong either. Our son was misdiagnosed many times. His Neuro psychiatrist from Mayo Clinic told us honestly that hisgreat institution misdiagnosed people all the time, that every place does. We were lucky that he caught the high functioning autism, that the interventions were so effective,can't that our loveable son can be independent and mostly on his own with the help of a little social security.

I'm sure you have friends, career, maybe significant other and honestly since you can't control this family situation, my suggestion is to live a, happy life of our own. You have no other options, except talking, and after a while even loved ones get agitated when somebody gets involved in a situation that doesn't directly concern them. Then we just put more stress on the situation because we think we know best. Usually the situation still doesn't change, bad feelings happen. You could try to report this to elder abuse, but it sounds like your parents are not that old or incompetent and this could really blow up on you. Sounds more to me as if brother is disabled rather than deliberately abusive.

I suggest a Disability attorney. Disability will bring brother other supports he needs too. They will help him get a diagnosis and s job suitable to him. He will have a caseworker. He may even get housing help. It is common to be turned down a few times, thus the attorney.

Good luck on your own awesome life :)
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Wow, thank you for your insight. My brother believes he has autism that isn't being diagnosed, but very high functioning. My mom has supported this (even noting signs of autism present in childhood, i.e. he started talking late). I guess this was mentioned to the Doctor, who shrugged it off.

My understanding of having unacknowledged or undiagnosed autism as an adult is that it's very hard to get SSI and disability support, unless a disability and documentation existed while the person was in school. Sounds like it's about finding the right practitioners.

Ultimately you're absolutely right that this is none of my concern and it is what it is. I guess it's hard to be passive when you see your loved ones stressed. I do this, I mind my own, and when I see my mother and she vents her frustrations, it's usually only a few exchanges back and forth before we change the subject. He is their son and not my responsibility. I just hope he gets the help/supports he needs to be more functionally independent.

Thanks for the advice :)
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Well-Known Member
My son talked late too.

His autism does not sound really high functioning. The really high functioning do work, often go to college and teach themselves what is normal in social functioning.

He can get social security if he is diagnosed now. I suggest going to a neuropsychologist for testing. This is a psychologist with special training in the brain. It is not a neurologist. My son was tested ten hours.

But this is not up to you.

Have a great life!!


Roll With It
You have gotten excellent advice here. An attorney is often needed for ssi/ssdi. Clear medical records are also often needed. If your parents are willing to push him, I would suggest testing by a neuropsychologist. They can often be found at university hospitals or large hospitals. They are NOT psychiatrists and they are not therapists, so they are not going to sit and do hours of therapy. THey are psychologists, but they do testing more than the therapy that your brother has objected to.

One thing that might get your brother and parents to be more involved with this is that your parents won't be around forever. At some point they won't be able to care for your brother, and it won't be fair to ask you to do so. If they can get testing done and arrange for SSI, then he would be taken care of. It would be safer for him in the long run, even if he was upset about it and they had to push things in the short run.

I am sorry this is such a difficult thing for your family. If they don't want it to change, it won't change. You can do nothing about it unless they want it to change. Likely the best thing you can do is to build a healthy life for yourself. It will make your parents happy to know that at least one of their children is happy and successful.

I do agree that your brother seems to have some autism like characteristics, but of course no one here can diagnose. But if I had to guess, I would guess autism. I have a very high functioning son and he lives alone, has a full time job, supports himself, and does very well.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Sister seeking help, welcome.

In addition to the options already offered, you and your parents might consider contacting NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They can be accessed on line and have chapters in many cities. They have excellent parent/family courses, which might offer all of you not only support, but guidance, information and resources. I don't know if this is relevant, but it may be worth a try.

Keep posting, it helps.
Susiestar and recoveringenabler,

Thank you very much for you insight. I think the reality that my parents are getting older and seeing health concerns arise has led them to really want to pursue some help here. My father particularly sees the need to get him independent. But, day by day, they aren't doing anything to help him. My mom seems to have this view that things will get better, that their man child is still a kid and will someday soon wake up and accept adulthood. She meets his demands. She gives him an allowance, drives him to comic con conferences, cooks special meals, runs out to get him a bag of chips or ice cream. I say mom, why do you do this? "Because I love your brother and don't want to see him hungry."

As teenagers, neither myself or my brother were pushed to transition to adulthood; coming home over breaks during college, I always felt like a kid again. I don't know if this plays into things, this mentality that her son is still her baby boy.

For many years now, my parents have expressed frustrations with their "odd" child. I'll suggest this or that, and it's always "You know your brother is different, he's not the same as you. So what he didn't go to college or he's not working. Some people take different paths. He'll get there when he's ready. You worry about yourself." And that's our conversation. And I let it rest for a few months.

I have an uncle who lived with my grandparents until they passed, for a variety of reasons (drug, arrests, DWI, unemployed) and he wasn't functioning in life. I don't want that to be my brother. I want him to have some kind of life. I really worry what would happen to him if my parents couldn't take care of him. He has no life skills.

The autism aspect is very interesting and I'm very intrigued to explore that and maybe get my parents to take him to a neuropsychologist. Fun tidbit, I'm working with kids with autism right now. I know autism presents itself a variety of ways across the spectrum, but it's just so interesting to think my brother may fall under this category. I'm just learning about autism myself, but my brother's behavior seems so different from these kids...but maybe not.
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Roll With It
Autism can be VERY different from person to person. It also can change greatly from child to adult. The earlier interventions are given, the better. But we don't know a LOT about the brain. I was once told that if brushing therapy isn't done before age 10 or 12, it won't work at all. I had a 7 yo, a 10 yo, and a 13yo. The 13 yo needed it the worst but the Occupational Therapist (OT) wouldn't even see him for it. I learned it with my 7yo and did it with my other kids anyway. I also did it with myself (my 10 yo did it on me - she wanted to do it on someone and not just on her little brother - her living doll as she used to think of him). Guess what? That Occupational Therapist (OT) was dead wrong because it helped a LOT. It made a big difference in how we ALL handled sensory things. Even my kids' teachers wanted to know what we were doing because they were doing so much better and supposedly this therapy COULDN'T work. The brain is a lot more changeable than we know. So it is NEVER too late for it to grow and to change in my opinion.

I think that too much babying isn't good for anyone, and that people need challenges. Why should your brother grow up and be an adult? He has no reason to change because he has no needs that are not being met. But your mother and father need to come to the point where they are ready to challenge him and let him grow up in order for him to grow up. But that is just my opinion, and I could be wrong.