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Do Personality Disorder Symptoms Predict Divorce?



This video answers the question: Do personality disorder symptoms predict divorce? We know that the construct of multiple divorces (when individuals get divorced a number of times throughout their life) is associated with anxiety, paranoid ideation, and global distress. We also know that borderline and antisocial personality disorders have been associated with separation, marital distress, low marital satisfaction, and divorce. Marital disruption, which of course is different than divorce, has been associated with paranoid, schizoid, antisocial, and histrionic personality disorders, as well as all three of the Cluster C personality disorders (avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder). There seems to be no question that personality disorders can tax a marriage, but here we’re looking specifically at divorce. The findings here were fairly interesting: increased levels of paranoid and histrionic personality disorders were associated with higher divorce rates, but none of the personalities disorders other than those were associated with higher divorce rates. Avoidant personality disorder symptoms were negatively associated with the number of divorces. The higher the level of symptoms the fewer divorces were observed. The next question is: Why do we have these findings? With paranoid personality disorder, we see characteristics like suspiciousness, hostility, and jealousy, so it’s not surprising looking at those characteristics that they would interfere in a marital relationship. With histrionic personality disorder, we see attention-seeking behavior, inappropriate sexually seductive behavior, and rapidly shifting and shallow emotions. Again, just looking at the symptoms associated with histrionic personality disorder, it’s not surprising that that disorder would interfere with a marital relationship. Also, with histrionic personality disorder, we oftentimes see this desire to have a number of close relationships. Individuals with this disorder are oftentimes searching for intimacy with a number of people and again it’s easy to connect this to the idea of marital disruption and of course eventually possibly divorce. Avoidant personality disorder has a negative association with divorce, which potentially could be explained by symptoms like not being assertive, social inhibition, and avoiding the criticizing of others. All these factors could lead to somebody avoiding divorce.

Disney, K. L., Weinstein, Y., & Oltmanns, T. F. (2012). Personality disorder symptoms are differentially related to divorce frequency. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(6), 959-965. doi:10.1037/a0030446

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13 Comments

  • ck2d

    Avoidant divorce rate is kind of obvious – they don't have the self-esteem to think they deserve better, they don't want to deal with judgments from others about their divorce, and they think it's impossible to find people, so even if their current spouse is horrible, they think it's the only chance they're going to get, and a lot if the time they believe they deserve the abuse from their spouse.

  • Christine Miller

    My soon to be ex husband is a covert narcissist. Gaslighting, drinking, drugs, hiding my personal items, cheating, rages ect. Dated for 2 years before the marriage. I feel you don't know someone until you live with them.
    I left April 2nd and filed for divorce on April 12th. Never looked back.
    I have never experienced this type of person. I'm sure I ignored many red flags. Thank you!

  • Samina Yaghouty

    Hello Dr. Grande. Thank you for your great videos. Would you please make a video about people with over excitability. About the symptoms and problems a highly sensitive person who is also an extremely intelligent person faces. Is being an extremely smart person related to being a highly sensitive person and being creative? Do these people develop personality disorders because of how they are being treated by the society?

  • SK

    I personally know two families that are like hostage situations: a highly narcissistic spouse (in one of the families it is a man, in another a woman) has destroyed the will and even identity of their wife or husband who has apparent masochistic tendencies. And so these "human duos" exists without divorce: two pathologies linked together… It is very sad to witness these micro-enslavements.

  • Kelly Harp

    I think that predict should be substituted with another word, I don't feel anything can predict another. There are ways that could be strong indicators but in regards to mental health disorders they can be linked to any negative thing in my opinion. I also don't feel that people with mental health disorders or more apt for divorce than those that don't have a mental health disorder. Someone who is "normal" may be more inclined to get a divorce for a number of reasons while someone who is with someone else with a mental disorder can have a long marriage. It is all dependent upon how vested the people are to one another and if they are willing to work on things or not.

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