Domestic Abuse: Bipolar, Personality Disorder, or What?

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Reader’s Question

I think my brother might have Bipolar Disorder. He is married, 34, with one child. For the past 15 years he has been in the habit of abusing his parents. Now, he is abusing his wife, and he seems to dislike everyone around him. His abuse gets bad about once or twice a month. When he acts that way, it is really hell on earth! He is never happy with his parents, and he keeps on saying they have done nothing for him, which is untrue. He also abuses his wife’s parents and even his sister.

My brother has few friends. He is so focused on the future that he spoils the present. His greed for money is increasing day by day. He has not been physical with his abuse until recently. Still, the kind of trauma he inflicts with his vebal abuse is bad enough.

My brother can’t stand it if others are happy, and if someone visits our house and we have a good time, he gets upset and after they leave, and we all pay a price. Oddly, he is OK with his son.

Can you kindly let me know what kind of diorder this is?

Psychologist’s Reply

People can become uncharacteristically irritable and hostile during a manic episode. During such periods, a person can also become uncharacteristically grandiose and energized.

There are a few things that you report which suggest, however, that something else is going on with your brother (e.g., you report that he is selective in his mistreatment of others, was always hostile to his parents but only recently with his wife, yet still behaves okay with his son). There are many reasons a person can exhibit these kinds of behaviors, ranging from impulse control problems to having a personality disorder. However, it would be impossible to assess this situation accurately from such a distance, and it appears imperative that your brother avail himself of appropriate professional evaluation and intervention. Inasmuch as his behavior cannot be tolerated regardless of the reasons for it, and given the likelihood that he might not be agreeable to treatment, it’s extremely important that his “victims” draw some firm lines in the sand. Abusive behavior simply can’t be tolerated and the weight of responsibility for changing it rests squarely on the abuser.

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