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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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What type of disorder does might my fiance have? He is a 27 year old white male. He comes

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What type of disorder does might my fiance have? He is a 27 year old white male. He comes from a very poor family and spent most of his life providing for himself like buy his own clothes and shoes for school by selling drugs on the streets. At a very young age he and his younger sister were abandoned by his mother and left with their father. Their father was not able to provide for them and they were eventually put into foster family care where he was abused mentally and possibly sexually. He dropped out of school in 10th grade because he was picked on by other kids so badly that he did not like going to school. He constantly lies about his past and things that he owns and how he was raised, always making people think he is from California and has rich family members all over the world. He has even told people that his family is in the drug cartel and mofia. I have confirmed with his biological mother and father that none of these things are true. I have confronted him...

Hi! I'll be glad to be of help with this issue.

I can imagine how frustrating this situation must be for you. You are clearly a very special person that you are trying so hard to make the relationship work with your fiance. It must require a tremendous amount of patience on your part; he must also have some wonderful characteristics that make you love him. But, still, you are a loving person to keep trying.

I can imagine how frustrating, hurtful, and overwhelming this situation must be for you. I can't diagnose clinically in a setting such as our forum. But from your description, we can certainly say that your fiance suffered tremendous disruptions to normal attachment formation as a child and youth. Therefore, the behaviors he exhibits can be understood most readily as coming from attachment problems. Again, I am not diagnosing here attachment disorder, only referring to a way to help you understand how it is that he might behave this way.

But even more specifically, I think he would benefit from learning about something that now has a lot of self help resources available: Adult Victim of Child Abuse (AVOCA). Whether it is physical or emotional abuse that was part of a dysfunctional family, the trauma is there when a child deals with sustained abuse. Your fiance certainly experienced that. And that trauma can lead to a lifelong set of feelings and thoughts about himself that can keep him from being able to be fully alive and fully loved in his own eyes. And it can keep him from trusting others and it can make him feel like he needs to lie and create stories about himself.

This is because an AVOCA has a hard time with the constancy of love: that even if you or he are mad, you can still love each other. That's a normal understanding. But for AVOCAs this is often very tough. They very often do not have a sense of normal. They fluctuate between feelings that are difficult for them at best. And another thing they have in common: deep within they feel totally unworthy, tremendous shame, undeserving. They fear bringing things out to the open very much. And much of these feelings are below the surface for them. They just feel rage alternating with shame most of the time. This can lead to a lethargic type of disorganized behavior.

For AVOCA, start with these sites and you can do lots more searches to find other sites. But remember, some are going to be commercial.

Here is a chart from the HAVOCA website that will give you the idea.

From Victim to Survivor to Thriver




Doesn’t deserve nice things or trying for the "good life."

Struggling for reasons & chance to heal

Gratitude for everything in life.

Low self esteem/shame/unworthy

Sees self as wounded & healing

Sees self as an overflowing miracle

Hyper vigilant

Using tools to learn to relax

Gratitude for new life


Seeking help


Feels Selfish

Deserves to seek help

Proud of Healthy Self caring


Naming what happened

Was wounded & now healing

Confusion & numbness

Learning to grieve, grieving past aggrieved trauma

Grieving at current losses

Overwhelmed by past

Naming & grieving what happened

Living in the present



Faith in self & life

Uses outer world to hide from self

Stays with emotional pain

Understands that emotional pain will pass & brings new insights

Hides their story

Not afraid to tell their story to safe people.

Beyond telling their story, but always aware they have created their own healing with HP

Believes everyone else is better, stronger, less damaged

Comes out of hiding to hear others & have compassion for them & eventually self

Lives with an open heart for self & others

Often wounded by unsafe others

Learning how to protect self by share, check, share

Protects self from unsafe others

Places own needs last

Learning healthy needs (See Healing the Child Within & Gift to Myself)

Places self first realizing that is the only way to function & eventually help others

Creates one drama after another

See patterns

Creates peace

Believes suffering is the human condition

Feeling some relief, knows they need to continue in recovery

Finds joy in peace

Serious all the time

Beginning to laugh

Seeing the humour in life

Uses inappropriate humour, including teasing

Feels associated painful feelings instead

Uses healthy humour

Uncomfortable, numb or angry around toxic people

Increasing awareness of pain & dynamics

Healthy boundaries around toxic people, incl. relatives

Lives in the past

Aware of patterns

Lives in the Now

Angry at religion

Understanding the difference between religion & personal spirituality

Enjoys personal relationship with the God of their understanding

Suspicious of therapists-- projects

Sees therapist as guide during projections

Sees reality as their projection & owns it.

Needs people & chemicals to believe they are all right

Glimpses of self-acceptance & fun without others

Feels authentic & connected, Whole


Movement of feelings


I'm sure he doesn't fit every criteria in the "Victim" column. But from what you write, I imagine quite a few apply. For him to recognize that he is an AVOCA may by itself help him. And maybe it will help him get to therapy to work on these issues. But certainly your love has been a lifeline for him.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

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