Human relationships can often be complicated and challenging. When there is a personality disorder at play, the challenges can become even more difficult to navigate. High conflict personality disorder (HCP) is a common trait that can cause problems in relationships, but it’s often overlooked or misunderstood.
According to the World Health Organization, one in eight people struggles with some form of a mental health disorder. These mental health disorders include personality disorders. Around nine percent of the population in the United States struggles with a personality disorder.
This guide explores what HCP is, its symptoms and causes, how it’s diagnosed, and treatment options. It also provides some tips for dealing with HCP in relationships.
What Is High Conflict Personality Disorder?
A high conflict personality disorder is a mental health condition characterized by a pattern of intense, repetitive conflict in relationships. People with HCP tend to have an inability to regulate their emotions, difficulty with constructive communication, and difficulty staying focused on a single topic or issue.
The disorder can affect their ability to maintain relationships and create chaos in their lives. HCP is often associated with a cluster of symptoms, such as grandiosity, impulsivity, rage, paranoia, and fear of abandonment. People with HCP may be unable to accept responsibility for their actions and may be easily triggered into high levels of anger in situations where they feel slighted or misunderstood.
Symptoms of High Conflict Personality Disorder
There are several symptoms that are associated with HCP, including:
- Intense emotions, especially when it comes to relationships
- Inability to control emotions
- Difficulty communicating in a constructive way
- Intense fear of abandonment
- Low self-esteem and self-image
- Difficulty accepting criticism
- Inaccurate assumptions about other people’s intentions
- Defensiveness in response to criticism
- Difficulty staying focused on a single topic or issue
- Sensitivity to perceived slights
If someone believes that they display these signs or someone they love does, it’s essential that the person seeks treatment to help them learn new ways to react and cope with the symptoms.
Causes of High Conflict Personality Disorder
The exact causes of HCP are unclear, though there are several theories about why some people may be more prone to the disorder. A few factors that may contribute to the development of HCP include:
- Genetics: There is some research that suggests that HCP may have a genetic component, meaning it can be passed down from one generation to the next.
- Trauma: Traumatic experiences, such as physical or emotional abuse, can also be a factor in the development of HCP.
- Mental health issues: Mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, can be associated with HCP.
If someone struggles with a high-conflict personality disorder and another mental health condition, it’s called a co-occurring condition or a dual diagnosis.
How Is High Conflict Personality Disorder Diagnosed?
High Conflict Personality Disorder is usually diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. During the diagnostic process, the professional will ask questions about the person’s behavior and family history, as well as observe their behavior in certain situations.
A physical exam may also be conducted to rule out any potential medical causes for the symptoms. The professional may also use psychological tests and questionnaires to assess the person’s mental health. During this process, someone who believes they’re struggling with HCP needs to be honest with the healthcare professionals.
Treatment Options for High Conflict Personality Disorder
The primary goal of treating HCP is to help the person affected to reduce the intensity of their conflicts and learn how to effectively manage their emotions. Treatment typically focuses on changing the person’s thought patterns and behaviors in order to reduce conflict in their relationships. Some of the most common methods include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on helping the person identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to their HCP. CBT can help the person learn how to communicate effectively and manage their emotions.
- Psychodynamic Therapy: Psychodynamic therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on exploring the person’s past experiences and how they might be influencing their current behavior. It can help the person gain insight into why they behave the way they do and how to change it.
- Medication: Medication can be used to help manage the symptoms of HCP. Commonly prescribed medications include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. These medications may be used over both short and long periods, depending on the decision made by the patient and their doctor.
A person struggling with HCP needs to work closely with their therapist to determine the best course of action.
Tips for Dealing With High Conflict Personality Disorder in Relationships
When a person is in a relationship with someone who has HCP, it can be difficult to manage the conflicts. Here are some tips for dealing with HCP in relationships:
- Maintain perspective: It’s important to remember that the person is not intentionally trying to be difficult or cause conflicts. They are struggling with a mental health disorder and may not be aware of how their behavior affects others.
- Create boundaries: Establishing boundaries in the relationship can help keep both partners feel safe. Make sure these boundaries are clear about defining what acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the relationship is.
- Take care of themselves: When dealing with someone with HCP, it’s essential that the person takes time out for themself. They want to engage in self-care activities, such as getting enough rest, eating healthy meals, and exercising.
- Seek professional help: If a person is struggling to manage the relationship with someone who has HCP, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide valuable insights and strategies for managing the relationship.
Maintaining a personal relationship with someone who struggles with high-conflict personality disorder brings its own sets of challenges. With work and boundaries, it’s possible to navigate this relationship successfully.
Partner With D’Amore Mental Health for Recovery
High Conflict Personality Disorder can cause significant difficulties in relationships. While it can be challenging to manage, with the right support, it is possible to learn how to manage conflicts effectively and create healthier relationships.
At D’Amore Mental Health, we can work with a person struggling with HCP to learn new skills to minimize conflicts. Our caring team can help the person see the world in a new way. Contact us now to learn more!