Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Abuse, mental illness, and alcoholism – how are they related?

For years many believed that domestic violence was caused by alcohol. This is not really true: abusers can use alcohol as an excuse for their behavior, and alcohol can magnify the violence once it starts, but the real connection between the two problems – alcohol and violence – is that they seem to stem from the same mind set. People with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) are the people who in the past would be called psychopaths or sociopaths; it seems that ASPD can cause both domestic violence and alcohol/drug abuse: both can stem from the same disorder, rather than the alcohol causing the violence. This is, of course, only a generalization: you really can’t diagnose an individual person via an internet avenue like this.

ASPD may include lying, using aliases, conning others, stealing, irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, verbal abuse, physical fights or assaults, crime, drugs, paranoia, or cruelty to animals. A person with ASPD has trouble controlling impulses or anger, planning ahead, empathizing, caring about the safety or rights or boundaries of others, tolerating boredom, holding a job, handling finances, showing remorse, accepting responsibility for hurting or stealing from others.

ASPD-driven domestic-violence stalkers are liable to evince the same patterns: minimizing, denying, rationalizing their behavior, or blaming someone else (often the victim) for what they do. Some people with ASPD can be helped if they admit they have a problem, they want to fix it, and they have someone holding them accountable – a judge, a tough therapist, whoever. These, again, are generalizations, and you’d need a qualified professional to make a diagnosis.

Like most people with mental illness, ASPD sufferers know right from wrong. They know that beating their wives is wrong. Real delusional out-of-control psychosis is very rare.

One feature which is particularly strong in domestic abusers is the need for control. It is human nature to want to influence others and make them do what you want, but abusers take it too frightening extremes.

Incidentally, for the victims themselves, using alcohol and drugs makes it harder for you to cope with everything else that is going on in your life – the abuser, kids, work, everything. It could also make things harder if your family situation goes to court. Never get drunk or high in front of the kids, or in front of the cops, or in front of the judge. If you can kick the habit, kick it, for all the obvious reasons, as soon as you can. Your local domestic violence center will almost certainly be able to hook you up with a program, and possibly find you child care while you detox if need be. If you're not sure you have a problem, there are online questionnaires that can help.

That issue is part of a larger issue for DV survivors: if you have to go into court for anything, it looks much better if you don't have a criminal record. Don't give the judge an excuse to stop listening to you.

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