Adult Temper Tantrums
June 3, 2013
Laurie and Patrick say their 25-year-old son, Stephen’s, rage is so out of control that they’re afraid he’ll kill them if something doesn’t change. And, Jessica says her fiancé, Justin, becomes violent and abusive when he drinks, and their relationship is on the brink of disaster. Are these men ready to get help?
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Stephen’s RageLaurie and Patrick say their 25-year-old son, Stephen’s, rage is so out of control that they’re afraid he’ll kill them if something doesn’t change. They say Stephen, who is unemployed and lives with them rent-free, has destroyed their house, stolen from them and even threatened to shoot them in the head when they refused to give him gas money. They say when Stephen doesn’t get his way, there’s no stopping his rage. “The word no just sets him off,” Laurie says.
“When he’s in his rage, he acts psycho,” Patrick says.
“His face turns beet red, and you can see veins popping out of his forehead,” Stephen’s brother, Kyle, says. “He broke my mom’s laptop. He’s broken dozens of phones. The list goes on and on.”
Stephen explains that when he’s in a rage, he feels like he blacks out and can’t control himself. “The consequences don’t even cross my mind,” he admits.
Laurie says Stephen steals from anyone and everyone.” She says he’s stolen her GPS, checks out of her checkbook and designer handbags and wallets. As a result, she says she now hides her purse and other valuables in her room at night and is afraid to leave Stephen alone in the house. “I work at home because I don’t feel comfortable going into the office while he’s here rummaging through our house, trying to find items to sell.” She adds, “He thinks he’s entitled to it.”
Dr. Phil tells Stephen that he’s behaving like a child. “This is a grown-up tantrum. We call it rage when people grow up,” he says. He turns to Laurie and Patrick and says, “Kicking you in the shins [as he did when he was a toddler] has now become, ‘I will now shoot you in the head; I will yell at you; I will scream at you; I will break these things.’”
He adds that Laurie and Patrick need to stop enabling Stephen and start holding him accountable for his actions — and kick him out of the house, if necessary. “That goes against every instinct of a parent,” he adds sympathetically. “This is not a happy alternative, and I hope we can negotiate something short of that.”
“I know we created a monster. We just don’t know how to correct it,” Laurie responds. “I give into [Stephen] because I’m afraid of him, and I don’t know what he will do.”
Dr. Phil offers to provide the family with counseling and tells Laurie and Patrick that it’s crucial for them to change the way they handle Stephen’s behavior. “I can do things with [Stephen] and get him so much better than what he is now; and if I put him right back in the same environment he’s been in, with the same enabling and the same guilt-induced parenting, he’s going to go right back to what he’s always done,” he says.
Dr. Phil tells Stephen that he’d like to arrange for him to go to the PNP Center and have a thorough, multi-faceted evaluation to find out what’s causing his outbursts and teach him how to control them. “I think you get into neurological storms that you experience as blackouts, and I want to teach you to soothe yourself and calm your brain,” he tells Stephen. “I’m going to teach you how to spot them and stop them before they start.” He adds that he’ll also provide Stephen with a life manager, who will help him set up short-term and long-term goals and get his life back on track.
“If you remain under [your parents’] roof, it will be because you earned that privilege by respecting the rules of the house and treating these people with dignity and respect,” he tells Stephen. “If you violate that, then they’re going to go drop you somewhere and let you make your own way.” Stephen and his family accept the help.
Justin’s DrinkingTwenty-one-year-old Jessica says her 26-year-old fiancé, Justin, is a great guy when he’s sober but becomes violent and abusive when he drinks, and their relationship is on the brink of disaster. “He gets very violent and aggressive, and he breaks things,” she says. “He’ll punch holes in the walls. He’s kicked in the door.”
“I have a really short fuse,” Justin admits.
On the night before her son’s third birthday party, Jessica says Justin passed out on the living room couch after a night of drinking and awoke violently the next morning. She says he threw a vodka bottle across the room — just missing her son’s head.
Justin admits to tossing the bottle, and says he was angry because Jessica pulled the blankets off of him.
When Jessica was three months pregnant, she says Justin spit on her and pushed her after she confronted him about text messages from other women. She says she called the cops, and he was arrested.
“I went to jail for the night, and that pissed me off because I don’t think it should have gotten to that point,” Justin says.
Justin says his drinking isn’t their only issue. “Jessica is always accusing me of talking to other women,” he explains. “I hate that, because I’m not.” He says that Jessica has also violated their trust in the past by posting “raunchy” messages along with photos of herself online.
Jessica says she hasn’t posted anything since and that she gave Justin access to all of her accounts shortly after that incident — something she says he hasn’t reciprocated, which makes her suspicious.
“He’s not a teenager anymore. We have two kids together. He needs to grow up,” Jessica says.
Dr. Phil offers Justin help in gaining control of his alcohol problem. He also tells the couple that they need to start behaving more maturely.
“I’ve done some foolish things, and I need to stop; otherwise I’m going to lose [Jessica], and I love her to death,” Justin says.
Jessica agrees to make some changes on her end, and Justin agrees to get help for his drinking.