My brother has anxiety and it's getting more severe

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I'm 18 and my brother is 24, still living at home but has a full time job. I can't pinpoint exactly when his anxiety began but the story of how it's all happnened is as follows-

My brother went to high school in North Manchester (about an hour and a half school bus journey away), and although it was a private school, because of the area it was in there were more rebellious and less hard working kids compared to the private school me and my other brother went to which is local. He was never a hard worker although is a clever guy. He used to get into trouble at school a lot but was always for little things such as engraving writing into desks and just not putting enough effort into his work. During his time at high school he had his first girlfriend. They were 2 years apart, so she was 16 whilst he was 18. My parents didn't like her at all, and neither did me and my brother. To put it in simple terms she was a bit of a slag, just not a girl he should have been with although I think it was his first love. Because my dad is foreign he has strict values and rules when it comes to boyfriends and girlfriends, and the people me and my brothers mix within general. Him and my dad had a very very rocky time during his relationship with this girl. They didn't speak for months, it drove my parents apart and I specifically remember me crying to my dad when I was about 14 and him saying that if my mum doesn't stop the relationship between my borther and his girlfriend, that he will divorce my mum. Also I remember a very dramatic day during the summer holidays when my dad and my brother had had an intense argument which luckily I wasn't around to hear. My brother went out and said he was going to the gym but didn't come home for hours and my mum was crying and panicing, telling me and my other brother to get in the car as we were going to go and search for him. We went straight to the gym where we asked the reception to make an announcement for him to come to the desk if he was still there as we were so worried. Nothing happened so we droveto his friends houses and asked if anyone had seen him. Panic really started to kick in, and my mum decided to try the gym again. On the way we saw came across him walking home looking very upset and down. My mum had really though that he had gone and killed himself. It was horrible but, again, if that had happened now my world would have been so much more shaken than it was. It almost feels like it didn't even happen and that it was all a dream.

He left high school and went on to university where he did a joint Business and geography course as, although he didnt have any idea about what he wanted to do, these were his strongest subjects at school. I remember when he went to uni well as I hardly ever saw him anymore. He was never at home and it was as if I didn't know him anymore. You could say me and my other brother (who is 21 now) drifted from him a lot but at the time we weren't that aware of it. He didn't work hard at uni at all, partied too much and drank too much. He had a girlfriend who definitlely threw him off track and encouraged his partying and drinking. I'm not certain but I think he might have done a few drugs as well, like pills and MD. He lost all structure and stability at uni and suddenly he couldn't take being in a hall of residence anymore. He had panic attacks in his halls and started having to come home a lot more. For his second year he moved into a house with some uni friends which was much better for him but again, he had another girlfriend which changed his priorities and she eventually ended up cheating on him. He dropped out of uni as he didn't see himself doing well at the end of it and decided to try and get a job in the estate agency business. His anxiety wasn't really a real problem for him until a couple of years ago when he had a few panic attacks again and this is when his problems with sleeping began. He found it really difficult to get enough sleep and his anxiety in the evenings started to grow. Because of his full time job he didn't see his mates as much anymore and started to go out partying/drinking a lot less, which was good in some respects but I think he became too isolated. He wasn't socialising enough and his friends carried on having a good time and meeting new people whilst he sat at home most weekend nights watching TV, tired from a weeks work with little sleep. It's odd because when he's around people other than our immediate family, his anixety will switch off and no one would suspect a thing, even if I have a friend round and we're watching tv in the lounge or something. But as soon as he comes home from work and he knows he's just around us, it all gets let loose and I can feel his anxiety the second he walks through the door. It's most of the time but much much worse in the evenings when he knows he's gonna go to bed soon (which is always around 10.20). He has anixety traits that I've noticed, and can't help but always notice now. To me they show signs of OCD. He always touches the door frame as he walks through with the back of his index finger. He also does this on the side of the work tops if he's in the kitchen. In the car he'll always have his hand resting on the gear stick but his fingers touching the buttons on the radio. He always shrugs his neck and shoulders back as if he's trying to repostion his t-shirt. He'll constantly clear his throat (especially when he's lying in bed trying to sleep. I hear him do it at least once every minute). He has a frustrating habit where if he doesn't quite fully hear something, or even if he does, he has to be like 'wait what did you just say' or 'just say that again', or if we're watching tv 'what did they say again'. Sometimes ill just say something to myself underneath my breath but he has to know what it was, a few times i've just said 'oh it doesn't matter it was nothing' but he really insists I tell him and gets frustrated when I don't like 'c'mon just tell me'. Then after like 5 minutes of letting it drop he goes 'just tell me what you said before'. It sounds very selfish but it's very difficult to be around. He used to be outgoing, laid back, fun. But now he's always worrying, doesn't wanna socialise and is much quieter. I get angry because I know it's not my brother, it's almost as if a different person had borrowed his body. I can always feel his anxiety in the house, even if im upstairs and he's downstairs. Even just sitting in the same room as his when he's anxious makes me want to scream. I shouldn't do and it's horrible but I sometimes just act very blunt with him and even ignore him because I can't stand to talk to him with all these anxious traits pouring out of him. Then I can feel that just makes him worse and I kick myself and feel so guilty for what I'm doing but I can't handle it. He needs to be surrounded by positivity but I'm so stressed in his presence sometimes. Writing this is just giving me a headache and making me a bit angry. 

Also, he is in too much of a routine. He goes to work, comes home, gets his gym stuff, goes to the gym, comes back, makes tea and has a herbal tea, sits in front of the telly before going to bed and struggling massively to get to sleep and repeats it all week. He thinks he needs to go to the gym to tire himself out to sleep even though it doesn't work. In december 2013, he went on a 2 week holidaywith 4 friends to visit his mate in new zealnad. He was forced to break his routine and he was much better for about 2-3 months after he came back but he just fell into it again and now it's the worst it's ever been. He's also very self concious of how he looks and what he eats.

He says he's going to get help but I don't know how to handle this atmosphere at home anymore as it's really affecting my A Level work at college.

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6 Replies

  • Posted

    Well this was a real passionate outpouring - revealing too. Everything kick off with the relationship with your brother and his girlfriend. Sometimes things are best just left alone and they will blow out of their own accord. If your parents had left things alone your brother may in time have moved on from that particular girl but I think she ditched him because he wouldn't stand up to your parents.

    All this led him to be rebellious in his own way at Uni ( out of sight of your parents)

    Personally, having read your post twice I definitely think your brother is suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and he needs help. I have a friend who suffers from this and it creates different problems for different people, things like handwashing constantly, straightening books, pens, pencils. Colour coding clothes, putting your food in a set format on the plate and I could go on.

    He definitely needs to seek medical help and possibly psychiatric help and when he's feeling better the best thing he could do is leave home. I personally believe that being in the house where all his original problems stemmed from is in part the cause of all his current problems. Talk to him, tell him he needs help, offer to go with him if necessary, but the sooner he seeks help the better. Best of Luck

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  • Posted

    Hi Michelle.. Wow what a kind sister you aresmile I'm 25 and have been suffering with the same symptoms as your brother! I feel so sorry for him... And you + family also.

    Recently I have been prescribed an antidepressant called Citalopram which is starting work-the first few weeks arent great but it does work. I've read in many posts Citalopram controls OCD along with councelling. And recommend it highly! At least your brother keeps himself busy, I've been housebound and couldn't leave my house. Sending big hugs to you all. If you or your brother want to chat any time just message me. Good luck lovely xxxxx

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    • Posted

      Hi Mia, thank you for such a lovely warm comment. I've decided I definitely need to speak to my brother about how I'm feeling as we've never actually had a discussion about it, so I'll try and do that within the next couple of evenings and let him know there's people here who are offering their advice. Thanks again x
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  • Posted

    Hi there, It sounds like your Brother has symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD) & needs to get help immediately. This is the reason he is touching things,etc as a way to control his environment. You need to cut off your reactions to him- OBSERVE,but Dont ABSORB. You need to not take on the vibes that you are feeling from him,totally ignore them,distract yourself somehow...pretend you have a sheild around you that repels his moods,etc. Do not react to anything- Don't come in on the end of someone elses maladjustment.

    Suggest that he get help & then leave it with him. It may be a good thing for you to get a journal & write down just all of his symptoms before you talk to him about it. Another thing to try is to make a decision to not put up with one sort of behavior & whenever he does that,quietly leave the room-even if its just simply continually clearing his throat . I understand this one as apparently I do it myself & never knew it until someone pointed it out.(it is very bad whenever I have eaten Dairy products,especially-Cheese,Custard,Yoghurt,lol)

    Do not say anything (even under your breath) or bring attention to yourself when leaving. Just leave the room calmly as if you are going to the bathroom,etc-this will help you to cope with the most annoying or upsetting thing without making a big issue of it. Its called "Changing the Channel"-Just as you would not sit there & listen to a radio that is giving out only static,you would get up & change the channel. Do the same thing by leasurely strolling out of his presence if something is really giving you the "irrits" . He is obviously suffering terribly himself, as OCD is a 'living hell' for its victims. All the best with your new strategywink Let us know what happens.

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  • Posted

    Wow! I bet you're finding it tough! 

    It sounds to me like a lot of this might stem from problems that surfaced in his childhood (I might be wrong - only your brother will know for certain). And it certainly seems like he has OCD tendencies. 

    I don't know how much you know of OCD, but it is basically a control mechanism for dealing with anxious feelings. You feel anxious about something and don't like that feeling, so you do something to reduce that anxiety (not always a logical action either). This helps you feel more relaxed, so next time you feel anxious again, you do the ritual / compulsion again to help stop the anxiety. However if you aren't careful the rituals become longer, or more exaggerated, as (like with a drug), the more you do it, the less it seems to have the effect that it once did).

    Your brother definitely needs to seek some help and if he is ok with it, you may find it helpful to go with him. Especially as he lives with you. People who have OCD can lean heavily on other people to help them relieve their OCD. (In the past, I have had to have my husband do something for me that I can't do without doing an OCD ritual). Although at first this seems like my hubby was helping, what we realised when I went to seek professional help was that him doing the chore for me (although very tempting as it was a lot quicker for him to do it than me!) was actually not helping, as was allowing me to avoid dealing with my problem. 

    It is very easy and understandable that you feel anger at your brother, but try and remember that your brother is clearly hurting about something and by the sounds of it, trying to block it out. 

    Have you tried sitting down and talking properly with your brother? I would say it shows a lot about how much he must trust you that you see this side of him. People with depression and especially OCD can be very accomplished liars when it comes to their condition. 

    I find that I can put on an act in public, but if someone looks at me closely they will notice that the smile is not genuine. (It doesn't come from my eyes - only my facial muscles). Only people who I really trust will see the real me. 

    It will be a tough ride, and certainly not ideal timing for you, but please try and hang in there and help him. It really sounds like he needs help from someone.  

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