Domestic violence and the high-risk personality disorders

Certain personality types are at high risk of perpetrating domestic violence. I want to emphasize physical domestic violence here. As in my last article, the borderline, narcissistic and sociopathic personalities lead the risk pack here.

Let’s look first at the borderline personality. The borderline personality is a powder-keg of rage prone to detonate at any experience of a perceived wound, insult, threat of abandonment or (as a less appreciated match to their rage), threat to their malignant pride. Sound pretty narcissistic? Welcome to the synergy between these two personality types.

The borderline personality, much like many narcissists, is littered with “rage mines” that can “tripped” in a flash with a wrong step, which is exactly why it can be so nerve-wracking to be involved with one.

“Walking on eggshells” may be an understatement in describing the unnerving experience of dealing closely, or intimately, with a borderline personality.

I might suggest that even more metaphorically apt than “walking on eggshells” is the experience with borderlines as of “walking through a rage-littered minefield.”

Again, make the wrong the step and beware the rage that can follow with disorienting, sometimes frightening and bewildering intensity. The borderline individual may even goad you, provoke you into stepping on a “rage mine;” indeed, she may salivate at the chance to righteously “go off” with an utter lack of accountability for her provocation, depicting herself, in the process, as having been victimized by your insensitivity.

In any case, her abuse and violation of YOU will be remarkably self-excused as she positions herself, pathologically, as the victim.

I emphasize: Because this is such a narcissistic process, it’s often challenging, as I stressed in my last article, to distinguish the borderline, narcissist and sociopath, all of whom may present similar, if not identical forms, of disturbing “acting-out” fireworks.

As I’ve suggested, when the borderline is “borderlining” in her violent raging, she is acting-out utterly pathological narcissism, even sometimes at sociopathic levels. I’ve previously written about the borderline personality as “transient sociopath,” because in her rages she can be as callous and destructive as the sociopath, not to mention sinisterly vindictive and totally remorseless in the expression of her rage.

Now how about the narcissist? In the narcissist’s case I would designate the state of “outrage” to be a very typical trigger of his rage, which can lead to domestic abuse. The narcissist, it should be noted, often feels “outraged.”

His “outrage” leads to his “rage.”

The narcissist feels outraged to be ignored, disregarded, offended, insulted, misunderstood. States of outrage, in general, are conducive to very poor emotional self-control; because the narcissist is so often outraged, he is often “out of control” emotionally. His rages often have the timbre of a wounded, tantrumming child thrashing at a sibling or parent for recompense at having been mistreated. The problem is that he is not a child, he is often a big, strong adult, thus his tantrums are proportionately more extreme and infinitely more harmful. A raging child is unpleasant and stressful to deal with; a raging narcissist can be scary, destructive and dangerous.

As we know, in the narcissist’s case, and underlying all pathological levels of narcissism, we enter the terrain of “over-entitlement,” really the bane of all interpersonal psychopathology. The narcissist believes that the world should treat him fairly, sensitively; he believes that the world—that is, everyone—should give him his due (whether he’s earned it or not); he has the underlying belief that he should be protected from, really excused from having to endure, the “slings and arrows” that others have to suffer with composure.

Deprive the narcissist of these protective, catering experiences and you are inviting his wrath and retribution. Consequently, the narcissist is at high risk to abuse his partners and others, domestically and otherwise.

The sociopath’s view of the world, in general, is somewhat different from the narcissist’s, which is to say that at sociopathic levels of narcissism, the sociopath is viewing the world from a somewhat different perspective than at the narcissistic level of narcissism.

Here’s the difference: whereas the narcissist, as I just noted, tends to regard the world, and all in it, as owing him unwavering respect, attention, recognition, sensitivity and the like, and will feel outraged to be denied this experience (his outrage leading directly to his rage), the sociopath, while he may be comparatively less obsessed with feeling appreciated, understood and getting his “due,” will be highly, uniquely oriented to viewing the world—and everyone in it—as existing to supply him with whatever he wants to “take” from it.

The sociopath, in this sense, feels entitled to “take” from others whatever it is he wants. Others do not exist as individuals with legitimate personal boundaries. There really are no boundaries sacred to the sociopath: if he can transgress boundaries to “take” what he wants, and “get away with it,” he will do so, because he feels absolutely entitled to have what he wants; if others have what he wants he feels absolutely entitled to take it or steal it from them; and the impact of his incursions on others’ space and dignity means nothing to him because the sociopath relates to others as “objects,” and thus feels no more remorse ransacking a human being than he would an empty room full of things he covets.

This obviously primes the sociopath to be a high-risk domestic violence offender. He will abuse easily, without compunction, because you are merely an “object” to him; in his frustration or rage, for instance, he might kick you in the stomach and bend you over in agony, and feel no more remorse than if he were to kick and dent his car door in a similar discharge of rage. As a matter of fact, his subsequent reaction is less likely to be genuine sorrow than regret, or worry, at the consequences or inconveniences that might ensue from his violent action. In any case, he is likely to stand over you and watch you writhe in pain on the floor as if he’s kicked a car door.

This summarizes some of the features and dynamics of these troubling personality types and what puts them at high risk to domestically abuse. I hope it’s a helpful summary.

(This article is copyrighted ©2012 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of female and/or male gender pronouns is strictly arbitrary and not to suggest that males and females aren’t both capable of exhibiting all the attitudes and behaviors discussed.)

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75 Comments on "Domestic violence and the high-risk personality disorders"

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Truthspeak: it’s just the turn of the tides, Dear. Something people like us just have to deal with: lack of understanding. I don’t think the knowledge of what survivors have been through has really sunk in yet in the psychological or medical profession.

I appreciate your suggestion so so much. Absolutely an amazing suggestion and I hope that you will continue to propose it. I know, for myself, coming out of a ten year psychological abuse, where I was almost held ‘captive’, has been very difficult for me and if I hadn’t of had THIS freedom of expression, here, at LF, I don’t know if I would have survived. LF came along in my life, at a time, that I was out of explanations and answers; where I felt as if perhaps I WAS the insane one. When I realized I wasn’t and started defending and standing up for myself, a pulling off of the mask, so to speak, is when the relationship turned a corner and then became violent and criminally stalking.

I am happy to report that the stalking has finally subsided but the ‘apprehension’ of ‘wondering’ still exists very strongly. These people are NOT to be trusted. Don’t fall into their charms.

Thank you for your attempt at suggesting something so very worthwhile. It is hopeful to know there are people like you out there trying to turn the tides.


i have read about borderlines because i was just diagnosed as one and i don’t seem to understand something, i am not violent at all, i hate violence, when i hear someone fight or argue or im around any kind of violence i run and hide but when i am angry, i take it out on myself usually, or when im angry i get impulsive and say things i end up regretting later and i feel bad about and i apologize constantly. When i am hurt, it feels like the end of the world but i never want anyone else to be hurt, i have been guilty of trying to make someone who has hurt me feel guilty but it never works and i end up feeling worse. Are there two different types of borderline?


aggression and rage does not necessarily equal to violence. Passive agressiveness is non physically violent, isn’t even shouting… but it’s still aggressive and implies rage. Borderline is often the diagnoze for someone who shows traits very similar to that of a narcissist or a sociopath, but lacking a history of violence.

I just very recently had a conversation with a professional online on another site regarding borderline disorder. She agreed that a sociopath is something to totally avoid and who cannot be helped with therapy at all, and therapy only implies helping the sociopath getting more perfected masks. But she mentioned a type of therapy that seems so far to have successful results in helping the borderliner with their disorder. I looked this up on the internet and at least the ‘success’ results seem to have some scientific research backup.

This therapy is called the Dialectical behavioral therapy, developed by Marsha Linehan. You can start looking into it at wiki

Also, do not forget to consider that how you experience your disorder (hurting yourself and guilt) does not equal to how someone else may experience a relation (family, friends and partners) with you. Steve’s article speaks from the pov of people who related with someone with borderline and were traumatized by it in the process.

Darwinsmom, great link!

Ab1980, there are different “classifications” of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Rage and violence doesn’t necessarily need to be PHYSICAL to qualify. There’s passive/aggressive behavior which is just as difficult to manage, and FAR more difficult to identify.

For example, if someone (like my son), becomes angry at his wife (which he did) and, in a fit of violent rage, grabs her around the throat and attempts to choke her to death (which he also did), that is a clear indication that something is terribly wrong. However, if I ask someone if they’d like some help with a household task and they respond, “If you want to,” that’s insidious. Either one does, or doesn’t, want my help, but the onus of the offer falls back onto the person who initially MADE the offer. IF this makes any sense.

Some aspects of BPD can absolutely be managed through intense counseling therapy, but ONLY if the client recognizes that they need to change their behaviors.

Brightest blessings to you

Well, when “IT” threatened to GUT me, one time, I told him: “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, Buddy…”

That’s the way I feel about it anymore.
When someone is threatening to physically harm you,
and you know it’s a ppath, how wise would that be to
continuing trusting? That’s a very invisible line to find,
sometimes. When the moment is right to just get away.

Physical violence and outbursts of it are a HUGE SIGN that there is something wrong – SERIOUSLY WRONG.


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