Mutual Pathology: Gasoline & Fire

Pathology is a mental health issue not a gender issue. Women have just as much pathology (in some areas of personality disorders) as men due in other areas of personality disorders. Some of the 10 personality disorders are seen more in men while some of the other disorders are seen more in women.

As you have heard me say over the years, pathology is pathology–meaning that each personality disorder has its own problems and challenges in relationships but pretty much holds to the Central Three that I talk about related to pathology:

1. The inability to grow to any true emotional or spiritual depth.

2. The inability to consistently sustain positive change.

3. The inability to have insight about how one’s behavior negatively affects others.

Given those 3 aspects of personality disorders, we can easily see how the 10 different types of personality disorders can be linked together by these three ‘inabilities.’

While men may be more bent towards Anti-Social Personality Disorder or psychopathy, women may be bent more to Histrionic, Dependent or Borderline Personality Disorders. And when you have a personality disordered man + a personality disordered woman = Jerry Springer Dynamics!

There is no guarantee that there is only one pathological in the relationship. Women have just as much mental illness, addictions, and personality disorders as men. And it’s quite common for personality disordered people to hook up. When this happens you have two people who can’t grow to any true emotional or spiritual depth. You have two people who can’t sustain positive change. And you have two people who don’t have insight about how their behavior affects others.  The relationships are dramatic fire-beds of emotionality, addiction, and violence.

Women’s pathology is just as damaging to others as men’s pathology is to women. Women’s pathology may ‘present’ a little differently than men’s overt aggression related to their pathology but it is not any less problematic. Women’s pathology can sometimes (and I use the word sometimes lightly!) be more subtle when it is masked behind emotional dependency, sexual addiction, sexual manipulation, financial dependency or high emotionality. Those types of symptoms can be associated with more than just a personality disorder. But women’s pathology is just as damaging to a partner, a boss, their family and friends, and God forbid, the effects of their pathology on their children.

While women are more likely to be diagnosed as Borderline, Borderlines are often misdiagnosed and under diagnosed female psychopaths and anti-socials. There seems to be some what of a gender-bias when it comes to diagnosing women with psychopathy. Unless they have participated in a Bonnie & Clyde episode or made the Americas Most Wanted TV program, they are likely to be down graded in their pathology. Dramatic, highly emotional or self injuring women may be down graded to Histrionic, Narcissistic or Borderline.  Those with a little more flare for hiding their real lives may warrant the same diagnosis as male psychopaths but are able to hide it better or have less violence associated with their behavior. But not all female psychopaths are NOT violent.

Many are horribly violent–to their children and their partners yet always present themselves as a victim. These are the women most likely to press un-warranted domestic violence assaults, cry rape that didn’t happen, and abandon their children. The point is, any gender can have personality disorders and each personality disorder may, or may not, present slightly different in the other gender.

Beyond mutual pathology, a woman’s own mental health can influence the dynamics within a relationship. A woman who has unmediated bi-polar disorder who is in a relationship with a borderline male can have unusually dramatic relationship dynamics. Her mood fluctuations and his can ignite a feeding frenzy of boiling anger in both of them which is likely to lead to violence. Both partners having a substance abuse or alcohol problem can certainly negatively fuel the dynamics.

And let’s not over look the ‘pathologizing’ that women often get from being raised in a home with a pathological parent. She brings to the relationship the pathological-like behaviors that are learned within pathological families. I have seen that in sessions with women (and hear it a lot in the emails I receive) where the pathological effects of her previous childhood, adult life or relationships is negatively effecting her world view, current functioning level and even ‘entitlement’ attitudes she brings to the table. Couple any of these mental health situations with her along with HIS pathology and you have some of the most volatile and difficult relationships and break ups in history.

There have been many times in working with women that I recognize he is not the only problem in the scenario. Not all women in pathological relationships are mentally ill. However, not all women in pathological relationships are NOT mentally ill. And some of her own mental illness can be the gasoline on the fire of the pathological love relationship which fans the flames of dangerousness for her. Red flags for me that there is possible mental health issues with her include entitlement, chronic victim mentality, unregulated mood issues that are not amenable to treatment/medication, chronic returning to the pathological relationship/replacing relationships with more pathological relationships, history of unsuccessful counseling/treatment, and doesn’t take responsibility for her own behavior/choices.

Those represent only a few of possible many different types of symptoms that there may be mental health issues in her as well. Clearly, pathology is not gender specific and pathology and other mental health issues in both parties can accelerate the dangerousness and problems seen in pathological love relationships.