Outrageous Behavior: Mood or Personality Disorder?
You met her at your friend’s house, and you’ve been dating a few months… Then you notice a blouse in her purse with price tags… no receipt. What???
Did she steal this stuff? You really like her, but …. theft? What the heck is going on…?
When you ask her about it, she tells you she borrowed the top from a friend for your date on Friday.
A week later you notice the blouse is hanging in her closet. Is she going to return it?
She’s been a little on edge lately… could it be guilt? But you hate to rock the boat because the nights are so HOT lately…
Then, another shock. She borrows your credit card to put gas in her car…(which seems off)…and you discover she spent nearly a thousand dollars on dinner with “friends!”
Outrageous Behavior: Mood or Personality…?
Confrontation time. Is this amazing and beautiful woman a scammer? A con artist? Is there any other explanation?
Her response is to lash out, scream expletives, and take off in her car. She returns in a couple hours and she’s been crying. She tells you she doesn’t know what got into her, or why she did any of it. That she really likes you and wants you to respect her – and trust her. That sometimes she loses her perspective and just does things she can’t explain.
After a long and tearful discussion, you learn that she did shoplift the blouse. She won’t take it back to the store, or pay for it— too risky. She could get arrested. But she’s got a better idea, she says: she’ll give it away. Donate it. And the next thing you wonder is… if you’re in over your head…
Scammer? …or maybe bipolar disorder..?
So is she messed up? Is she just someone who gets off breaking the law? or is there another explanation?
To find out, she needs to put her trust in a skilled and experienced psychiatrist.
A good one, who will tease apart her symptoms, their causes, and work to bring her disordered mind to order and peace.
It could possibly be that she’s fundamentally a rule-breaker. Someone who doesn’t think they apply to her–and doesn’t think what she’s done is a big deal. On the other hand, since she seems to care a great deal, you should pause. Ans she should be evaluated.
Untreated bipolar disorder can cause all kinds of outrageous behaviors along with the sorrow and remorse
Is She Hysterical or Just Seeking Attention…?.
Sometimes, outrageous behavior can be a source of embarrassment to those who love you.
Take Jason, the manager of the cell phone shop in town. You have no idea what he deals with until one day a glamorous woman walks into the shop crying, “Jasie, Jasie…pleeease I need your help!! There’s a spider in the car!!”
You can see Jason is embarrassed. He tells her he’ll be able to break away in a minute after he rings up this customer.
“But Jasie!” She’s all a-flutter, breathless, in a panic. She takes off her beautiful shoe and holds her tan, pedicured little foot up to show him. “See that dot? I think it bit me!!” And she sobs and sobs big tears that splash on her cheeks…
You can see Jason has his hands full. So, you gesture for him to go ahead and tend to her…it’s ok…you don’t mind waiting. He takes her to the back and her sobs get louder. “I was at home, all alooone…. So I got in the car to go see Celia, and suddenly I saw that spider!! I was terrified Jasie! I didn’t know what to do!!!”
Jason tells her under his breath that her foot looks like it will be fine, and promises to take her to dinner after work. She goes out the door smiling ear to ear and tells him to call her at Celia’s. Her bracelets jingle as she waves.
You Can Love Them… But Do Get Them Help
You really feel for Jason. He was clearly embarrassed for his customers to get this glimpse into his private life. You wonder how on earth he stays with such a drama queen. You know you couldn’t take it.
He smiles half-heartedly and rings up your purchase. Then apologizes for the scene. He quietly explains she’s had some serious blows lately and she’s been upset a lot by a series of little things. “I guess she’s just having a bad day…” he quipped.
So what on earth is the story with this lady? Is she like this all the time? Is this anxiety or drama? How can you tell the difference?
Once again, her story needs to be teased apart, and a deeper history collected. It’s possible that the “blows” Jason referred to were multiple deaths in the family, betrayal by her best friend, combined with a lost pet, or some other major crisis.
People do sometimes reach the “end of their rope” and find it hard to cope with the most minor thing.
When that happens they may exhibit signs of depression or anxiety, which can be treated … to help them get their footing again.
But it’s important to know the full picture. Was she always a drama queen? Or did she have a history of coping well until just recently…? Enduring traits can suggest an underlying personality structure that just seems to get more and more fixed and unyielding as a person gets older.
Outrageous Behavior – Mood or Personality?
Meanwhile, your boss’s secretary is silently miserable. She’s married to a guy who acts superior to everyone. He boasts all the time and makes degrading comments to waiters at restaurants or when he’s buying something in a store.
Then word gets out that he’s having an affair with her next-door neighbor. Another affair. After all the I’m sorry’s and all the lies. After all the promises. She’s devastated.
What is the matter with someone like him? Is he just a total jerk?
Maybe he is. I know you may wish you could give him a swift kick, but there’s likely more to the story.
On the one hand, he could be a narcissist. But to find out would require some in-depth information gathering to figure that out. Still, there are other possibilities, too.
Has he suffered a job loss? Maybe he feels betrayed by a layoff right in the middle of his career. He may be depressed if something like that is the case. It’s still not an excuse for making his family miserable.
Nor is it an excuse for infidelity. But, sometimes people take that road when they’re down on themselves. In fact, sometimes people do all sorts of destructive things when they feel bad, rather than seek help.
Still, sometimes depression shows up in men by their anger, irritability, and short temper. If it’s depression, it can be treated. And getting the depression successfully treated may help him set things right again in his life.
Miss Jekyll or Mrs. Hyde…
The romance you’d always dreamed of. Finally, you’d met the most interesting and charming woman. She was everything you’d hoped to find: beautiful, fun, a hilarious sense of humor, always with a twinkle in her eye… and a wildcat in bed.
She was so natural in a crowd and loved to entertain. She seemed like the ideal companion, lover, and partner. You felt so lucky.
Oh, there were little moments while you were dating that caught you by surprise, sure, where she seemed to react to a small thing you did or said. Moments that seemed to come out of nowhere… but the next time you talked, all was forgotten.
Her charm was addictive…and made you feel like a million bucks.
But several months later, everything seemed to change. She wasn’t so pleasant when you were alone. Sometimes you felt like she drank too much. And when she did, she wanted to do more and more risky things. She said you just didn’t know how to have fun.
The next day she stormed into her job and slammed her keys on her boss’s desk, shouting, “I QUIT!!”
When she got home and told you the story… well, you didn’t say a word. You didn’t dare.
Then, one night, she stormed out of the house. Again. You got in the car to find her… and when you spotted her she was walking in the dark…and agreed to get in the car. But, as soon as you asked what was going on, she screamed she was going to kill herself and threw open the car door as you were flying down the highway.
You were so relieved to park in the driveway. So much drama.
The next week she tells you she’s having an affair with her optometrist. That you just weren’t spending enough time with her.
You’re friends tell you she’s crazy and you should pack your stuff and leave no forwarding address. You think there’s more to it. You see her when she’s sweet, thoughtful, caring, nurturing… she can be a wonderful person.
But this is scary.
What do you do??
Once again, there can be a handful of explanations. Some are more hopeful than others.
This is a good time to get an insightful psychiatrist involved. Because she may just be a brat who never learned to be accountable for her behavior. However, that’s probably not the most likely explanation.
People with bipolar disorder sometimes have these outrageous behaviors, but when they’re not manic, they can be deep thinking, insightful, considerate people.
People with borderline personality disorder can sometimes appear like this.
Even people with substance abuse disorders can show these symptoms.
You’re right to not make a snap judgment. As to what you should do, that’s another matter. If she has a psychiatric mood disorder, she can be treated and go on to live a fulfilling life. But you may want to see a counselor you trust, to help you navigate this relationship.
With counseling, you can learn how to be a therapeutic presence in her life, while taking good care of yourself. With counseling, you may also determine this relationship is not the best for you or for her. But follow your instincts and get support for both of you in the interim.
You’re not alone.
So many, many stories. So many lives in disarray. Outrageous behavior rings the gong. It makes everything stop–or it should make everything stop. Because so often it damages the lives of everyone it touches. Sometimes it’s personality, plain and simple and enduring. (Which is really hard to take.)
But so often, outrageous behavior is the bellwether of damaged or disordered brain functioning. Sometimes, the ones with outrageous behaviors are likely damaged (by genetic factors, environment, concussions, illnesses, substances–you name it) and unable to function in a normal, healthy way. So they behave in ways that cause damage to others and to their own overall lives.
In cases like these, the first step is to withhold judgment, as tempting as it is to judge and label. How often have you heard that you don’t know someone’s story until you walk a mile in their shoes?
When you see behaviors like these, you may be seeing symptoms of a disorder, rather than someone who’s deliberately choosing to be a brat. Deep down, it’s the desire of most of us to enjoy the respect of those around us. Most of us restrain our reactions to maintain that respect. But there are those who just can’t.
Rule of thumb: If it looks like bad behavior, check it out.
Ask an expert. Not your friends. Not a Facebook group. Because you might be mistaking a terrible mood or anxiety disorder as someone’s personality — or personality disorder. And that same person just might behave “respectably” and with constraint if their disorder were effectively treated. This is where shame lives. This is where stigma comes in.
Let’s take a breath before we judge. Let’s stop the stigma.
If you’ve experienced some of these behaviors and you secretly carry your shame and wonder what’s wrong, or if you see outrageous behaviors in someone you love, reach out. Innovative Psychiatry offers novel and advanced treatment for psychiatric mood disorders, including IV ketamine infusions — one of the most extraordinarily effective treatments in psychiatry. It can give you your life back.
We want to see you well and are eager to work with you to determine what will give you the best results.
Call or schedule an appointment. You can have control over your impulses, and build strong relationships in your home and your work.
To the release of your best self,
Lori Calabrese, M.D.