Feeling Isolated - It's common for people who have a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder to systematically isolate themselves from other external relationships.
When someone finds themselves in a situation where they are subjected to abuse or unfair treatment, it is an instinctive reaction to reach out to others for help. If this help arrives on time and in an effective way, the abuse victim will feel encouraged to repeat the action the next time abuse occurs. However, if the response to a cry for help is misguided or untimely, the abuse victim may feel humiliated or confused and be discouraged from seeking help in the future.
Because people who suffer from personality disorders do not always fit the mold of typical human behavior or thinking, the kind of "common sense" advice which is often given out can be counter-productive or dangerous.
Some examples of hopeful counter-productive advice:
- She'll probably just grow out of it - they all do.
- He seems to have really turned things around lately. I know you guys are going to make it.
- He's feeling a lot of stress at work. When things calm down I think it will get better.
- I've found that prayer really helps in this situation.
- Maybe she just needs some space.
- If you treat her like a queen she will treat you like a king.
- If you listen to his needs and learn to communicate better - that is the key.
The trouble with this kind of advice is that it is applicable to people who fall in the middle of the human behavior spectrum. People who suffer from personality disorders fall on the extremes of the human behavior spectrum - and thus do not conform to typical human response and behaviors.
Treating a person who suffers from a personality disorder as though they have normal or average behavior is a bit like trying to extinguish a forest fire with a bucket of water - you are using the wrong tools for the job.
When a person who is in a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder reaches out to others for help, they commonly get this kind of misguided advice. When the advice doesn't work, they often feel hopeless and begin to isolate themselves from the advice-giver. They may feel condemnation because they have not successfully implemented their advice or adhered to their model of the world.
In this way, abuse victims often find that non-abuse victims are of little help or support. They just don't seem to understand. Over time they may begin to feel that nobody understands.
Likewise, those who offer help and support often fail to understand why the abuse victim just "doesn't seem to get it". They may become judgmental or impatient with the abuse victim, they may fail to understand that personality disorders fall outside the scope of normal human behavior.
This is why support groups can be so important. When and abuse victim talks to other abuse victims they often find relief in discovering other people who know that the "standard" advice doesn't always work.
If you are feeling isolated, we encourage you to join a support group of other abuse victims.