When Your Symptoms Look Like Something Else

Women tell me their therapists have diagnosed them with a variety of diagnoses, which has made them not only confused, but often ANGRY! They have been diagnosed, for instance, with disorders like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, paranoia, and other not-so-fun labels.

Most therapists are undertrained in recognizing and treating the aftermath symptoms in victims of Pathological Love Relationships. The reason you are being diagnosed with various disorders is because your symptoms are similar to those various disorders—they are mimicking true mental-health symptoms.

For instance, when your moods are swinging all over the place and you are depressed and anxious, you look bipolar. When you are cranky, highly reactive and want vengeance you look borderline. When you are scared about what he will do next, fear you’re being  followed, or afraid he is spying on you so he can accuse you of something, you look paranoid. When you think things are happening that you can’t prove to other people, you look delusional.

The issue is, these are ALL normal reactions to coercion and Stockholm Syndrome, similar to those found in prisoners of war—in other words, aftermath of a Pathological

Love Relationship. In THAT context, your symptoms make perfect sense! You were coerced, your mind was played with, you felt stuck and held in a pathological relationship against your own spiritual will. You feared that your emotional and physical existence were in jeopardy. And the pathological DOES do things he never gets caught for but that you can’t prove.

In Pathological Love Relationships, women emerge with signs of PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome, and coercion. Unfortunately, not all therapists understand the overlap between PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome and coercion—which is why you are often misdiagnosed. A lot of this is discussed in my book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, in which I talk about the pathological worldview and how women acquire the pathological’s view of the world and how that entraps them in the relationship.

The symptoms of coercion are:

  • Isolation: The individual is deprived of social support, effectively rendering her unable to resist. This makes the individual become dependent upon her interrogator/captor. The victim then develops an intense concern with self.
  • Monopolization of Perception: The captor fixes his attention upon immediate predicament; fosters introspection in the victim; eliminates outside competing stimuli with the captor, so the victim can only focus on him, and frustrates all actions not consistent with her compliance to him.

(In the mid-relationship dynamics in the book, all of this is discussed. Your Super Traits are very high in what we call relationship investment and cooperation which means you are highly cooperative because you get so much enjoyment out of your relationships that you will ‘bend over backwards’ to make things work. The book discusses when the mid-relationships ‘shift’ and what happens to the women’s perspective.)

  • Induced Debility and Exhaustion: People subjected to this type of abuse become worn out by tension, fear and continual rushing about in an effort to meet their abuser’s standards. They must often avoid displays of fear, sorrow or rage, since these may result in ridicule or punishment. Rigid demands and requirements make the exhaustion and ability to resist even worse.
  • Occasional Indulgences: Serve to provide motivation to her for compliance.
  • Devaluing the Individual: Creates in her a fear of freedom and dependence upon him, creates feelings of helplessness, develops lack of faith in her individual capabilities.

The symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome are:

  • Perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival, and the belief that the captor would carry out the threat.
  • Perceived small kindnesses from the captor to the captive.
  • Perceived inability to escape.
  • Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor.

When you look at it as a mixture of PTSD, Stockholm Syndrome and coercion, your symptoms make perfect sense… at least to me! While that doesn’t mean you can’t also have bipolar or other disorders—it’s too early to know. Very often many of the symptoms of other disorders fall by the wayside when effective and appropriate treatment is begun. Many of the women do, however, meet the criteria for PTSD. PTSD is most associated with war vets (and yes, you too lived through a war!) and trauma victims (yes, you were traumatized!). To that end, you probably do have a disorder, but it is related to PTSD or other acute stress disorders.

Be hopeful that the symptoms you live with may not always be as problematic as they are in your life today. There is hope and healing available!


(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know.  The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions.  See the website for more information.)

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