Shiny outside, dark side within – the narcissist.

By David Joel Miller.

Narcissists are dazzling at first.

In psychology, there’s an idea referred to as trait narcissism. This trait is closely related to self-esteem and measures how good you feel about yourself. As your narcissism rises, you feel better about yourself. Generally, this is considered a good thing. As your self-esteem rises you take better care of yourself. You may dress better and exhibit more self-confidence. The problems begin when the narcissist loses the ability to empathize with others, and it becomes all about them. At that point, high trait narcissism, or self-esteem, can become a destructive pathological narcissism we call narcissistic personality disorder.

Too much narcissism quickly turns repulsive.

People who have dated pathological narcissists report that in the beginning, the narcissist was extremely attractive. They often dress well, have expensive cars, and appear successful. Pathological narcissists have attracted fields where they can run the show and be in control of others.

When you first meet them, Narcissists are charming. Romantic partners find themselves swept off their feet. In romantic relationships, the problems begin to appear about the seventh date. In business contexts, it may take many months to recognize the destructive aspects of the narcissist.

In narcissism confidence becomes arrogance.

Confidence is a good thing when it comes from a high level of skill and talent. What makes the narcissist dangerous is that their confidence is the result of overvaluing their abilities. Narcissists are good at boasting that they can’t produce the result. What looked like competent turns out to be arrogance. They overestimate themselves and underestimate everyone else.

The narcissist’s overconfidence turns out to be a lack of insight.

Narcissists seek evidence that they are always right and superior to others. Consequently, they discount the opinions and contributions of others. They lose the ability to understand how their actions are affecting others. Narcissists, the pathological kinds, just don’t care about other people. Their view of the world is unrealistic they are unable to accept that they are less than perfect.

The Charming narcissist becomes manipulative and impulsive.

When you first meet a narcissist, they turn on the charm. This is easy for them to do because they fully believe that everyone worships them and that they are superior to others. Because of their unrealistic self-confidence and don’t think things over and act impulsively. These impulsive actions based on the belief that they are always right in their actions should always be admired.

With a narcissist, a dramatic life turns into attention-seeking histrionics.

Because of their grandiose beliefs, narcissists tend to live drama filled lives. They live larger than life adventures. In their minds, they should be the stars of their own reality show. If others interested in him should lag, they’re likely to behave in histrionic ways.

It’s not unusual for people with pathological narcissism, technically called narcissistic personality disorder, to also qualify for diagnoses of histrionic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. When you believe, you are that wonderful; it’s easy to believe that everything should be about you and that the rules that apply to ordinary mortals don’t apply to you.

With the narcissist, imaginative becomes odd, even bizarre.

People who are high in self-confidence are often imaginative and creative. When self-esteem moves into being feelings of superiority, that creative streak can become bizarre thinking and behavior.

More about Narcissists.

As we move through our series of Narcissism posts, feel free to ask questions and leave comments. To help you find these posts, below are some links to point you in the right direction. Keep in mind that all the posts about narcissists appeared in the narcissism category but links to future posts will not be live until future posts appear.

Narcissism category.                          Personality disorders.

Narcissistic traits.                               Psychology. (coming soon)

Narcissistic relationship partner.        Relationships.

Self-esteem.                                        Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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Surviving a Narcissist.

By David Joel Miller.

Some narcissists you just cope with.

a narcissist

Surviving a Narcissist.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

It may be hard, but there are plenty of times in life when you are going to have to get along with difficult people. Narcissists turn up everywhere you go. Some occupations, business management, politics and other high-pressure jobs attract people who are high in narcissistic traits. I’m beginning to believe that some jobs turn vulnerable people into pathological narcissists. Sometimes, for your own peace of mind, you must find ways to work with them.

If you are in a close, romantic relationship with the narcissist, or if they are a relative you may decide that you just have to accept them the way they are. Sometimes it’s not worth the conflict to upset your narcissist.

Here are some suggestions for surviving that narcissistic encounter.

Give that narcissist lots of praise.

Narcissists expect, need, frequent praise and complements. The best way to get along with a narcissist is to give them lots of approval. Some narcissists are insecure, and they crave praise. If you don’t give it to them, they are offended. Other narcissists believe they deserve your appreciation and will feel cheated if you don’t express your admiration. Hand out that verbal recognition in front of others to maximize its effects.

If you must criticize a narcissist, do it in private.

Narcissists expect to be praised and admired. Saying anything negative or disagreeing with them in public is likely to be taken as a personal attack. If you are forced to disagree with a narcissist or give them bad news, do it privately so that their public persona remains undamaged.

Make the narcissist the center of attention.

The higher that someone in your life is in narcissism the more they believe they should be the center of attention. If you take the spotlight off the narcissist, expect an all-out war. When they are in the room, let them shine. Your time comes with a narcissist is off stage. If you want to earn extra points, make sure you mentioned their contribution favorably whenever you get recognized.

Get clear on the narcissist’s rules.

Narcissists believe they are superior to others. If you want cooperation, make sure you know what their rules are and follow them. They may have a distorted understanding of truth, lies, and loyalty. You need to develop an understanding of when leaving negative things out will be considered lying and when not telling them your criticism will be considered loyal.

Do not cross a narcissist.

Because of the narcissist’s sense of entitlement, they are very likely to take everything personally. Before you take action, consider carefully whether the narcissist will agree with what you said and did. In making choices, your primary consideration will be making the narcissist happy. Make sure what you do will make them look good.

Keep your narcissist laughing, use humor.

Don’t get heavy or serious with the narcissist. They expect to be the source of all important ideas. Keep it light. Look for ways to keep them laughing. When you make the narcissist happy, they like you. Avoid being the one to bring them bad news. Narcissists are likely to blame the messenger. They tend to reward people who tell them what they want to hear even when it’s untrue. Narcissists are equally likely to punish people who bring them bad news even when it is a necessary truth.

More about Narcissists.

As we move through our series of Narcissism posts, feel free to ask questions and leave comments. To help you find these posts, below are some links to point you in the right direction. Keep in mind that all the posts about narcissists appeared in the narcissism category but links to future posts will not be live until future posts appear.

Narcissism category.                          Personality disorders.

Narcissistic traits.                               Psychology. (coming soon)

Narcissistic relationship partner.        Relationships.

Self-esteem.                                        Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

What are personality disorder clusters?

By David Joel Miller.

What are the three main groups of personality disorders?

What is? Series

What are personality disorder clusters?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The newest edition of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders divides personality disorders into three categories based on their similarities.  Personality disorders are long-term or enduring patterns of behavior.  The old way of thinking about these issues was that this is just the way someone is and treatment was not likely to be successful.

Recently treatments for many of the personality disorders have become available.  Currently, we think of many of these personality disorders as problems of living which may occur in varying degrees.  Someone who is low in self-esteem might be described as low in narcissism.  If they were high in narcissism they might be lacking in the ability to empathize with others.  Below is a list of the clusters of Personality disorders with brief descriptions of the disorders in that cluster.  For longer discussions of the personality disorders see separate posts on the specific personality disorder.

Cluster A personality disorders.

This group of personality disorders includes people who appear odd or eccentric.  Among the Cluster A personality disorders, are Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

Paranoid Personality Disorder involves people who are more fearful of people, life, and events that would be warranted.  They are especially likely to think that other people are out to get them.

Those with Schizoid Personality Disorder are detached from others and seem to have little desire to have close personal relationships. They have less ability to express emotions.

In Schizotypal Personality Disorder, people are very uncomfortable in close relationships, have eccentric behavior and may have thinking or perceptual difficulties.

Cluster B personality disorders.

Cluster B personality disorders include things like Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Those with antisocial personality disorder seem to have little regard for others and their rights.  They don’t mind taking advantage of people around them.  This is different from those people who may make a life out of crime and intentionally steal from, or harm other.  Career criminals get a diagnosis of Adult antisocial behavior Z72.811.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder are likely to have a poor self-image, low self-esteem, fluctuating emotions and often are very impulsive in their relationships.  Those with Borderline Personality Disorder may also self-harm.

Histrionic Personality Disorder might be described as the typical “Sarah Bernhardt” actress.  Someone with histrionic personality disorder is excessively emotional and is always looking for more attention.

Cluster C personality disorders.

Cluster C personality disorders include disorders related to relationships with other people.  These personality disorders in Cluster C are thought to begin in early childhood. They include unusual ways of relating to close people in their life. This includes Avoidant Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

People with Avoidant Personality Disorder avoid other people, feel that they’re inadequate, and are often very sensitive to criticism.

Those with Dependent Personality Disorder are the people likely to become co-dependents.   They are often submissive, clingy, with an excessive need to find someone who will take care of them and control their lives.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is different and separate from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  When the pattern of being obsessive-compulsive becomes a preoccupation with orderliness, perfection, control, having everything exactly the way they need it to be at all times, this moves from a single obsessive compulsive behavior to the level of a continuing personality disorder.

In addition to the three personality disorder clusters, two other personality disorder characteristics are described in the DSM-5.  Sometimes a personality disorder can be the result of medical conditions.  The DSM-5 also allows for other specified personality disorder or other unspecified personality disorder when one exists that does not fit this list.

Each of these personality disorders is described more completely in other “What is” posts about that specific personality disorder.

As with the other things we are calling a mental illness this needs to interfere with your ability to work or go to school, your relationships your enjoyable activities or cause you personal distress.

Having mild forms of these disorders does not qualify unless it causes you problems.  In that case, you may have the issues, but you will not get the diagnoses. If the only time this happens is when under the influence of drugs or medicines or because of some other physical or medical problem these characteristics need to be more than your situation would warrant. These other issue needs treating first, then if you still have symptoms you could get this diagnosis.

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

See Recommended Books.     More “What is” posts will be found at “What is.”

Personality Disorders

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Do you have Borderline Personality Disorder?

By David Joel Miller

What are the signs and symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?

Problems with identifying Borderline Personality Disorder.

Borderline

Borderline
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Borderline Personality Disorder formerly called Borderline conditions has received a lot of attention recently. It is one of those troubling conditions that looks differently to different people.

If you have Borderline Personality Disorder you know the suffering having this disorder can cause. If you have lived with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder you know how frustrating this can be. This difference in perspective is one of the problems with the increased attention to the disorder.

Many of the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder overlap or are the same as symptoms of other disorders. So when should someone get a Borderline diagnosis and when should we call it something else? Sometimes those iffy cases get a notation put on their chart “Borderline traits” rather than the full diagnosis. Electronic medical records are making it harder to leave notes like that and this may result in more people getting the full diagnosis.

For the record, diagnosis is not a do it yourself project. Mental Health, as well as physical health diagnosing, should be done by a professional. But so many people out there are being called Borderline these days and talking about it is so common, it is worth looking at the whole “what is Borderline Personality Disorder?” question.

There are efforts to come up with some kind of definitive test for borderline and other mental health conditions. At this time we can read research reports of “markers” and risk factors for many mental illnesses but we can’t be sure what is causing them. For example over 95% of people with Borderline Personality Disorder also have a sleep disorder.

Lacking a good test, mental conditions are diagnosed by looking at symptoms and seeing if someone has enough symptoms and if they are severe enough to need treating.

With so many Borderline symptoms overlapping or look just like symptoms of other mental illnesses, what name something gets called may depend on which symptoms are seen at any given appointment and the perspective of the viewer. We want to avoid normal problems of life being called diseases but this causes another problem.

Many mental illnesses are caused by identifiable life events. PTSD and other stress disorders need an identifiable stressor to get diagnosed. Many, but not all, people with Borderline Personality Disorder can point to some life event that started their symptoms.

As more people know about Borderline Personality Disorder more people are coming to believe that they have the condition. Family, Friends, and relationship partners are likely to blame all the interpersonal or relationship problems on someone having Borderline Personality Disorder. I suspect that professionals are going along with this and giving the diagnosis out more often.

Is Borderline Personality Disorder an illness or a lack of mental wellness?

Symptoms of Borderline personality disorder can vary from person to person and they may vary in intensity. This has resulted in an increasing amount of discussion, and a past counselors soapbox blog post about whether there may be Levels or Types of Borderline Personality Disorder.  There has also been some professional discussion about whether some clients have been given the diagnosis because they angered the treating professional.

Some of you have noticed from my other writings that I believe strongly in Wellness and Recovery. (See post on Mental Illness or Mental Health.)

Many of the things we call “Mental illness” are on a continuum. Those problems get better or they get worse. Sometimes in life, we get sad. When that sadness keeps you from working or enjoying life we call it depression and it deserves to get treated. The same thing is true of Borderline Personality Disorder. Many people with this condition do get better.

As we look at the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder below I will comment on some of the questions you might have about each one of the symptoms. This discussion is based on the SAMHSA publication titled An Introduction to Co-Occurring Borderline Personality Disorder and Substance Use Disorders. This publication was written primarily for professionals but I include it here in case any of you want to see the original source. The SAMHSA publication draws on the DSM-5 (DSM is a registered trademark of the APA,which some of you may also want to consult. The paraphrasing and comments are mine, so let’s hope I get this right. If you have or think you may have this condition please see a professional in your area.

Below are some of the typical features of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Borderline Personality is not common except in psychiatric hospitals.

Estimates of how common Borderline Personality really vary. In the general population, it is estimated at around one to two percent. In inpatient psychiatric facilities the rate of Borderline Personality Diagnosis can reach 20%. That suggests to me that this is a very impairing condition.

Notice as we go through these symptoms that many of these are things that have been considered “female” characteristics. Turns out that three out of every four people who get the Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis are female. Also many of these symptoms are exactly what we would expect in someone with a Stress or Trauma Related Disorder as in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or a Dissociative Disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder is not simply a matter of being overly dramatic or wanting attention. Most, about 80%, attempt suicide and they die from suicide attempts at about 50 TIMES the rate of the general population. This does not need to happen as there are effective treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder available. Additionally about 80 percent of those with this diagnosis cut on themselves, which is often called Non-Suicidal Self Injury. Some people with this condition both cut and attempt suicide.

Symptom – Intense fear of abandonment and efforts to avoid it.

Many, not all, people with Borderline Personality Disorder were abused or neglected as children. Some had this experience in adult life. This suggests that these fears are both rationally based on experience and learned. If you learned to be fearful you can learn to not be fearful. But lessons learned very early in life may be much more difficult to unlearn. For many this fear of abandonment makes sense.

Borderline symptom – troubled, vacillating relationships with others.

In a single session with a therapist someone high in borderline traits may tell the therapist that they love them and they are the only on that ever understood them and then later they will say that they hate the therapist and “you just don’t understand at all.”

The same thing happens in their personal relationships. They fall in love quickly and they fall out just as rapidly. They have over inflated views of their potential partners and then they feel tricked, deceived and angry. Relationships with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder can include fabulous sex followed by violent fights.

Don’t know who you are and who you are keeps changing.

People with borderline conditions have more difficult than others in telling you what they like, who they are and they look to others to define themselves.

Impulsive acts are common in Borderline Personality Disorders.

Risky sexual behaviors are the most commonly noted behaviors. Over-spending and reckless driving are also included in this definition. Frequent conflicts with others are common.

Suicidal Behaviors or Self-Mutilation.

People with borderline personality disorder are often overwhelmed by emotion and then hurt themselves rather than express their anger towards the person that angered or hurt them. This kind of sudden flip in their feelings towards others and then their impulsive behavior can look a lot like Bipolar and turns out that many people get both diagnosis or they are moved back and forth. It is of course very possible for someone to have more than one disorder.

Borderline make people feeling empty.

Since people with Borderline do not know who they are and they fear being abandoned, this makes sense. If you look for your self-worth from others and then feel empty or nothing at all when you are not getting positive interactions from those others you can feel empty. Some of these characteristics may sound like an immature or selfish person. If you did not get enough food as a child you may be physically stunted. If you are abused or neglected as a child or abused drugs and alcohol, then you may not have learned the lessons you need to learn back then. The result is continuing to use coping strategies that may have kept you alive or got some of your needs met as a child but they are not working now. This is true of some people with Borderline Personality Disorder but not all.

Remember that these explanations are ideas about how things could happen but not precise formulas for how it did happen to any one particular person.

Episodes of strong, excessive anger.

There is no specific diagnosis for “anger issues” despite how common referrals to therapy for “Anger Management” are. Anger is a symptom reported in many other mental or emotional issues. What further clouds this picture is the high rate of Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use Disorders among those with Borderline Personality Disorder. Depression can also lead to irritability and then anger. What is looked for in Borderline Personality Disorders is sudden explosive anger often with fights and violence, that come on unexpectedly with someone who shortly before was a close friend or loved one.

Borderline may include Stress related Dissociation or Paranoia.

This can be a problematic symptom in practice. Part of the way we identify paranoia is that the fear is excessive. Men are taught to approach things they fear. Kill it if possible. This results in men getting acting out, violence related diagnoses. Women are taught to avoid danger and if you have been victimized in the past you recognize danger coming. So if you have been abused once the fear that your new boyfriend will abuse you sounds reasonable not paranoid. See how this can be an issue?

It is also possible that “dissociation” gets pathologized. Some dissociating or “spacing out” is normal in children or those who are overwhelmed. People who suffer trauma may well dissociate. So it seems to me that cases of excessive dissociation may get swept into the Borderline Personality Disorder category rather than being recognized for what they are. As before someone could have both Borderline Personality Disorder and Dissociative Disorder.

Those are my thoughts on recognizing Borderline Personality Disorder and how it and other conditions may be getting mixed together. If you or someone you care about may have this condition consider professional help. If they do not have this problem please stop calling everyone you dislike Borderline. You may also want to check out other counselorssoapbox posts on Personality Disorders.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Why are sleep disorders listed as mental illnesses?

By David Joel Miller.

What are Sleep-Wake Disorders?

Dream or Nightmare

Dream – Photo courtesy of Flickr (Melody Campbell)

Are problems with sleeping or staying awake making a mess of your life? Then you may have a sleep-wake disorder on top of all your other problems. Why does this matter? Because an untreated sleep-wake disorder will make all your other problems worse.

These issues turn up in the therapist or mental health counselor’s office when people start talking about their concerns with both the quality and the quantity of their sleep. Often this is because those sleep issues are impacting their wide-awake life. When sleep issues start interfering with your job, relationship, or just plain making you not care anymore it needs attention.

This group of disorders sits at the intersection of mental and physical problems and reminds us that the distinction between body and mind is not all that clear-cut. The nervous system connects with the limbic system so your thoughts and feelings impact your immune system. You bodies physical ailments affect your mood.

With the introduction of the DSM-5 clinicians in the mental health, area are getting a chance to take another look at the connections between sleep and mental health. One rule for therapists is to not be practicing medicine. If a therapist has any doubts, they should refer you to a medical doctor to get a purely medical cause of your issues ruled out or treated before using a primarily talk method to help you.

Some sleep disorder problems can best be determined by sleep specialists. These issues look differently when you try to describe them the next day versus when you are being monitored in a sleep lab and they can be detected right then and there. Your diagnosis may depend on whether the problem occurs during REM sleep or non-REM sleep. Even medical doctors can’t get this part sometimes without sleep tests. The International Classification of Sleep disorders – 2 is a far more exhaustive than the DSM or other possible lists, but it requires a sleep specialist to run tests to get this right.

Poor sleep can be a symptom of a mental disorder. Changes in sleep and appetite are one of the things that professionals look for in diagnosing depressive disorders. But poor sleep is not specific to depression or any one particular mental disorder. Sleep-wake cycle disorders affect a host of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.

Poor sleep, especially distressing dreams, bad dreams, and nightmares have been connected to depression, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorders, substance use disorder, substance withdrawal, an increase in suicide risk, PTSD and non-suicidal self-injury also known as cutting.

While poor sleep is found in conjunction with a lot of mental illnesses, it has also been suspected to cause mental illnesses. For example, nightmares are a key factor in maintaining Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) Having frequent distressing dreams in childhood predicts the development of an anxiety disorder 5 years later. While nightmares and bad dreams may change and decline as you age, the majority of people who will get diagnosed with an anxiety disorder will have symptoms in middle school at just the time disturbing dreams are at their worst.

Sleep problems are also connected to behavioral problems. Children who are treated for behavioral issues also have nightmares or bad dreams on a regular basis. People with insomnia are at risk to have more nightmares and more nightmares increase the risk of developing a stress-related disorder like PTSD.

It is easy for a therapist or counselor to overlook sleep-wake disorders. If you have depression or anxiety, those sleep issues may be considered symptoms of your depression or anxiety. Make sure you mention the sleep problems to your therapist. If you have sleep-wake cycle problems, whether they are caused by another mental illness or not, if they bother you they should get diagnosed and treated along with the other issue.

Some Nightmares are harder to treat than others. The ones found in PTSD about things that have really happened to you are harder to get rid of than other bad dreams, but there are treatments for these nightmares that do work. Bad dreams based on generalized anxiety have been treated in children with as little as one therapy session. There will be more on treatments for sleep-wake cycle issues in upcoming posts.

Here is the list of Sleep-Wake disorders based on the DSM with their most current numbers.

Scary list isn’t it? For a full discussion, you would need to check out the APA’s book DSM-5. I will try to give you the short plain language versions of these issues in upcoming posts.

Sleep-Wake Disorders

Insomnia Disorder 780-52 (G47.00)

Hypersomnolence 780.54 (G47.10)

Narcolepsy (subtypes/specifiers have different numbers.)

Breathing –Related Sleep Disorders

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Hypopnea 327.23 (G47.33)

Central Sleep Apnea (subtypes/specifiers have different numbers.)

Sleep-Related Hypoventilation (subtypes/specifiers have different numbers.)

Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Disorders (subtypes/specifiers have different numbers.)

Parasomnias

Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Arousal Disorders

Nightmare Disorder 307.47 (F51.5)

Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behavior disorder 327.42 (G47.52)

Restless Legs Syndrome 33.94 (G25.81)

Substance/Medication-Induced Sleep Disorder (you need a number chart for this one)

Other Specified/ Other unspecified – Insomnia/ Hypersomnolence or Sleep-Wake Disorder (6 total)

Which sleep-wake disorders are mental health issues?

Some of these disorders are pretty straightforward, some are medical issues, some are psychological and a few are mixed, other sleep-wake disorders are even more complex. Nightmare disorder is a good example of the confusion. In common speech, nightmares are those bad dreams you have that upset you. In technical terms, bad dreams, nightmares, night terrors are all different things, sometimes. Even the researchers use different definitions in their articles.

In coming posts let’s look at the various sleep-wake disorders and treatments for them. Until then sleep well or consider getting help.

You might want to take a look at other posts on:

Sleep

Dreams and Nightmares 

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Nonsuicidal Self Injury – Cutting to stop pain

By David Joel Miller

What is cutting – Non-suicidal Self-Injury?

Cutting

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Non-suicidal self-injury often called cutting, is another of those troubling conditions that send people to hospitals, physical and mental hospitals. Intentional self-burning, head banging, hair pulling, hitting yourself and repetitive skin picking are other examples of this thing we call Non-suicidal self-injury. Non-suicidal self-injury causes a lot of suffering for those who do it and for those around them, and yet this problem, like anger, does not get the recognition of a separate diagnosis. FYI Hair pulling has gotten its own diagnosis called Trichotillomania.

Deliberate self-injury is a behavior. Like many behaviors, it can be misunderstood. If someone waves at you, they may be calling you over, they may be telling you to get away from where you are or it may be a way to say hello. It might even have another meaning. Self-injury is like that, a behavior, which may have different meanings.

Non-suicidal self-injury is a condition that has been researched and has been proposed for inclusion in the DSM as a recognizable mental illness. Currently, it is not a “stand alone diagnosis.” Non-suicidal self-injury is listed in the back of the DSM-5 as a “condition for further study.”

If someone engages in non-suicidal self-injury, the kind we think is a mental illness, the most likely way it gets categorized is as a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder. Sometimes it is a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder or Borderline traits, sometimes not. Borderline Personality disorder is the only mental health condition that lists both suicide and Nonsuicidal self-injury as symptoms despite the high or increased rates of self-harm in other disorders like depression, bipolar and alcohol use disorders. First, the things Nonsuicidal self-injury is not and then what we or I think it is.

What Non-suicidal self-injury is not.

Non-suicidal self-injury is not simply a teen thing.

The kind of thing we mean when we talk about Non-suicidal self-injury, the one that gets diagnosed and treated is not a fad or a rite of passage. I know there are those who cut, tattoo or brand themselves because they want to scar their body to look cool or to impress their friends. This is not what we are talking about when we say Non-suicidal self-injury – the disease.

Nonsuicidal self-injury is not a request for attention.

Yes, some people do this behavior to get noticed or to get something they want. One way to differentiate this is to ask where they self-injury. Most people who seek attention cut in places that are clearly visible. Those who do it as a result of an emotional or mental issue cut or otherwise self-injure in places that are not visible, the stomach or the thighs and they often wear long sleeves, even in the heat of the summer, to cover the cuts. The distinction is that those who develop the illness Non-suicidal self-injury often try to hide their cutting.

What Nonsuicidal self-injury is.

A way to cope with emotional pain.

Transforming emotional pain into physical pain can seem like a way to escape that emotional pain. While it does work, at least some of the time it is not a desirable way to cope. Good coping mechanisms need to be not only effective but safe also. Treatments for Non-suicidal self-injury include lots of learning and practice of alternative coping skills sometimes referred to as recovery tools.

A way to cope with dissociation

Some people report they self-harm to feel or to feel real. This numbing out is a symptom of dissociation and related disorders. Dissociation is not always recognized for what it is. Dissociation needs treatment for what it is not just for the behaviors like anger or cutting.

If you live in chronic emotional numbness then the only time you may be able to feel anything is when you substitute physical pain for the constant numbing emotional hurts.

Non-suicidal self-injury is a way to regulate emotions.

Some people have difficulty regulating their emotions. They may have suffered traumas, grown up in a dysfunctional home or have personality characteristics that make them more prone to be overloaded with emotions. Take a look at the post Emotional Avalanches and Feelings Landslides which discusses how people can be suddenly swept away by feelings floods.

Cutting or other types of non-suicidal self-injury is one way some people cope with these feelings avalanches. Violent outburst is another way. The topic of violent outbursts and emotional regulation is covered in the series on “Anger Management.”

Rumination plays a major role in depression, anxiety, and anger as well as in causing emotional landslides.

Some of the links above may not be active yet. The bold-underlined terms mean that a post is up or will be coming shortly. I will try to get the links in here as the new articles post. If any links (the ones in blue) do not work let me know and I will work on fixing them.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Why do people act in Passive Aggressive way?

By David Joel Miller.

Why must they act Passive Aggressive?

Passive Aggressive Sign

Passive Aggressive Sign.
Photo courtesy of Flickr (nedrichards)

Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder used to be a recognized mental illness. Then in the DSM-4, it was reduced to a condition that may need more study and most recently it has simply disappeared from our way of thinking of mental illnesses.

Remember that there are times when a person gets criticized for adopting this form of behavior, maybe even referred for psychiatric care and then other people may be praised for adopting some form of passive reaction to an injustice.

So let’s look at why some people may adopt Passive Aggressive Behavior and why we are no longer so sure that it should qualify as a mental illness.

There are legitimate reasons people do not just come out and say what they mean. There are also reasons people may choose to say nothing but fail to carry through on things they were told to do. Passive-Aggressive behavior can be the result of some of those reasons.

People become Passive Aggressive when they have no power or control.

Children, especially if they are in an abusive or non-loving home, may not feel they can say no to their parents. They get out of things, not by saying no or discussing things but by taking excessive time or doing things wrong. If they break enough dishes mom may stop asking them to do the dishes.

The same behavior makes sense in the boss and employee situation. Sometimes you can’t tell the boss no, so you just do not get around to doing things that would be a waste of time anyway. Not everyone does this. Some employees are very conscientious, but the worse the boss in terms of giving arbitrary orders and not allowing people to disagree the more likely this becomes.

Some people use Passive-Aggressive behavior more often than others.

If you came from a family where it was not acceptable to disagree with the parents or worse yet where you were not supposed to have any feeling unless they were sanctioned by the adult, you are more likely to hide your anger and then express it in Passive Aggressive ways.

Mental health clinicians used to think that there were things we called “Personality Disorders” and the presumption was that people who had these were always like that and that they were hard to treat and never changed. These premises have recently been called into question. Turns out that people can change their behavior when the situation changes.

One other thing that cuts against the validity of there being such a thing as Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder is that it is mostly used in situations where there is a weaker person who is unable to disagree with a stronger person or in a close situation like marriage where sometimes we want to avoid both doing what the other person told us to do and also avoid making this into an argument.

One characteristic that has been used to differentiate Passive Aggressive behavior from something like passive nonviolence is the level of anger or hostility that the person using passive aggressive behavior is experiencing.

When the non-doing stops being a way of avoiding conflict and becomes a way to harm someone else without having to accept the responsibility that hidden or veiled aggression can drive the most rational person to open hostility.

One aspect of Passive aggressive behavior that has received a lot of attention is the times when it appears to be motivated by contrariness or oppositional motives. When a youth adopts the position that they will avoid doing whatever the adult asks them to do just for the sake of asserting that the adult cannot control them this can escalate to severe problems.

Frankly, much of what was getting called Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder looks way more like Oppositional Defiant Disorder when we see it in youths.

Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder shared so many features in common with other personality disorders and with depression and anxiety most professionals only used it when a parent or spouse said that was what the client was doing.

Most of the things we have been thinking of as personality disorders include a lot of antagonism towards others. Sometimes this is because the person’s life experiences tell them that they will not be treated fairly if they openly disagree or resist the will of others.

So while you will still read about Passive Aggressive people, mental health has largely concluded that this is not a mental illness but is a way that some people cope with not being able to express disagreement. In other words, Passive Aggressive behavior is a symptom of some other problem rather than being a particular treatable disease.

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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