Bill Eddy‚ L.C.S.W.‚ Esq..

Personality Disorders Appearing In Family Court

Probably the most prevalent personality disorder in family court is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) — more commonly seen in women (now 2008 research indicates BPD is equally men and women). BPD may be characterized by wide mood swings‚ intense anger even at benign events‚ idealization (such as of their spouse — or attorney) followed by devaluation (such as of their spouse — or attorney).

Also common is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) — more often seen in men. There is a great preoccupation with the self to the exclusion of others. This may be the vulnerable type‚ which can appear similar to BPD‚ causing distorted perceptions of victimization followed by intense anger (such as in domestic violence or murder‚ for example the San Diego case of Betty Broderick). Or this can be the invulnerable type‚ who is detached‚ believes he is very superior and feels automatically entitled to special treatment.

Histrionic Personality Disorder also appears in family court‚ and may have similarities to BPD but with less anger and more chaos. Antisocial Personality Disorder includes an extreme disregard for the rules of society and very little empathy. (A large part of the prison population may have Antisocial Personality Disorder.)

Dependent Personality Disorder is common‚ but usually is preoccupied with helplessness and passivity‚ and is rarely the aggressor in court — but often marries a more aggressive spouse‚ sometimes with a personality disorder.

Cognitive Distortions and False Statements

Because of their history of distress‚ those with personality disorders perceive the world as a much more threatening place than most people do. Therefore‚ their perceptions of other people’s behavior is often distorted — and in some cases delusional.

Their world view is generally adversarial‚ so they often see all people as either allies or enemies in it. Their thinking is often dominated by cognitive distortions‚ such as: all or nothing thinkingemotional reasoning‚ personalization of benign events‚ minimization of the positive and maximization of the negative.

They may form very inaccurate beliefs about the other person‚ but cling rigidly to those beliefs when they are challenged because being challenged is usually perceived as a threat.