Personality Disorder in Divorce
As divorce lawyers, we get told all the time “my spouse has a personality disorder.” While some lawyers may roll their eyes at this, it’s actually often the case that in high conflict litigation one of the parties does indeed have a personality disorder. After all, often times that’s the very reason the divorce or custody case is conflict – one of the parents has a disconnect from reality or sees the world in a certain, harmful way, and the other parent is left trying to protect his or her children. Be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Personality Disorders in Divorce / Custody Cases.
If you need more information on related topics we have created:
- The Ultimate Guide to Child Custody Cases in Texas;
- The Ultimate Guide to Parental Alienation Syndrome;
- The Ultimate Guide to Texas Marital Property Law; and,
- The 5 Steps in Every Divorce / Family Law Case.
Borderline Personality Disorder
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM V), the criteria of a Borderline Personality Disorder are:
- A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationship characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
- Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
- Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
- Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
- Chronic feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g. frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
- Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms and signs of Borderline Personality Disorder are:
- An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
- A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn't care enough or is cruel
- Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don't exist at all
- Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours
- Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
- Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
- Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
- Ongoing feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights
Even if an individual does not meet five of the criteria and thus warranting a diagnosis, the individual may have traits of Borderline Personality Disorder that are dangerous and harmful to children.
We’re certainly not marriage counselors, but here’s what we hear from clients married to someone with borderline personality disorder:
- Black and white thinking (you’re all against me or all for me);
- Problems at work/never happy at work;
- Problems with family members;
- Inappropriate enmeshment with child or children;
- Problems keeping friends;
- Hot and cold emotions. Everything is either great or horrible;
- Never satisfied with the marriage;
- You can do no right. Whatever you do is never enough;
- Drug or alcohol problems;
- Spending problems; and/or
- Participating in parental alienation.
Sound familiar? If you have any doubts, just try googling “borderline personality disorder” and see what comes up – you might find a lot matches your spouse! For more resources, check out this amazing book: Stop Walking on Eggshells.