high conflict women

Traits of Borderline Personality Disorder
in High Conflict Women

Part 1: A Spectrum For High Emotion Disorders

There seems to be a nearly epidemic proportion of women who, although perfectly functional in their everyday lives, engage in behaviors that are very similar to those diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Some of them act in a perfectly normal way in all areas other than their romantic relationships. Others begin using these behaviors as they enter adulthood and may engage in the negative treatment of many people throughout their life.

This phenomenon has become so common that a word has been coined for this personality type. They are referred to as high conflict women. What they all have in common is a tendency to engage in conflict with anyone who triggers their insecurity. The way they go about this is strikingly similar to those with a diagnosed personality disorder, yet these women are for the most part too functional to deserve the label.

This set of behavior patterns seems to come from an almost paranoid conviction that those around them are going to either take advantage of them or betray them in some way. When they suspect someone is acting in any way that does not serve their personal interests, they appear to be thrown into a high-emotion state where they may engage in sometimes shocking and in many cases unforgivable acts, most notoriously related to divorce with the casualties frequently being their children and ex-spouses.

Their behavior, both publicly and privately goes so far beyond our normal social code that it leaves those in their path with no idea how to respond or even make sense of what just happened. These women often leave behind them a trail of ex-spouses, ex-friends, ex-colleagues and ex-attorneys who they bitterly announce have betrayed them to all who will listen.

With the recent emergence of so many women with these behavior patterns, by now most people have had the misfortune to either be on the receiving end of this behavior or at least know of someone else who has. This problem is affecting spouses, children, co-workers, and professionals who have come across high conflict women as clients and certainly anyone working in the field of family law. It is becoming increasingly more important that we find the answers to the obvious questions, one, what is driving this behavior and, two, how can we stop it.

Finding the Solution

There are answers to these questions, and with those answers, the way to stop the behavior becomes clear. But before we can answer either of these questions it is necessary to take a closer look at the problem. To help us understand what drives the behavior of a high conflict woman, let’s borrow a few tools from the experts on autism. One tool in particular has not only made autism more understandable to the public, but it has also allowed individuals who have some traits of autism but perhaps not enough to be diagnosed to receive the help they need. The tool we will be borrowing to help us understand high conflict behavior in women is what is known as the autistic spectrum.

This is an imaginary scale that places people with many traits of autism at the far end and those with fewer traits closer to the middle of the spectrum. In order to understand the high emotion part of the population, let’s stretch out the autistic spectrum so instead of starting in the middle, it now has two extreme ends, one for the high-emotion population where women most often reside, and one for those with lower emotionality settings where we might place most men and those with autism.

A Spectrum of Emotionality

spectrum of high emotion disorders

Although autism and borderline personality disorder, or BPD, are two completely different conditions, there is one similarity that lets us compare the two in certain situations. Both conditions seem to affect emotionality. While we could say that autism tends to be a condition that has to do with low emotionality where a person might have a hard time connecting with their emotions, BPD could be said to affect people in the opposite way. Those with BPD seem to be too connected with their emotions and can’t separate from them.

If we take the liberty of renaming the autistic spectrum a spectrum of emotionality, we can imagine the person with autism at one end and the individual with BPD at the other end. This now shows us a logical place next to the the person with BPD where we can fit the high conflict woman who shares some of the behaviors of BPD but does not reach the level of diagnosis. In order to fill out this scale, let’s place one more person in between the high conflict woman and those with more average emotionality. This person will give us perspective about the problems of both the woman with BPD and the high conflict woman. For the purposes of this blog series she will be called the high emotion woman.

The High Emotion Woman

We have all met the high emotion woman. She usually does not engage in abusive behavior towards others, but her difficulties with high emotions cause great confusion and frustration among the male population. It is the high emotion woman that men are usually referring to when they ask the question what do women really want. It is this woman who can finally tell us in ways that we can relate to what is causing the high conflict woman to mistreat those around her. However, it will not be easy.

The high emotion woman faces the same challenges as the woman with BPD and the high conflict woman, although to a much lesser extent. All three women’s high settings of emotionality make them susceptible to a neurological state which they often get stuck in. This state is commonly referred to as emotional dysregulation. This term describes a state we all experience when our emotions get so high that we lose our sense of perspective and to some extent our ability to think rationally. When we are this upset we can easily do and say things we do not mean.

Emotional Dysregulation In Women

Most of us have experienced the state of emotional dysregulation at one time or another. However, women with naturally high emotionality tend to go into and come out of this state much more frequently than the rest of us. Because it is embarrassing to admit that she is out of control in this way, the high emotion woman, just like the other two women on this scale, will be very wary of discussing her challenges in this area with us.

Unsuspecting males who sit on the lower half of the spectrum of emotionality have no idea what it is like to have these very high settings. Although they are only asking her innocent questions when they want to know why she is always so angry at them, they don’t realize that they are causing her embarrassment over behavior that isn’t strictly voluntary. Most women with above average emotionality are aware that their anger, just like all of the heightened emotions they feel, is to some extent out of their control.

Many of them try to save face by standing behind what they have said and done after they come out of their emotionally uninhibited state. However, if they were to be truly honest with you they would tell you that they are at those times at the mercy of emotional swings. For them, these mood changes are a normal, if slightly embarrassing, part of being female. Because high emotion states feel so normal to women, when men are confused by a woman’s anger and ask, “What do women really want,” women frequently shake their head and simply say, “You just don’t understand.”

Let’s now enter the mind of the high emotion woman and take a closer look at some of these personality traits and how they are expressed in female behavior. You are about to find out that the high emotion woman is really a toned-down version of the high conflict woman who is herself a toned-down version of the individual with BPD. In order to more clearly understand this spectrum, we are going to borrow one more tool from the experts in autism. As with the first tool we used, we will have to apply it in reverse.

A More Female Brain

The autistic mind is sometimes referred to as a “male brain” This term has been coined to help us understand the observation that people with autism seem to possess an unusual amount of personality traits that are commonly associated with males. Let’s now borrow this tool as well and instead of applying it to the low-emotion population, we will apply it to those with high emotions.

When we apply the concept of a woman with a more “female brain” than the average woman, her behavior begins to make sense. There are two personality characteristics in particular that seem to play a role in high emotion behavior in women. One is the very high emotionality setting we have been talking about here. Most of us are familiar with this character trait and women for the most part accept that it is usually part of a woman’s wiring.

The second characteristic is not as easily accepted by women. Men, however, are often aware of this one. The second trait we will be addressing in this series is relationship insecurity. It is an accepted fact that women are quite concerned with their bonds with others. Unfortunately, this trait when it is very pronounced can turn healthy concern into anger and even rage over perceived betrayals in any relationship. This natural insecurity seems to be part of the picture for all three of the emotion-driven women on our spectrum. Let’s take a look at how this female character trait applies to each of these women:

Relationship Insecurity In Women

The average woman may have a strong concern or focus on the security of her bonds with others. This sometimes places her in the important role of the one who keeps family and friends in touch and in communication. This is a healthy female tendency that is often appreciated by those who are less comfortable with this role.

In a high emotion woman there may be some heightened emphasis placed on whether her connections are being threatened, and she can easily become overly insecure and want to check and recheck to make sure that they are still strong. If she has any doubts, she may become very upset and will be forceful in trying to remedy the situation.

In a high conflict woman, this insecurity about whether her connections are still strong can border on obsession. She can become convinced that her spouse or even her friends are not only planning to betray her but also planning to take advantage of her and use her. As we take this character trait of natural insecurity over relationship bonds one step further, we can make an educated guess that the woman with borderline personality disorder may suffer in an even greater way from fears associated with relationship insecurity.

An Addiction to Negative Behaviors

All three women have the tendency to hide their insecurity by using defensive tactics that reframe their fear into anger. Instead of accepting that their fear of betrayal is caused by their own insecurity, they make a preemptive strike by blaming others for making them feel insecure. In this way they succeed at turning their feelings of weakness into a show of strength. It is this anger in the form of punishment that causes those around them so much pain.

Please join me for Part 2 of Understanding the Traits of Borderline Personality Disorder in High Conflict Women. As we place ourselves in the shoes of a high conflict woman we find her filled with emotions of inferiority. When she discovers she can escape from these uncomfortable feelings by replacing them with defensive anger, she enters a world of psychological addiction to these negative behaviors which gives her a whole new set of problems not only for her but for those around her.

In Part 3 of this blog series we will be discussing the weak link in the defense system of every high conflict woman and how to use it to dismantle the defense mechanisms and stop the negative behaviors.

Defense Mechanisms of the High Conflict Woman In Relationship

Reversing Emotional Dysregulation In Individuals With Traits of BPD

Dismantling the Defenses of Female Relationship Insecurity

If you would like to learn the Nicola Method so you can put an end to the high conflict situations you may be experiencing, click on this link to the welcome page of this website where you will find the resources you need.

If you want to try out some of the basic techniques of this method for free to see if this method is right for your situation, you can learn them from an intro guide flip-book here or a PDF version of the intro guide here.

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