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How to Live with Someone who has a Personality Disorder

written by: Rene Wolf • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 10/30/2010

Living with someone who has a personality disorder, requires you to learn the symptoms of their disorder and coping techniques that are beneficial to your mental and physical health.

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    The day to day atmosphere of living with someone who has a personality disorder, is to say the least, difficult. There are times when the situation is comfortable, loving and rewarding however, the situation can change without notice. Living with someone with a personality disorder means there will be sudden outbursts, paranoia, jealousy, accusations and dominant behavior. Understanding the behaviors of those with a narcissist, bipolar or antisocial personality disorder is beneficial in helping you to understand your stressors as well as for maintaining control of your mental and physical health.

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    Narcissistic Personality Disorder

    Someone with a narcissistic personality is oblivious to the needs of others and unaware of the effect their behavior has on those who are living with them. A narcissist is not typically violent, however, they do inflict pain through their emotional and mental abuse of those around them. They are continually complaining and criticizing. Everything revolves around them, their wants and their needs and if you do not stop what you are doing in order to do what they want, they will become overly dramatic about the 'neglect' they are receiving. Living with a narcissist, means living with someone who believes they are better than others, not ever getting a meaningful apology and never meeting their standards.

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    Bipolar Disorder

    The person with bipolar disorder will continuously inflict feelings of guilt on the person living with them. Bipolar individuals have intensive outbursts of anger and mood swings, resulting in fear for the others in the residence. These individuals have a fear of abandonment and require the person living with them to continuously “demonstrate" their love for them. They require continued reassurance and attention. Living with someone who is bipolar, often results in living with constant suicidal threats, paranoia, inappropriate anger and impulsivity. Someone living with a bipolar person will often become depressed, and feel helpless and guilt due to the constant manipulation.

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    Antisocial Personality Disorder

    Living with someone who has antisocial personality disorder involves living with someone who lacks empathy, has destructive behaviors and is a compulsive liar . The antisocial partner does not have any guilt or remorse for their hurtful behaviors. These individuals have a lack of impulse control, are often in trouble with the law, have a substance abuse problem and will often disloyal or unfaithful. The antisocial personality will use deceitful tactics to gain the trust of those living with them and take advantage of the situation with finances, trust and emotions.

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    Coping Techniques

    When you are living with someone who has a personality disorder there are techniques you can use to help cope with the situation.

    • Read as much information as possible regarding the personality disorder. Reading the available information will help you to identify the symptoms associated with their disorder.
    • It is okay to support the individual, however, avoid compromising your own needs. It is important that you care for yourself mentally and physically.
    • Learn to take breaks from the environment in which you are living. Take time for yourself.
    • Find a therapist specializing in treating those who are living with someone with a personality disorder.
    • Attend group sessions if they are available. It will be beneficial to your peace of mind to find others who are living in a situation similar to yours and validate that it is not your fault the individual behaves the way they do.
    • Learn to not take the situation personally. Individuals with a personality disorder will dominate conversations and make situations center around them. It is crucial that you learn to speak up and defend a conversation when interrupted by saying that you were not finished speaking.
    • Avoid trying to “fix" the person you are living with. If you continue to live with them, you will need to accept them the way they are and make yourself a stronger, more independent person.
    • Set boundaries and stick to them. Make it clear what behavior you will tolerate or will not tolerate. Making your life miserable to accommodate the other person's personality disorder will lead to stress and depression for you.
    • Family or marital therapy is important for the relationship. If the other person agrees to attend therapy with you, it will help both of you learn to recognize the symptoms of the disorder, cope with the symptoms and improve the communication between you.

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    References

    The Royal College of Psychiatrists: Personality Disorders http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mentalhealthinfoforall/problems/personalitydisorders/pd.aspx

    American association for marriage and family therapy: Borderline personality disorder http://www.aamft.org/families/Consumer_Updates/Borderline.asp

    Mental Help.net: Introduction to Personality Disorders http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/center_index.php?id=8

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