Individuals with a personality disorder such as narcissistic personality, sociopaths, and psychopaths are people who lack empathy. People that get into relationships with these individuals often suffer painful and traumatic experiences as a result of the relationship. Personality disordered individuals involve people they are close to in excessive conflict, drama, and even litigation while having little regard for the damage they leave in their paths. The partner of a character disordered person may have trouble leaving the relationship because they are guilted or manipulated into staying. The disordered partner might threaten suicide when the other partner tells them they want to leave or cause them to feel bad in other ways about ending the relationship. They may yell or rage at their partner for minor occurrences leaving their partner "walking on eggshells." By the time a person is able to leave a relationship like this they have likely suffered so much that they can begin experiencing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, severe depression, or even thoughts of suicide. A relationship with a character disordered person can be very confusing because unlike with physical abuse the signs are hidden or covert. A person may start feeling like something is wrong with the relationship while at the same time not being able to quite figure out what is going on. There are no bruises or broken bones so the abuse goes unrecognized. However, the damage is just as devastating.
Cluster B Personality Disorders
These are the personality disorders most likely to be associated with abuse. They are characterized by "dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior and interactions with others," and include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
A cluster B personality disorder defined as comprising a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.
Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD)
Both Psychopaths and Sociopaths fall under the diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder which is defined as a cluster B personality disorder characterized by, "A pervasive and persistent disregard for morals, social norms, and the rights and feelings of others.
If you've experienced any of these things, you might be in an emotionally exploitative relationship. By learning more about the signs and symptoms of emotional abuse, you can be better prepared to help yourself. If you are finding that things have become too difficult to handle on your own I would invite you to contact me for individual counseling or to join my support group on "Healing from Narcissistic Abuse."
In her book, "Healing From Hidden Abuse," author Shannon Thomas Outlines six stages of recovery: