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Stunted Emotional Growth

Definition:

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

Stuck in Younger Ways

It is common for people with Personality Disorders to be described as “childish” or “immature” by those who live and work with them. This is because the cognitive development process most people use to learn better strategies for problem solving and for decision-making is often not as well-developed due to the effects of the disorder.

People with Personality Disorders have a strong connection between the decision-making parts of their brain and their emotions or feelings, unlike those not so afflicted who generally have a stronger connection between the logical risk/reward parts of their brain and their decision making.

As a result Personality Disordered people are sometimes seen as reactionary, over-emotional, immature and unreliable 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 an empirical or logical understanding of the truth or facts, and this can make them seem less mature.

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 Nons express about their loved ones. There are similarities, as young people also have not yet developed all the connections in their brains to the frontal cortex, which is the risk/reward calculating area of the brain.

The result in both cases for the more logical party is often anger, exasperation and frustration which can lead to poor decision making on the part of the Non if they are not careful.

How to Cope

It’s important to understand and accept that the brains of people who suffer from Personality Disorders are wired differently – they can’t just “Snap out of it”, “get with the program” or change how they think in an instant. This means common Non tactics such as arguing, guilt trips and reasoning are often ineffective. It’s important to learn about what can and can’t be changed, so as to save frustration for yourself and for the person with the Personality Disorder.

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 someone else changing. Personality Disorders have their roots in the neurological paths of the brain and even if you have expertise in brain surgery you are not able to 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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