Dr Colm O'Connor: When partners are impossible to live with...

Personality disorders can lead to psychological pain for others too, says Dr Colm O’Connor
Dr Colm O'Connor: When partners are impossible to live with...

“Personality disorders typically become recognisable in adolescence or early adulthood, although some start during childhood,” says Dr O’Connor. Picture: Stock

MANY people live with spouses or partners who are impossible to live with.

These are usually people with personality disorders who may be paranoid, odd, unstable, ego-centric, obsessively controlling, or emotionally self-absorbed.

Whatever the problem traits, they are often ingrained and dysfunctional. It means that their spouse and children must live their lives around accommodating to his or her needs. It can be a need for control, order, attention, submission, dominance, or space.

Marie, as a fictitious example, insisted that herself and her husband seek marital counseling. According to her, her husband Steve was “selfish, ungiving and preoccupied with his work.”

Everything at home had to “revolve around him, his comfort, moods and desires, no one else’s.” He shirked all normal responsibilities.

He didn’t want to grow up, he didn’t know how to give affection, only to take it when he felt like it. He looked forward to his evenings and weekends when he could turn his energies to “doing his own thing”. He did not know how to share his thoughts and feelings with his wife and was much more interested in himself.

Steve had traits of what is called a personality disorder.

A personality disorder is an inflexible pattern of inner experience and outward behavior. The pattern is seen in most of the person’s interactions, continues for years, and differs markedly from the experiences and behaviors usually expected of people. The rigid traits of people with personality disorders often lead to psychological pain for the individual and social or occupational difficulties.

The disorders bring pain to others. Personality disorders typically become recognisable in adolescence or early adulthood, although some start during childhood. These are among the most difficult psychological disorders to treat. Many sufferers are not even aware of their personality problems and fail to trace their difficulties to their inflexible style of thinking and behaving. It has been estimated that between 9 and 13 percent of all adults may have a personality disorder. One in ten people are very strange.

The personality disorders are recognisable because they are enduring across a persons’ life. A woman may be suspicious and distrustful of others all her life; a husband may be cruel and manipulative since his teenage years. It is common for a person with a personality disorder also to suffer from acute psychological problem because personality disorders predispose people to develop other problems for which they seek help. For example, people with avoidant personality disorder, who fearfully shy away from all relationships, may develop social anxiety.

There are 10 personality disorders and they are divided into three groups. One cluster, marked by odd or eccentric behavior, consists of the paranoid, detached, and eccentric personality disorders. A second group features dramatic behavior and consists of the antisocial, unstable, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders. The final cluster features a high degree of anxiety and includes the avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.

The cluster of “odd” personality disorders are typically display odd or eccentric and display extreme suspiciousness, social withdrawal, and peculiar ways of thinking and perceiving things. Such behaviors often leave the person isolated. The cluster of “dramatic” personality disorders includes the antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders. The behaviors of people with these problems are so dramatic, emotional, or erratic that it is almost impossible for them to have relationships that are truly giving and satisfying. These personality disorders are more commonly diagnosed than the others. The cluster of “anxious” personality disorders includes the avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders. People with these patterns typically display anxious and fearful behavior.

If you are in a relationship with someone you find to be impossible to live with, for whatever reason, is likely that they have a personality problem. It may be worth talking to a psychologist to try and understand them because when you live with this kind of dysfunction you begin to blame yourself because they are so sure of themselves that you begin to doubt your own sanity.

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