Dear Dr. Archer,
My sister will soon be 60, and for her entire life everyone has known she was different. A stranger can have a 10 minute conversation with her and know something is not quite right. She talks incessantly and cannot stay on one subject, but rather travels from one topic to another quite quickly.
She was told she could never drive due to nervousness and too short an attention span. She is considered "slow" and has a history of mental retardation in her family. She has an uncle who was mentally retarded.
We are part of an adopted family and not blood related. She's eight years older than me, and I came to live with her at 10 weeks old, so I've known her my entire life and we currently live together.
She was able to go through life relatively normal. She took regular classes in school, held regular jobs, and everything else was pretty normal.
As she gets older, however, I believe her problems are getting worse. She has nervous habits, such as pulling at her clothes or scratching in places she shouldn't in public. And her constant talking! She's always done these things, but now they're worse.
It now seems as she is trying to convince herself she's physically sick. She had a bad cold that took a while to recover, and she put herself on medical leave from her job.
It's a good thing her doctor agreed, because she works in a deli and is around food. She told her employer and doctor she had a reaction to the chemicals used to clean the deli.
This isn't true; she's worked in delis for 15 years and has never had a reaction. They believed her, however. The doctor released her, but her job did not take her back.
According to her, she could no longer be around the chemicals. I think she needs help, but I don't know how. I cannot afford to support her, but she needs help. What do I do? Her loving sister,
I agree, something is out of whack with your sister. I strongly recommend that she get evaluated by a psychiatrist.
She could be bipolar (constant talking), OCD (nervous habits) or is perhaps experiencing some mild psychosis (possible delusions about chemicals). But this behavior is ‘not normal’ and needs to be checked out by a professional.
I can’t diagnose this over the internet, but there is definitely a psychiatric issue at play here. Set her up an appointment soon. Good luck.