My Bipolar Daughter Conned Us Out of Thousands–What Should I Do?

Dear Newsweek, we have a 38-year-old married daughter. She had attention deficit disorder (ADD) and bipolar disorder along with borderline personality disorder. She does not take her medicine consistently and she became addicted to methamphetamines.

Our daughter has relied on us for nearly two decades for financial handouts. This past year she conned us out of thousands of dollars with a ruse that she had ovarian cancer (which she did not have).

She emotionally manipulated us for money for drugs and her other expenses. She's been to prison several times.

We are retired and living on a very limited income. How do we break free from enabling this behavior? Our daughter is a parasite, a liar, a danger to herself and others. Please advise.

Jeanne, Virginia

A younger woman arguing with older woman.
A younger woman with her hands up while arguing with an older woman. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Contact Social Services and an Attorney As Soon as Possible

Ramani Durvasula is a clinical psychologist and author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving A Relationship with a Narcissist and "Don't You Know Who I Am": How to Stay Sane in the Era of Narcissism, Entitlement and Incivility. She has appeared with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith on the Red Table Talk show, as well as with Kendall Jenner on Vogue's YouTube channel.

This is more of a legal issue. You need to meet with an attorney as soon as possible to set up a special trust that people create when they have an adult child who may not be financially responsible.

You may also be experiencing elder abuse (which includes financial abuse), which may require human service authorities to get involved. Your daughter may increasingly represent an actual danger to you if not physically, certainly financially and may escalate if you do not give her what she asks for.

With the diagnostic picture you are painting, your daughter needs rather intensive psychiatric care, which you may not be able to afford, and that includes medication, therapy, and even residential support. Do you have other children? Other family? They also need to be protected right away.

You need to speak to an attorney immediately to set your assets up in a way that protects you. Also consult with social services because you may be at risk for greater harm. I highly advise you contact a social service specialist on elder abuse and an attorney as you are in a high risk situation.

She Needs To Learn To Help Herself

Nicole Bigelow is a certified life coach with a speciality in narcissistic abuse recovery. She is the founder of the Healing the Wound Foundation, Inc.

I am sure this situation is so hard for you and your husband. You probably care a lot about your daughter and wanted to help her as much as you could. This is the child you created and I am sure it tears you up inside and I am so sorry.

Even the most loving of parents (which sounds like you two are) have limits. We cannot allow ourselves to be dragged down to hell with them. We can allow them to destroy us in the process. It's not right or fair. On some level, she made some decisions that lead to consequences, so she can learn how to overcome them. If you keep helping her, then she will always rely on you in this way and it sounds like it is taking its toll.

It appears you can't help her. She needs to learn to help herself. She needs to learn that you two are not going to bail her out every time she is in trouble. I am a mother and I believe that having a relationship with our children is the most precious gift and should be preserved if at all possible. But where does the line end? When does enough become too much? How deep down this rabbit whole are you willing to let her take you?

As parents sometimes allowing our children to suffer the natural consequences they face IS loving them. Bailing them out means they don't learn how to overcome the obstacle. So then the cycle just continues over and over again.

I believe you can love your daughter without allowing it to hurt you and your husband anymore. Love her from a distance. Do not give into her requests for what you reasonably cannot give.

This is not a child, you have done all that you could. She has to decide to get better and she could if she wanted to, but if you continue to help her what incentive does she have?

There are so many resources out there for those who want to get better, but she has to make those moves. She is an adult with free will and we must let go and let them choose what life they want to live.

Just remember not to martyr yourself. You and your husband's money, peace of mind and stability all matter and you do not have to sacrifice this for her. I know this is not easy to do.

You cannot make someone else change, if you're unhappy YOU must change how you are dealing with it. If you do nothing different, nothing changes. It is just a choice, do not feel guilty for making the right one for you and your husband. You both deserve peace.

Discuss What You Are Willing (and Not Willing) To Do

Ami Kaplan is a clinical social work/therapist, LCSW (licensed clinical social worker), with specialities in different areas, including relationships, assertion, gender issues, difficult or narcissistic parents or partners.

I'm sorry you are dealing with this heartbreaking situation. It sounds like you are no longer willing to be manipulated by your daughter.

I'd talk with your husband about what you are willing to do (and not do) going forward. For example, you might be willing to help connect her with a drug rehabilitation center, and counseling but not support her financially any more. You might be willing to talk to her on the phone for brief periods but not have her at your house.

Decide ahead of time and then support each other in implementing it. Enlist friends and family to help you with your decisions. There are also support groups out there (see the website of the National Alliance on Mental Health, NAMI) that help people going through exactly what you are.

Good luck and deep breaths.


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