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Tuesday, November 24, 2009 Confused, Community Member, asks

Q: Is he bipolar or narcsistic?

My boyfriend is the most wonderful man in the world.  Until he finds something that he doesn't find acceptable.  He gets angry over things most people will brush off.  An example is when I moved his dishes to the top cupboard instead of leaving them out for decoration.  I have two children under the age of 7 and I constantly move them in order to eat at the table.  He said I disrepected his house.  He refuses to see that my concerns, emotions, etc are any concern if his.  He has major mood swings and is a light sleeper.  He has very little friends and is very needy.  He is very self-centered and doesn't trust people.  The conversation always turns out to be that he is the victim and he does not take responsibility for his actions, comments, etc. 

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Answers (1)
John McManamy, Health Guide
11/25/09 2:56am

Hi, Confused. Immediate response: It's hard to tell.

 

Now let's try a more considered response: When you're confused about people you're having trouble with in your life, it's tempting to want to ascribe a mental disorder to their behavior. Bipolar, unfortunately, seems to be the illness of choice these days. Back in the old days, we simply referred to such individuals as a-holes. Pity us poor bipolars who are constantly getting a bad rap.

 

Yes, your boyfriend's mood swings may be a sign of bipolar, but his controlling behavior is probably an unpleasant facet of his personality. Or he could simply be over-reactive to what he sees as an encroachment on his personal boundaries. We all have personality issues in abundance, and relationships pose a lot of challenges in this department. Only when these issues seriously interfere with function (such as work and relationships) do we begin to consider the prospect of a personality disorder.

 

Narcissism is a type of personality disorder, but its clinical meaning is different than the popular conception. In the popular mind, a narcissist is simply someone with an over-inflated ego. In psychiatry, a narcissist is someone who has a very distorted view of reality. These individuals see themselves as at the center of their own fantasy universe, typically in a starring role (such as a hero) with everyone else in subservient roles. Woe to the bit player who steps outside their assigned role and pricks the narcissist's bubble. A narcissistic rage is the usual result.

 

There is a such thing as a "functional" narcissist, which I interpret to mean as he can be very successful while he makes you very miserable.

 

An important thing to bear in mind: You say your boyfriend is the most wonderful man in the world. He can still be the most wonderful man in the world with bipolar, but having him in your life is probably going to be a challenge. Nevertheless, assuming your boyfriend is responsible in managing his illness and you are willing to offer the support he needs, there is the possibility for much happiness in your relationship.

 

Out of control personality issues - whether full-blown disorders or not - on the other hand pose a whole different set of challenges. The test: If during a conversation you two can resolve an issue that's been bugging you (such as him getting angry about the plates) then there is hope in your relationship. One or both of you modify your behavior, the two of you move on, the relationship grows. When there is no resolution - then you have trouble. Maybe he feels threatened, maybe you do. Maybe he refuses to talk, maybe you do. Maybe he counter-attacks when you raise a valid discussion point, maybe you do.

 

So, whether bipolar or personality or all of the above or none of the above - the major question is this: Can you two resolve your differences? There will be inevitable clashes and arguments. But when the dust clears, are you confident that one or both of you will modify your behavior?

 

As you can see, I can not give you a definitive answer to your question, but I hope I've given you something to think about.

 

 

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By Confused, Community Member— Last Modified: 10/26/11, First Published: 11/24/09