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Alicia_MSW
Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 792
Experience:  Specializing in mental health counseling
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my wife has episodes of rage or underlying aggression. the

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my wife has episodes of rage or underlying aggression. the last episode happened 2 days ago in front of my family where she requested that i do all the cleaning up after sunday dinner. when i said lets do it together she began to help then inside 2 minutes flipped and screamed at me to get out of the kitchen, which i did after telling her i couldnt believe her behavior (30 mins earlier she was telling me how much she loved me.)

in 20 mins she came to me, frothing at the mouth, screaming and threw a glass at me in front of the family telling me how could i sit there when she was doing all the work. she got more in a rage, crying and screaming hysterically to her mother on the phone for 20mins. also had trouble getting her breath. i went back to the kitchen to finish up, then she came back in, wrenching a pan out of my hand, deliberately twisting my finger around. then she came out throwing clothes and blankets everywhere, and began throwing some of my clothes off the balcony. at this point i told my parents we were leaving and we calmly left. she slammed and locked the door shut screaming about divorce.

this is not the first time this happened. the last episode was in april. there were several such episodes before then, including our wedding night, that involved name-calling and physical aggression. i learnt after some time to leave the house when things got bad because going to another room didnt work. i experience genuine fear during the episodes, both for my well-being and the destruction this brings to our relationship. her mother has asked if i'm scared of her. things had got better of late and the name-calling pretty much stopped.

she also tends to use blaming alot and rarely apologises for her actions. now we are supposed to move abroad together for my job but after this last epidode i dont know if i want her to come.

sometimes she can be incredibly sweet and nice and loving. she is quite thin and also has some esteem problems, but these are sporadic. she's pretty unsocial and spends alot of time at home, though can speak with her friends often on the phone.

what do you think the problem is?

Alicia_MSW :

Hello, I'm Alicia. Thanks for your question. I'm happy to help you today.


 

Alicia_MSW :

I can imagine how frightening this situation must be for you, especially as it seems that you cannot predict what's going to trigger one of your wife's episodes of rage. And I can see how you would be concerned about moving abroad with her, because the move in and of itself is quite stressful, and you can't really say with any level of certainty how she's going to react to even the slightest stressors.


 

Alicia_MSW :

It's difficult to give a diagnosis online, so I can't say for sure what is causing your wife's behavior (she would need to see a licensed mental health professional or a psychiatrist in person to receive a proper diagnosis), but from what you are saying, it sounds like she may be suffering from borderline personality disorder.


 

Alicia_MSW :

The symptoms she is experiencing are very consistent with this diagnosis. One of the main features of borderline personality disorder is extreme episodes of rage that seem to come from out of the blue. The smallest incident can trigger these episodes - and usually, loved ones are the main target. So you are, unfortunately, stuck in the line of fire. And there's not much that you can do during these episodes to get her to calm down or stop raging - which can be quite scary and frustrating for you.

Alicia_MSW :

You explain that she has experienced these episodes for quite some time, and that it is coupled with low self-esteem and social isolation (to some degree). So in addition to the rage, these are also very common symptoms of borderline personality disorder. I'd like to share a link with you so you can read some more about the symptoms of this disorder. For your information, it's a very underdiagnosed disorder because generally speaking, people who have this disorder also have an extreme lack of insight into their behavior (so, they think it's you, not them, who's causing their actions, for example) and they also very rarely seek help. It can be very hard to get a person with borderline personality disorder to seek treatment, since they don't think they are the problem. Here is a link about the symptoms of borderline personality disorder: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/borderline-personality-disorder/what-are-the-symptoms-of-borderline-personality-disorder.shtml

Alicia_MSW :

The most important thing is for you to look out for your physical safety - first and foremost. You need to protect yourself, especially if you think she might act out against you physically. So that may mean putting physical distance between the two of you - leaving the house, staying with your parents, and so forth.

Alicia_MSW :

There's not a high likelihood that she will simply change on her own or without treatment. But she also needs to be willing to seek help. Treatment often includes psychotherapy, medication and education for the patient and family members. Here is another link you can read regarding treatment options:


http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/borderline-personality-disorder/how-is-borderline-personality-disorder-treated.shtml

Alicia_MSW :

There's also an excellent book called "Stop Walking on Eggshells" by Randi Kreger - it addresses borderline personality disorder for loved ones - tips on how you can cope, how to interact with your wife, for example, when she is raging or how "not" to interact with her. http://www.bpdcentral.com/store/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=14 The website has a lot of useful information as well (bpdcentral.com) so you might want to take a peek there, too.

Alicia_MSW :

I hope this information is helpful. You may wish to see a therapist on your own for support and coping advice, because it can be extremely difficult to live with someone like this. Again, I can't say for sure if this is what the problem is, so your wife would need to see a professional in person for a diagnosis and to discuss treatment options. But if you'd like to discuss this more, please let me know. Best wishes.

Customer: thank you very much for your help and insight Alicia. she does tend to blame me a lot, as well as others close to her. i try not to react in the same way but occassionally its difficult. what can i do to help in terms of my behavior towards her?
Alicia_MSW :

You're welcome :) But to be honest with you, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to step away from her when she starts to fly into a rage. At the moment she does so, there's nothing you can do to help her calm down, and interacting with her is probably only going to make the situation worse. When she's calm, it might be helpful to talk with her, reassure her that you love her (if in fact this is the case) - because abandonment is the biggest fear that people with borderline personality disorder have. So underneath all of her actions and raging, she's probably feeling very scared and alone (even though this has nothing to do with you) - gently encouraging her to seek help (when she's calm, not when she's raging) can help. And just being supportive - and seeking support for yourself so that you can cope. You don't have to end the relationship, and there is a way for you both to work through this, but it does take some time, patience and effort - and love. As I suggested, it might be worth your while to see a therapist on your own, if your wife is not yet ready to see one herself.

Alicia_MSW :

One more thought - try to remember that her actions have nothing to do with you. When she's blaming you, it can be tempting to become defensive or to take what she's saying personally, but just remember that she may very well have this disorder and she can't control what she's saying. So just keep repeating to yourself that it's not you - that she is sick, and that she needs help to get better.

Alicia_MSW :

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Customer: thank you. one other question. i dont want to lose her but i also dont want to live like this and although we want children, i feel like we cant under these circumstances . if she agrees to see a good therapist and to work on this, what are the chances she will get better? also what kind of psychologist/therapist should she see? thank you
There are good chances that she will improve if she's willing to seek help. A willingness to seek help is a very good prognostic indicator, because it means that on some level, she realizes that she has a problem and needs to do something about it. One thing you might want to consider is seeing if she can get in to see a therapist who specializes in a specific type of therapy known as dialectical behavioral therapy. It was developed to treat borderline personality disorder, and it has a high chance of success - it can be hard to find a therapist who specializes in this type of treatment, so when you are calling around to find a therapist, be sure to inquire whether they have previous experience working with people with borderline personality disorder and/or with dialectical behavioral therapy. Here is a link where you can read more about this type of treatment:
http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisdbt.cfm
If you cannot find a therapist who specializes in this type of treatment, you might also consider one who provides cognitive-behavioral therapy. But at this point, if there is no one in your area who specializes in either of these types of treatment, it would be beneficial for your wife to see any type of licensed mental health professional or psychologist. I hope this helps.
I wish you and your wife lots of luck. And please let me know if you have any further questions.
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