Aaron Carter's alarming recent behaviour — including confessions of drug addiction and a bizarre new facial tattoo — has sparked serious concerns for the pop star.
But speculation surrounding the 31-year-old singer has actually been intensifying for many months, after he made worrying claims about his younger years, had a heated public falling out with his siblings and made a series of personal admissions during an appearance on a US medical show, news.com.au reports.
The difficult year follows a career marred by a dark beginning, with the beloved former child star and his famous older brother both being discovered and managed by disgraced "Svengali" music manager Lou Pearlman who would eventually be jailed over one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in US history.
But Carter has remained defiant, saying in interviews he has been "through hell and back", and insisting on social media that despite the scrutiny, he is doing "fine".
In September, Aaron's brother Nick Carter and sister Angel filed restraining orders against him, citing allegations of violent threats.
Nick Carter, of Backstreet Boys fame, said in a statement that "in light of Aaron's increasingly alarming behaviour and his recent confession that he harbours thoughts and intentions of killing my pregnant wife and unborn child, we were left with no choice but to take every measure possible to protect ourselves and our family."
Aaron Carter confirmed the reports on Twitter, and took to gossip site TMZ to say he was "appalled" by the accusations.
"I never threatened anyone," he said.
"I'm appalled by this and don't ever wish to speak to them again."
He said he had not seen his brother in four years.
Shortly after the order was filed, Aaron Carter was photographed outside, barefoot, wearing an *NSYNC T-shirt.
A coincidence, maybe — but *NSYNC shared the same manager as the Backstreet Boys, and the bands formerly considered themselves rivals.
Massive face tattoo
Two days after his siblings filed the legal restraints against him, Carter debuted a large, prominent facial tattoo.
Posting photos of the tattoo on social media — which depicted a Medusa-type figure, and the word "love" on his cheek — he said: "I'm the biggest thing in music right now. I can't be denied. Fact check me."
In another post, Carter credited tattoo artist Herchell Carrasco, who has since said the former star actually wanted the tattoo, reportedly inspired by a photograph of singer Rihanna, to be much larger.
However, Carrasco said he assessed Carter's mental state and found he said he was "in a good place mentally to get tattooed".
Disgraced childhood manager
Carter's career began more than 20 years ago, in 1997, when he signed a record contract when he was just 9 years old.
He was managed by infamous pop mogul and star-maker Lou Pearlman, who discovered Nick Carter in 1993 and recruited him as a member of the Backstreet Boys.
Aaron performed as an opening act at large Backstreet Boys concerts, and was signed by Pearlman after showing early promise.
Pearlman, a former blimp salesman, was one of the most successful men in pop music by the late nineties, due to his success with the Backstreet Boys, followed by fellow boy band *NSYNC.
But Pearlman signed dodgy contracts with his artists, and mismanaged their careers and earnings. He would later be sued by every artist and group he worked for, including Aaron Carter.
Carter's own mother, Jane Carter, told a Vanity Fair reporter she'd hoped Pearlman would be exposed, saying the financial crimes he committed against the artists he represented were "the least of his injustices".
"I can't say anything more," she said.
"These children are fearful, and they want to go on with their careers."
The mother of fellow Backstreet Boys member AJ McLean said she was also disturbed by continued allegations of improper conduct that surrounded Pearlman.
"As a mother, you kind of put two and two together," she said.
"Is this all innocent? Or is it more? I kind of thought that there might have been some strange things going on."
Pearlman was sued by his first band, the Backstreet Boys, after they were confused by their minuscule annual salaries, despite relentless touring and the fact their self-titled album sold more than 28 million copies around the world.
*NSYNC soon followed, as did every artist and group Pearlman managed. His fall from grace was brutal, with Pearlman losing every case, or settling out of court.
In 2008, he was sent to prison for 25 years for a different scam, which saw him con US$300 from a number of individuals on the premise of investing it for them in two companies that did not exist.
It remains one of the biggest prosecuted Ponzi schemes in US history.
Following the release of a recent documentary about Pearlman, another former member of *NSYNC, Lance Bass, said he fought for Aaron Carter to be included in the documentary's interviews.
But he said he was shocked to hear he had defended the disgraced manager.
"When he was going to do the interview, we had to fight for him to be in the film because he wasn't part of a boy band," Bass told SiriusXM following the release of The Boy Band Con. "But we knew he had great stories because of anyone, he was the closest to Lou at such a young age.
"We thought that him deciding to do this, he was going to really tell insane stories that we always heard rumours about, so we were trying to get some confirmation finally.
"He defended him with every breath, you could see the torment still in him and you have to believe him."
Carter appeared on US reality medical show The Doctors in September, revealing the slew of medications he takes each month, as well as addressing the number of disorders he's been diagnosed with.
"I have nothing to hide," he said as he sat on the couch, confronting the audience with a large bag of his prescribed medications.
"The official diagnosis is that I suffer from multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia, acute anxiety. I'm manic depressive.
"I'm prescribed to Xanax, Seroquel, gabapentin, hydroxyzine, trazodone, omeprazole."
The doctors also ran a drug test on Carter, which returned a positive result for "marijuana, extended opiates, hydrocodone as an example, and benzodiazepine".
Carter said these medications were part of his regular treatment, including the opiates, which he attributed to recent dental work. He also said he used marijuana, but ultimately conceded he would give up.
On the TV show, Carter also confessed he was previously addicted to "huffing", a dangerous practice of inhaling poisonous vapours to get high.
He said he began huffing as a teen with his sister Leslie Carter, and continued later when he was 23, after his appearance on Dancing With The Stars. He said he would buy items from office supply companies, paying with cash to avoid detection.
"I was huffing because I'm a drug addict," he said.
"I'm a drug addict in recovery. That's my truth.
"The truth shall set you free."
His sister Leslie died in 2012.
On the show Carter also accused his mother of having severe problems with alcohol addiction.
"Her drinking is 5am in the morning she wakes up, she drinks a whole bottle of vodka … I'm the only one that goes down there and visits my mum," he said in a trailer for the programme.
It was the second time Carter had appeared on the medical talk show, after a 2017 appearance where he discussed gossip reports that he was addicted to narcotics.
During the appearance, Carter was diagnosed with candida in his throat, and a low body mass index, with the singer only weighing 52.2kg.
Following the 2017 appearance, he attended a rehabilitation facility in Malibu.
At the end of the interview, Carter said he was in a good place, and had signed deals in recent times.
He said he spent his nights cooking himself steaks on his grill, and was now waiting to meet the love of his life.
"I am just waiting for the love of my life to show up," he said.
"So I can say that I have been strong. I can say I've been through hell and back and I am here to stay."
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• ALCOHOL & DRUG HELPLINE: 0800 78 797 (available 24/7)