October 5, 2014

Kane County Divorce: BPD Help

I found this post today on a BPD support blog, and it mentions Bill Eddy's landmark book on Divorce and BPD/NPD, Splitting. The gentleman writing in to the blog is experiencing the surreal and chaotic behaviors of a spouse conducting a distortion campaign against him. His questions may have some resonance with some of you.


" I bought William Eddy's book on divorces and have read most of it.

I also talked with Michael Roe (who wrote the foreword to the book), but he doesn't practice in San Diego, -- he's in Illinois, but was very helpful to me in at least getting me to understand what I'm up against.

Maybe I will try contacting his office again, given how increasingly horrible things have become since that first contact.

One big question I have is how likely is mediation with a BP likely to actually work? I thought it was probably going to be nearly impossible because of what she is like, but maybe I am wrong? Also, what kind of security precautions do mediators take?

Frankly I wish I could video record my entire life to defend against her. The loss of privacy would be a small price to pay."

July 2, 2014

How to Spot a Narcissist: Illinois Divorce

Marriage and Family Therapist Holly Brown has written a spot on article about identifying and avoiding a long term relationship with a narcissist. If you are in a marriage with a narcissist, and need counsel as to how to end a marriage that is causing you and the children emotional suffering, contact our offices. Michael Roe is one of the country's leading lawyer specialists on personality disorders and divorce. In the meantime, here are the signs of the narcissistic personality to be aware of:

How to Spot a Narcissist
By Holly Brown, LMFT

A lot of people assume narcissists are easy to spot, that they talk obsessively about themselves, for example, or never seem to care what you have to say. Those are the obvious narcissists. This post is about the charming narcissists who can fly under the radar until you feel like you’re in too deep to get out.

I’ve written before about how to know you’re involved with a narcissist, and on strategies for handling the narcissist in your life. This post, hopefully, will help you avoid entanglements with people who could cause you a lot of pain down the line.

It’s the kind of post my characters Rachel and Marley might have benefited from, in my novel “Don’t Try to Find Me” (due out next Tuesday!) And it might be particularly useful for those of you who are currently dating and trying to find a partner. Maybe you’re on the fence about someone, and this could help you make a decision one way or the other.

When it comes to narcissists, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Getting out early might be your best move. Okay, on to the tips:


I can’t stress this one enough. If your gut is telling you that something is off, if another person inspires some sort of anxiety that you can’t quite comprehend–then look deeper. You might feel like, “Hey, there’s no reason for me to be uneasy, it’s all going great, he/she is such a good catch!” But ask yourself why no one has caught them.

When you’re talking to a bright, witty, charming, interesting narcissist, you will feel swept up. You might feel a certain exhilaration, a loss of control, even. Temporarily, this can be a positive feeling.

Long-term, though, what it means is that YOU ARE NOT PARTICULARLY RELEVANT. The narcissist is merely looking for an audience. The reason you don’t feel entirely present is because you don’t have to be. You’re a prop, a way for the narcissist to feel temporarily good about himself/herself. Essentially, you’re being used.

2) You don’t feel truly listened to or empathized with. It all feels somehow…surface.

That’s because narcissists often learn over time that in order to get the approval they seek, they need to give the other person something. But it’s almost like the expression: His smile didn’t reach his eyes. There’s a sense that something else is going on, or being withheld. Again, this is largely something instinctive.

And the reason you are questioning yourself is because it is on this subterranean level. On the surface, you’re not being disrespected. But you’re not being valued either.

3) Consider whether self-involved people often seem drawn to you.

If this is the case, then think about whether this is another person in a long line. You might want to think back to your family relationships while you were growing up. Did one or both of your parents train you, on some level, to be appreciative of others to the exclusion of your own needs? Was an important person in your early life a narcissist as well? Might be time to recognize (and break ) a pattern.

4) You notice that somehow, you’re always ending up doing it the other person’s way.

This might mean that you’re always at the restaurant of their choice, or doing the activity they like. You might find you drive to his/her house much more than the reverse occurs. And you might not even know why this has happened, because the (suspected) narcissist seems nice enough, and willing enough, to do it your way.

But not really. Essentially, they are saying they are open to your ideas, suggestions, and preferences, but then there’s always some reason why that doesn’t exactly work, or why the (suspected) narcissist’s way is actually better. It might be that there’s a subtle pressure to go along in order to please the narcissist–perhaps he/she radiated very subtle disapproval through a variety of cues, and you’re picking up on these and it’s activating some anxiety, and so in order to relieve that anxiety, it’s just better to give in. Which leads to….

5) You tend to want to please people, and this new person in your life seems to feed on that.

While he/she may seem to be validating you (for example, giving you affection and compliments), there’s always something held back, perhaps the suggestion that the relationship can be damaged or lost.

A narcissist can often recognize a people-pleaser, almost like a homing pigeon. A people-pleaser and a narcissist fit together like a lock and a key, often forging a very dysfunctional but enduring bond.

That’s why it’s key to examine your own motivations, reactions, impulses, intentions, and self-esteem. Because narcissists can spot you, so make sure you can spot them back. Then you can get out before the bond solidifies.

October 14, 2013

Kane County Divorce: Divorcing A High-Conflict Personality

What Therapists Don't Tell You About Divorcing A High-Conflict Personality

Therapists are trained to help clients become self-aware and authentic. For people who grew up in invalidating environments, where they learned to suppress their feelings and needs in order to be accepted, therapy can be life-altering.

Competent therapists who provide a corrective emotional experience can make it possible for people who never had a voice to find one. Once self-actualized, people generally find the quality of their lives improve: they find the right career, attract the right mate and extricate themselves from toxic relationships.

Unfortunately, this type of personal growth can be disastrous when divorcing a high-conflict personality. When working with a client who is married to, or separating from a narcissist, therapists need to invert the goal of traditional therapy. Instead of encouraging people to be authentic, they need to counsel people to be strategic. Expressing one's true feelings, admitting vulnerability, and apologizing for one's missteps can bury a person who is trying to dissolve a marriage with a narcissist -- especially when children are involved.

Why Don't More Therapists Understand How to Treat High-Conflict Divorce?

Graduate psychology programs teach future therapists how to facilitate a client's personal growth. Students learn what personality disorders look like, and how they develop. But there are no courses in graduate school that train psychology students how to help clients navigate high-conflict divorce.

When treating a client in individual therapy, a therapist doesn't have the benefit of observing the narcissistic spouse. Even in couples therapy, a therapist might be duped by the high-conflict personality, who often comes across as charming, while the more reasonable spouse, who has spent years being traumatized by crazy-making behavior, can look like the difficult one.

5 Tips for Divorcing a High-Conflict Personality

1. Minimize Contact
High-conflict personalities thrive off of battle. Their agenda, which is often subconscious, is to maintain your relationship by creating drama: bad-mouthing you to everyone under the sun and especially to your children, cyber-bullying, multiple, intrusive phone calls and any other way they can find to keep you from moving on with your life.

While your gut reaction might be to defend yourself, you cannot reason with a terrorist. Anything you say can and will be used against you. To mitigate the chaos caused by a high-conflict personality, you must keep communication to a minimum. Avoid face-to-face contact. Cultivate a "just the facts, ma'am" style of e-mail and text correspondence. When possible, arrange neutral places such as school for the drop-off and pick-up of children.

2. Keep Your Feelings to Yourself
High-conflict personalities are bullies. They like to "win" by making you angry or beating you down. Do not act on your feelings. If you yell, cry, plead, or otherwise tip your emotional hand, you will invite more attacks. Being stuck in the cross-hairs of a narcissist is traumatic, so by all means seek support through safe means: therapy, and online support groups for people with personality-disordered exes are two examples. But whatever you do, don't let a narcissist know how you really feel -- especially if you have a different point-of-view, which will always be interpreted as a threat.

3. Plan for the Worst
Do not listen to conventional wisdom that your ex will "move on" in time. Well-adjusted people move on; high-conflict personalities never quench their thirst for revenge and their desire to feel like "the good one." Anticipate being dragged into court for minor indiscretions, or worse, total fabrications.

Do not say or write anything that might make you look bad. Respond to even the most frivolous accusations with factual, non-defensive e-mails detailing what actually happened. Document everything; save hostile e-mails, take screen shots of abusive texts, note every violation of your court orders.

4. Never Admit a Mistake
You can, and should be, accountable for your part in the end of the marriage. But be accountable in a safe environment: therapy, 12-step groups, or in the company of trusted family and friends.

Do not admit wrongdoing to your high-conflict ex, especially in writing. Apologizing will not create a more amicable relationship. A high-conflict ex will interpret your apology as proof that you are the mentally ill, incompetent, stupid person she says you are. Even admissions of minor mistakes can be twisted into admissions of heinous acts and spur a high-conflict ex to take you to court, or simply broadcast to everyone with whom they come in contact that you are a terrible person.

5. Stop Trying to Co-Parent
I have written before about the one-size-fits-all co-parenting model. Well-meaning, but misinformed therapists do targets of high-conflict personalities a huge disservice by advising them that they can, and should, co-parent. Certainly, an amicable co-parenting relationship is ideal for children. But attempts to co-parent with a narcissist or a borderline will keep you engaged in battle. You will forever be on the receiving end of intrusive, controlling, chaotic behaviors which will make you and your kids crazy.

Parallel parenting is the only paradigm that should be recommended to people with personality-disordered exes. This means that you give up the fantasy that you can have consistency between homes, or appear as a united front. The more high-conflict your ex is, the more you will need to separate yourself and your parenting. This may mean hosting separate birthday parties, scheduling separate parent-teacher conferences and not sharing what goes on in your house.

While you may feel that you are sending a terrible message to your children by limiting contact with their other parent, you are actually protecting them by minimizing the potential for conflict.

Targets of high-conflict personalities need to accept that it isn't wise to be "authentic" with their ex. Strategic, limited disclosures and iron-clad boundaries are essential tools in managing a high-conflict divorce. While it may seem paradoxical, true authenticity comes from holding on to one's sense of self while gracefully disengaging from a narcissist.

Follow Virginia Gilbert, MFT on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@VGilbertMFT

July 3, 2013

Surviving a BPD Relationship

Falling in love with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is an emotional roller coaster ride. The relationship involves never-ending emotional blackmails, hurtful criticisms, threats, manipulations, verbal attacks and silent treatments. Borderlines are known to call you at work more than 20 times in a day. Borderlines need constant reassurance. Borderlines feel the need to check up on you all the time. Borderlines also wake you up in the middle of the night because of their concerns.

How can you continue to love a person who will give you the responsibility for anything and everything bad that happens to them? You are accused as the source of all their pains, heartbreaks, anger, frustrations and hardships? The Borderline will emotionally wear you out by their insults and accusations.

Borderlines have a problem with regulating their emotions. They feel real pain and fear of abandonment.

No matter how much a trusted friend will tell you to leave the relationship, you just can't do it. At least for the time being, you want to stay and give it another try.

A person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is mentally ill. This is one of the reasons you hesitate to leave your loved one. You want to separate the disorder from the person. You believe that there is no other person in this world who can help your BPD loved one except you.

Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to cure the disorder instantly. However, there are techniques that can help you survive the relationship.

1. Self-esteem Self-Check

You cannot survive a relationship with a Borderline if your self-esteem is shattered. You need to learn to take care of yourself. Your Borderline loved one is incapable of taking care of you. You have to believe that you can commit to your partner's treatment and recovery.

2. The Four (4) Don'ts

There are four things you should not do or say to your Borderline partner. The first is don't defend yourself. The second is don't explain. The third is don't justify. The fourth is don't counter attack. The Borderline loved one may misconstrue the above-mentioned statements and actions. The Borderline thinks you are disagreeing with their reality. The Borderline feels that you are literally screaming at them that they are wrong, bad and stupid. They become defensive and will start to confront you.

3. Practice SET Communication Method (Support, Empathy, Truth)

Erin Johnston, LCSW in About.com explains why SET is effective to handle the Borderline loved one. In SET strategy, S stands for Support. It is very important to give a support statement to reassure a Borderline that you have a desire to help. The E stands for Empathy . It involves making your Borderline partner feel that you understand their feelings. The T stands for truth. This technique entails re-stating reality after the emotional outbursts are diffused.

4. Understand Validation and How, When to Apply It

You can validate the feelings of a Borderline by accepting their right to their feelings. Though you do not necessarily agree with them, acknowledging their feelings will help you identify their current feelings. These emotions circulate as feelings of being sad, frustrated, unheard, misunderstood, lonely, depressed. By validating, you can help them label their feelings and be there for them. The goal of validation is to calm your Borderline loved one. Otherwise, a trivial issue may instead escalate to anger and rage.

5. Set Healthy Boundaries

Sometimes, your Borderline loved one becomes very emotionally deregulated. They become very agitated and angry. If initial attempts to do the 4 steps above do not work, protect yourself from damaging criticisms and verbal abuse. Let your Borderline loved one know that their message is important but you need to set another time to discuss the issue. Boundaries provide structure to the relationship and prevent abuse.


All the best advices in the world will not stop a person from falling in love with a Borderline. After all, Borderlines are human beings with the right to love and be loved. Their mental health issues are very difficult to understand for people without proper training and tools. In fact, many children and spouses of Borderlines are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PSTD). Many lives have been devastated by this disorder.

However, for those who made a choice to be with a Borderline, there are 5 important ways to handle your BPD loved one. First is the commitment to continually check your self-esteem and emotional health. Secondly, clarify and remember statements that do not work with Borderlines. Thirdly, learn appropriate communication tools that will express support, empathy and reality. Fourthly, understand the secrets of implementing validation techniques. Fifth, put boundaries critical to both your emotional health and your Borderline loved one's health.

If you have decided to remain in the relationship with a Borderline, you must be prepared to protect yourself first. Otherwise, each minute unarmed will slowly make you lose the battle. Then, you are useless to help them.

Credit: Joy Campbell, Yahoo! Contributor Network


Erin Johnston, " Support, Empathy, Truth SET for Borderline Personality Disorder", About.Com

"What is Validation?", Validation Training Institute, VFvalidation.org


May 23, 2013

How to Recover from an Affair Involving Borderline Personality Disorder

How to Recover from an Affair Involving Borderline Personality Disorder

By Tommy (http://youmebpd.com/)

The feeling of pain and betrayal that an affair causes is something I would wish on almost no one, but when you add in the addition of borderline personality disorder it throws in a whole new set of variables. Our particular story is one that has a lot of mitigating circumstances, but that makes it no less painful to go through. In June of 2011 I lost my wife (at least that is what it felt like). June, 2011; I checked my wife into Prairie St. John’s facility in Fargo, ND for depression and manic behavior. She went into the facility a loving wife, devoted mother and successful business owner. She spent the first night there crying asking to be sent home to her family. She was met with doctors telling her that if she did not stop crying, asking to go home and start taking all the medicine they had for her that they would hold her indefinitely.

Over the next few days I watched, well more heard over the phone, my wife slip away. If you have ever taken anti-psychotic or anti-anxiety medications you know they start to affect you immediately. Add ungodly high doses , the addition of borderline personality disorder and irresponsible doctors giving horrible advice and you have a recipe for disaster. Long story short, 6 days after they admitted my loving wife and devoted mother; Prairie St. John’s released a heavily medicated, highly manic person that no one recognized. The doctors at the facility had told her she had too much stress at home and she should take a break, so she did and wound up having an affair with an individual she met in Prairie St. Johns. I did not see my wife for days after they released her to her own accord, after she had removed me from her contact list at the facility, so I could not even get updates on her.

For the next few months I battled supposed counselors, her behavior and her new group of “friends” she met at the facility. I had her old friend and my kids asking me, how Prairie St. John’s helped her and why they were allowed to operate in that way, why it was ok for them to destroy families. My only answer was, “I don’t know”. After a few months it all came to a head and I had enough, I reached my boundary and I filed for divorce. The facility, medication and new friends won, the wife I knew and spent 13 years with was gone lost to over medication and irresponsible doctors.

At this point your probably asking holy crap, where is the recovery? I will be the first to admit, this was not easy to go through. I went through massive depression and I still deal with some situational depression. The recovery came two fold. First my wife took herself off of the medications and stopped going to the facility, after the medications were out of her system came the realization of what she had done. What the mix of incorrect medications and BPD had destroyed. Now under normal circumstances this would be difficult, but when you add BPD into it, the shame and guilt is huge. I made a decision that I would take my wife back and try to work with her to rebuild our family. At the same time I had to identify and put very specific personal boundaries in place for myself and set clear expectations of what I need to happen in order to move forward with the relationship.

I am proud to say that we have made it through the first year and are on the road to recovery. It has been difficult and taken a lot of work on both sides. From her side she has had to work on things like Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to identify Borderline behaviors and triggers. She has had to work through not just the guilt and shame that she carried before the affair, but now the addition of more guilt and shame stemming from the affair and her behaviors. This is difficult and I have had to be supportive, even at times when it hurts, because the bigger picture is worth it. From my part, I have had to accept that the behaviors I witnessed were not the behaviors of my wife, but behaviors that were brought on by a facility not only over medicating, but over medicating the wrong medications for her condition. This is so difficult, because logically I know what they did, I saw it first hand, I heard the counselors tell her she had too much stress at home with kids and a business. I saw the ugly face of Borderline Personality Disorder, the protective lies, the raging, the impulse behavior brought on by medication. At the same time, emotionally I know what happened, I witnessed that first had, I received messages from the other man, I saw the coming and going. So I have logical vs. emotional and it is not easy.

I have been told many times even by other “nons” that they would not stay after an affair, and I cannot tell each person where to draw their boundary. I can also honestly say that if my wife had purposefully had an affair while in her right mind (or been a chronic repeater) I don’t think we would be back together, but the facts remain that I saw firsthand what Prairie St. John’s did to her. That being said, does not take away the pain and hurt. It has not removed the lies or other behaviors that took place. What it does do is allow for a platform of recovery. We, as “nons”, have to have an understanding of why someone with borderline personality disorder displays certain behaviors. One of the hardest to work through, especially after an affair is the lying. This behavior is discussed in an article titled BPD and Lying – again…

The motivations for telling a lie (or omitting truth) by someone with BPD are as follows:

1. When it is more painful to admit or tell the truth.
2. When she wants the other person to think “better” of her than she thinks of herself.
3. To avoid the judgment of the other person or judgment of herself.
4. When she can’t see the “truth” because of emotional reasoning brought on by the refractory period of the emotion felt. In other words, when feelings = facts.

Recovery begins with both people accepting (does not mean liking or approving with) what happened and why. Things like Radical Acceptance can make a huge difference. It also means working together to identify trigger points that might start an argument on each side. It is not going to be easy, and you have to recognize upfront that this is going to be emotionally painful experience. However, walking away from a marriage is an emotionally painful experience as well. The key is that both sides need to work together. Both people have to be willing to be supportive of the other person, even when things get painful. That being said, as a “non” you still need to recognize the limitations of your partner and their BPD. I am not perfect at this, and we still have some pretty heated arguments. I try to not throw things at her that are shameful; but I am human after all, have feelings, and sometimes those feelings are painful.

If you are in the midst of an affair or have gone through this experience I can only give my sympathies, but I encourage you to look past the initial rage and hurt to ask yourself if there are any mitigating circumstances and what is more painful for you to go through. If mental illness plays a role, you need to make sure you set your boundaries to protect yourself, while allowing healing and recovery to happen.

May 22, 2013

PDAN: This is Borderline Personality Disorder! Signs and Symptoms



August 4, 2012

Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks

I highly recommend the following book by my colleague and author of Splitting
(1st Ed). I wrote the foreword to Bill's first BPD and Divorce book, and have followed the great work he is doing in the High Conflict Personalities training area. Bill is a former clinician, who turned to the practice of family law in San Diego where he developed his cutting edge perspectives on divorce and high conflict personalities.

BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns

By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.http://www.highconflictinstitute.com/books-a-products

We live in an age of rapid change and instant communication. We also live in a Culture of Blame and Disrespect. Managing your responses to high-conflict emails, texts, letters, and social media meltdowns is imperative.

A BIFF response can be applied in any communication anywhere - on the Internet, in a letter or in person. It can be used at work, earning you respect and success. It can help you get along with difficult family members, friends, neighbors and others anywhere in your life. BIFF was designed to protect you and your reputation by responding quickly and civilly to people who treat you rudely - while being reasonable in return.

BIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. A BIFF response is easy to remember, but hard to do. It takes practice! This little book gives over 20 examples of BIFF responses for all areas of life - plus additional tips to help you deal with high-conflict people anywhere. See if you can do a BIFF! Not everyone can.

May 4, 2012

"Back From the Edge" - Borderline Personality Disorder

I reviewed this video very recently and was impressed with the quality and depth of it. Some of the leading clinicians in the area of BPD are present in this video, along with personal stories from some very courageous people.

In my divorce and custody practice, there is a focus on custody issues when one of the parents has traits of BPD. Some of these traits are discussed in this video. It is very important that when involved in a custody case with BPD, that the safety of the children is paramount, but that the parents in these cases be viewed with understanding and compassion, as well. Decisions about the custody and visitation of the children must be made through the lens of both the courts and knowledgeable clinicians. If you have questions in this area of divorce and custody, please contact my office for an informed initial consultation.

March 14, 2012

Borderline Personality Disorder

New Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall discusses his diagnosis of and treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder:

Much of my work in divorce and custody litigation, along with some research and writing that I have done, has focused on divorce cases with a personality disorder involved. BPD and NPD present in a number of high conflict custody cases, and the tendency of people with BPD and NPD to act out, rage, blame others, and even target their spouse in divorce with false allegations is common.

As Mr. Marshall describes, BPD is treatable, yet very few have the ability or resource to seek treatment, and BP's are notorious for refusing treatment, even while their marriage and family is breaking down.

I congratulate Brandon Marshall for his brave and thoughtful statements today about his condition and hope that his comments educate and inspire others. If you have a family concern where you feel a personality disorder may be involved, or if there is abuse in your home affecting you and your children that is not apparent to the outside world, please contact my office for an immediate initial consultation.

February 27, 2010

Illinois Divorce, Custody, and the Narcissist Spouse

Much of my work focus around complex and sometimes high conflict custody cases involving Borderline personalities, and other psychological disorders. With BPD custody cases, and many other cases, there are elements of the narcissistic personality. What characteristics define a narcisisist? A recent article, "Beware the Narcissist; Know the Signs," by Heidi Stevens (McClatchy) offers a solid description:

``Narcissism is an epidemic in our society,'' argues LIsa Scott, author of It's All About Him: How to Identify and Avoid the Narcissist Male Before You Get Hurt (CFI, 2009). ``Our culture breeds it.''

While it's one thing to watch reality show contestants bask in their own glory for the sake of finding love, it's another to find yourself dating such a character -- man or woman.

So, how do you avoid such a fate? We turned to the experts for tips on sniffing out the self-obsessed.


The American Psychological Association identifies nine traits of narcissists, five of which need to be present for a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) diagnosis:

• Feels grandiose and self-important for reasons not supported by reality.

• Obsesses with fantasies about unlimited success, fame, power or omnipotence.

• Believes he/she is unique and special and can be understood by and associate with only other unique or high-status people.

• Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation.

• Feels a sense of entitlement.

• Exploits others without guilt or remorse.

• Is devoid of empathy.

• Tends to be envious of others or believes others are envious of him/her.

• Displays arrogant and haughty behavior.

The biggest red flag, Scott says, is lack of empathy.

``They're unable to see that other people have feelings,'' she says. ``Narcissists only enter into a relationship to stroke their ego. They disconnected from themselves a long time ago in order to avoid feeling, so they need the outside world to validate their image.''

So, the whole relationship revolves around meeting the narcissist's needs and wants, while yours go unnoticed. The trick to spotting lack of empathy, or any of these traits, for that matter, is penetrating a narcissist's ego-shield -- also known as charm.

``Narcissists are gifted manipulators who can sweep anyone off their feet,'' Scott writes in her book.

That's why it's not enough to focus on someone's early behavior. Focus on how you're being treated throughout the relationship. Scott maintains that after the chase has ended, a narcissist's true colors will show.

``He becomes demanding and angry, unaware that the other has needs or a separate self at all,'' Scott writes. ``He is not consciously mean. He simply finds it impossible to see others as independent entities.''

Individuals with BPD and NPD present with these traits, and these traits, when severe, make healthy parenting problematic. Children are independent entities that need care, nurturing and validation; parents with pathology have difficulty offering this kind of support to children. The needs of the parent trump those of the children,and when the children's normal developmental needs frustrate the NPD/BPD, raging, criticism and other forms of abusive parental acting out can occur.

If you have concerns about BPD or NPD in your family or in your divorce case, visit my friend Randi Kreger's site, www.BPDCentral.com, and contact my office for an initial consultation if a divorce or other intervention is needed to protect the developmental health of your children.

February 24, 2010

Divorce, Custody and Borderline Personality Disorder

I have spent a good part of my legal career working in the area of divorce and custody in the context of a parent with suspected or diagnosed BPD and NPD traits. Borderline personalities in divorce cases make for higher conflict cases, and when the cases involve the custody of children, many times there are elements of domestic violence, false allegations of domestic violence or sexual abuse, distortion campaigns, and parental alienation. I was fortunate to write the foreword to, and help edit, Bill Eddy's landmark book on divorcing a borderline or narcissist, Splitting.

Today I saw a reference to a recent Time Magazine article on BPD. "The Mystery of Borderline Personality Disorder," by John Cloud.

"A 2008 study of nearly 35,000 adults in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that 5.9% — which would translate into 18 million Americans — had been given a BPD diagnosis. As recently as 2000, the American Psychiatric Association believed that only 2% had BPD. (In contrast, clinicians diagnose bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in about 1% of the population.) BPD has long been regarded as an illness disproportionately affecting women, but the latest research shows no difference in prevalence rates for men and women. Regardless of gender, people in their 20s are at higher risk for BPD than those older or younger.

What defines borderline personality disorder — and makes it so explosive — is the sufferers' inability to calibrate their feelings and behavior. When faced with an event that makes them depressed or angry, they often become inconsolable or enraged. Such problems may be exacerbated by impulsive behaviors: overeating or substance abuse; suicide attempts; intentional self-injury."

What concerns me most in cases involving personality disorders is the high likelihood of levels of parental alienation by the disordered parent, along with false allegations made by the disordered parent to harm the other parent's custody case. If you are in a divorce with BPD or NPD, or contemplating a divorce from a disordered spouse, please contact my office to arrange an initial consultation.

February 7, 2010

Divorce and the Narcissistic Personality

Through the years, I have been involved with divorce and custody cases that involved elements of unhealthy narcissism. My friend and colleague Billy Eddy's book, Splitting speaks in detail of the difficulties dealing with litigants with NPD and BPD. I am often consulted on cases involving BPD and NPD in custody cases.

Psychologists are fascinated by narcissists, both why they are attractive to healthy partners despite on some level recognizing their dysfunction, and because they embody so many paradoxes. Extreme narcissists inevitably reveal their true nature to those around them and are eventually rejected. So why don't healthy people (and the narcissists) learn?

The charming narcissist:

To find out, social psychologist Mitja Back and university colleagues decided to investigate (Back et al., 2010). They asked 73 freshman students who had never met before to introduce themselves to the rest of the class, one by one. Each person was rated by all the others on how likable they were as well as being videotaped for later analysis. After the session all the students filled out some questionnaires, amongst which was an assessment of narcissistic personality traits.

Here are the findings:

1. Narcissists were more popular at first site. Self-rated narcissists were initially more liked by others than non-narcissists.

2. Participants liked narcissists' sense of entitlement most. Of the four aspects of narcissism they studied, leadership/authority, self-admiration/self-absorption, arrogance/superiority and entitlement/exploitativeness it was the last of these that most predicted liking.

3. Narcissists look, sound and move better. The reason narcissists were popular is because they used more charming facial expressions, a more confident speaking tone, wore more fashionable clothes, had more trendy haircuts and were funnier.

Naturally all these effects only hold true in the short-term. Narcissists are usually soon found out and shunned since few people will put up with a self-absorbed, authoritarian, arrogant, exploitative partner.

Divorcing a narcissist, or person with traits of BPD, creates enormous challenges, especially in disputed custody cases. My practice has dealt with these challenges for many years, and if you have questions about divorcing someone with NPD or BPD, please contact my office.

January 3, 2010

Divorce and Borderline Personality Disorder Issues

I was reading a social networking site that had a thread on Borderline Personality Disorder. It can be very helpful to read the DSM for the diagnostic criteria for BPD, but it can be also quite insightful to read the stories of people affected by a relationship or marriage with someone with BPD. Here are a few examples, below:

"Get out as fast as you can, don't look back.The only reason to stay with a BPDer is if you are a parent who has a child with the disorder. I was married to someone with BPD. The horrors.

The non-BP has been sucker punched. When you are in a relationship with a BPD you both share a private, intense world of ups and downs. 3 AM screaming matches, stomping, acting out, and in some cases, self harm and violence. This brings you both together in a co dependency. Each time there is a blow up, the couple is drawn closer together in the resolution phase, when the BPDers devaluation episode subsides. This codependency is insidious. I call it being sucker punched."

"I dated a borderline for 2 years, the 1st few months were great and it was mostly downhill from there. BPD is an illness that prevents the person from truly loving anyone, not even their parents, their spouse or their children. They are often self abusive and are a physical and mental threat to themselves and to those who love them the most. BPD is often passed from parent to child. My advice to you if you want the loving husband, children and family thing is to cut your losses and move on. I know it is easier said than done but for your own mental health you need to do it. I hear and fully understand your reasoning and thinking as to not wanting to leave someone because they are ill, I felt the same way. The one thing a borderline fears the most is abandonment yet the truth is they almost always end up abandoning the relationship themselves within 2 years. Often the people that are willing to stick with a person with BPD are usually suffering with their own co-dependency issues. I wish I could say be patient with them and love them unconditionally and they will get better but it is just not the case. About the time you think things are getting better their illness will cause them to destroy any progress that has been made and sabotage that progress. I can not imagine the personal hell a borderline lives in but have witnessed it and had a taste of it by loving someone with this illness. Now knowing and understanding what BPD is I will always feel strongly for anyone with this illness but will never let myself fall in love with someone that suffers it. Suffering with BPD makes for a long hard lonely life for the one who suffers with it and equally as hard for those that love them."

If you feel you are in a marriage with someone with the traits of BPD, please see my friend Randi Kreger's site, www.BPDCentral.com. If you are in a failing marriage with BPD issues, please feel free to contact my firm to set up an initial consultation.

October 28, 2007

Parental Alienation Discussed

As many of my cases deal with possible BPD and NPD-type disorders, I see traits of Parental Alienation Syndrome in alienating parents. These cases are very challenging...in part because there are kids being harmed by the alienation and by the pathology directed at them on a daily basis by the alienating parent. Further, the cases can be difficult to manage as the alienating parents are often skillful manipulators that have had some prior success through the years harming the healthy, non-disordered "target" parent's legal standing, through false accusations and false orders of protection (often easy to obtain on an ex parte basis). Many disordered parents obtain custody and control of children through manipulation of the court process. In the end, the non-disordered target parent suffers, and the kids suffer, perhaps more, emotionally and developmentally.

There are strategies to combat PAS in custody cases. The article below discusses PAS in some detail.

"Welcome to the Swamp." by Amy Johnson Conner

That's what a judge once told a client of a divorce attorney when accusations of parental alienation were leveled against the client in a custody hearing.

Parental alienation syndrome - a controversial diagnosis to describe a child who compulsively denigrates one parent in response to consistent brainwashing by the other parent - has become a not-uncommon theme in custody cases.

According to Richard Gardner, the psychologist who is considered the father of the syndrome, it typically manifests itself as a campaign of denigration by one parent against the other, which is accompanied by weak, frivolous and absurd rationalizations for the deprecation. As a result of this steady campaign of insult, the child reflexively supports the alienating parent and experiences no guilt over their own cruelty towards the targeted parent.

But the mental health profession is far from agreement about the existence of the syndrome. Noting the lack of supporting data, the American Psychological Association has "no official position on the purported syndrome," according to a statement in its website.

The legal community is divided as well.

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