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Stunted Emotional Growth

Definition:

Stunted Emotional Growth - Reluctance or inability to learn from mistakes, work on self-improvement or develop more effective coping strategies.

Description:

It's common for people who suffer from personality disorders to be described as "childish" or "immature" by those who live and work with them. This is often because the cognitive development process which most people use to learn better strategies for problem solving and for calculating cost/benefit analyses is not so readily available to those who suffer from personality disorders.

People who suffer from personality disorders have a strong connection between the decision-making parts of their brains and their emotions or feelings. On the other hand, those who do not suffer from personality disorders typically have stronger connections between the logical risk/reward parts of their brains and their decision making.

As a result people with personality disorders are sometimes seen as reactionary, over-emotional, immature, unreliable etc. by those who have a more logical basis for their decision making. They may seem to "never learn". This is because they often make their decisions based on their feelings rather than what they understand to be true. This can make them seem less mature.

Examples:

Chaos Manufacture - Unnecessarily creating or maintaining an environment of risk, destruction, confusion or mess.

Engulfment - An unhealthy and overwhelming level of attention and dependency on another person, which comes from imagining or believing one exists only within the context of that relationship.

Hysteria - An inappropriate over-reaction to bad news or disappointments, which diverts attention away from the real problem and towards the person who is having the reaction.

Impulsiveness - The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.

Lack of Object Constancy - An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.

Panic Attacks - Short intense episodes of fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as hyperventilating, shaking, sweating and chills.

Raging, Violence and Impulsive Aggression - Explosive verbal, physical or emotional elevations of a dispute. Rages threaten the security or safety of another individual and violate their personal boundaries.

Self-Harm - Any form of deliberate, premeditated injury, such as cutting, poisoning or overdosing, inflicted on oneself.

Self-Loathing - An extreme hatred of one's own self, actions or one's ethnic or demographic background.

What it feels like:

It's very frustrating to live with someone who appears to be immature or who repeats the same mistakes.

Many parents of teenagers express the same frustrations with their children that non-personality disordered people express about their loved-ones. This is similar since young people have not yet developed all the connections in their brains to the frontal cortex - the risk/reward calculating area of the brain.

The result is often anger, exasperation and frustration. This can lead to poor decision making on the part of the non-personality disordered individual if they are not careful.

Learning to Cope:

It's important to understand and come to an acceptance that the brains of people who suffer from personality disorders are wired differently and they are not able to change that or just snap out of it. Therefore common approaches such as arguing, guilt trips and reasoning are often ineffective. It's important to learn about what can and can't be changed to save frustration for yourself and for the person who you are trying to change.

What NOT to Do:

  • Don't blame yourself for not being able to convince a person who suffers from a personality disorder to change their ways.
  • Don't apply pressure tactics such as shame, guilt, threats, ultimatums etc. to try to get someone else to change or "grow up". You will only frustrate them and yourself.
  • Don't make a moral issue out of what is a mental illness. People with personality disorders do not choose to be born with them and it can be inhumane to characterize them as evil or worthless. Therefore try to focus on what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior rather than who is acceptable or unacceptable as an individual.
  • Don't put all your eggs in the basket of having to get someone else to change. Personality disorders have their roots in the neurological paths of the brain and unless you have expertise in brain surgery you cannot change that

What TO Do:

  • Learn about personality disorders so you will recognize the patterns and know how to cope.
  • Detach yourself from being dependent on another person's mental health status for your own health, education maintenance and support.
  • Focus on behaviors not personality. Develop boundaries for yourself so you know what behavior you are willing to accept and what you will do to protect yourself if those boundaries are crossed.
  • Protect yourself from any dangerous, threatening or abusive behavior
  • Get support from people who understand what it is like to live with someone who suffers from a personality disorder.

For More Information & Support...

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

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