This isn’t a rhetorical question. If you’ve asked yourself more than once, “Is my girlfriend, wife or fiancee a crazy bitch?” as a clinical psychologist, I’m here to tell you that, yes, diagnostically speaking, she very well may be a crazy bitch.
Specifically, this type of woman may have a personality disorder, such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) or Antisocial Personality Disorder or some combination of the Cluster B or “dramatic” personality disorders. In other cases, she may not qualify for an official diagnosis, but it doesn’t really matter. Abusers are highly resistant to change regardless of whether they have a personality disorder or not, whether they’re diagnosed or not. In fact, many personality disordered abusers often evade treatment and proper diagnosis.
First, many of these individuals have Jekyll and Hyde personalities — they behave themselves in public and abuse behind closed doors. They can be very skilled at manipulation and are even able to fool seasoned mental health professionals. Second, most disordered abusers don’t see themselves and their behavior as the problem. Even when their issues are clearly of their own making, they blame others. Therefore, if they actually do seek counseling it’s probably not to work on their issues. They’re typically looking to triangulate a therapist into allying with them against whomever they’re blaming for all their woes. For those of you married to this kind of person, you know how it works if you’ve attended couples counseling with her (or him). Third, female abusers have an advantage that male abusers don’t have. Namely, an overwhelming bias in their favor in the mental health field and the judicial system. Women claiming abuse are most often believed. Men claiming abuse are usually ignored, ridiculed or blamed for their wife’s abuse.
Over the years, I’ve been accused of enabling male abusers because I typically only hear the man’s side of the story. I’ve also been accused of pandering to men who are just looking for someone to complain to about their wives or girlfriends instead of dealing with their own issues. Well, the same could be said of therapists who work with women presenting themselves as abuse victims. By the way, the women who pen these vituperous emails and comments are usually belligerent, and engage in name-calling and shaming tactics. Let’s just say they don’t make a very compelling case for themselves or their arguments!
Here’s a distinction between disordered abusers who complain about their spouses and the victims of abusers who complain about their spouses in therapy. The disordered person rarely (if ever) acknowledges any culpability, wrongdoing or how she or he might be contributing to the unhealthy relationship dynamic. While the victim of the abusive person is either too quick to take responsibility for things that aren’t his or her fault and/or is able to acknowledge things that he or she could have done differently as well as their own bad behavior. The key differences are self-awareness and personal accountability — who exhibits these qualities and who doesn’t.
Crazy bitch isn’t a term you’ll find in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). You might even say using the term crazy bitch is unprofessional. The reality is that most men who are involved with this kind of woman aren’t doing Internet searches for Borderline Personality Disorder. In everyday-speak, these women are colloquially referred to as crazy bitches, control freaks, psychos, bunny boilers, etc. And, let’s face it, crazy bitch is often the most accurate way to describe them when they’re acting out, lashing out, being irrational, delusional and abusive. It’s no more offensive than terms women use to describe men who engage in similar behaviors. There are no double standards at Shrink4Men.
Here are some questions to consider if you’re wondering if you’re married to or dating an abusive crazy bitch:
- Does she fly into rages without warning over relatively trivial matters like a web page loading too slowly?
- After a rage or doing or saying something especially cruel or insensitive, does she deny having done or said these things? Does it leave you doubting your memory and worried that you might be the crazy one?
- Are you usually the scapegoat/bad guy whenever she’s frustrated, disappointed or just plain bored?
- Do her friends (that is, if she has any) describe her as a “drama queen?”
- Does she describe herself as a drama queen? If so, congrats. You found one with a modicum of self-awareness.
- Did sex begin with an earth shattering bang and fizzle into infrequent, transactional and conditional sex?
- Is she a black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinker?
- Do you lie to your family, friends and colleagues about what goes on at home?
- Do you find yourself making excuses to your family, friends and colleagues for her inexcusable behavior?
- Do you find yourself walking on eggshells around her?
- Does she hate your friends and family and become angry or tearful when you spend time with them?
- Is she pathologically jealous?
- Does she project her feelings onto you? For example, she’s yelling and raging and then accuses you of being angry.
- Does focus solely on her emotional experience while exhibiting little or no empathy for yours?
- Have you distanced yourself from friends and family because of your relationship?
- Does she place you on a pedestal one day only to tear you down the next day? “I’ve never known anyone like you before. You’re so wonderful!” Next day: “You’re the devil! You’re the most selfish bastard I’ve ever met! You don’t love me!”
- Did she change her personality after you legally bound yourself to her either through marriage, children or joint assets? For example, when you first met her she was a sexy, adventurous and career-minded; now, she’s afraid of her own shadow, has no outside interests and goes ballistic if she has to do anything without you or if you want some alone time.
- Does she put you into “no win” situations in which nothing you do is good enough and you’re guaranteed to fail?
- Does she exhibit stalker behaviors? This usually occurs during the courtship phase or when she senses you’re about to make a break for it. For instance: Calling and hanging up? Calling over and over and over until you answer the phone? Does she wait outside your home, uninvited, until you arrive? Does she show up at places she know you’ll be, also uninvited? Has she tried to get close to your friends in inappropriate ways?
- Does she undermine your role of parent with the children? Does she refer to you as incompetent or stupid in front of the kids?
- Does she control the finances? Does she contribute to the finances she control?
- If she could, would she embed a GPS tracking device in one of your molars?
- Does she demand having passwords to all of your email and social media accounts?
If you answered yes to more than two of these questions, you may be involved with a female abuser. You’re not alone, it’s not okay and you should seek support from trusted friends or a male-friendly therapist (many therapists are not male friendly, so ask questions before you decide on one).
Before founding Shrink4Men, most of the men who ended up in my office did so because they were experiencing stress, depression or anxiety as a result from being in a relationship with an abusive woman. Ironically, most of the time they were shamed and pathologized into seeking counseling by these women. Never mind that most of the symptoms these men were experiencing were a direct result of being in a relationship with an abusive spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend.
If you think you may be involved with an abusive woman, good luck. They’re typically treatment resistant and they never really get any better. If you choose to stay in the relationship, I strongly recommend you educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of abuse, personality disorders and learn some basic behavioral management skills. You’re also going to need some form of support for yourself.
*This is an updated version of the the very first Shrink4Men post on January 12, 2009.
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Shrink4Men Counseling, Consulting and Coaching
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides individual services to help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men who are trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.
Crazy woman from istockphotos.
Walking on eggshells from “ada loves you” on flickr.