Do you know someone who is especially difficult to get along with? Perhaps they’re overly suspicious or particularly antagonistic. Maybe they experience severe mood swings or express their emotions to the extreme. Referred to as a “high conflict” person, these individuals aren’t just challenging people; sometimes, they can be dangerous.
High-conflict people often exhibit signs of other mental health conditions, such as personality disorders. This leads people to believe that high-conflict personality disorder is a diagnosable mental health condition. While personality disorders are common among people with symptoms like emotional dysregulation or risky behaviors, a high-conflict personality disorder is not an actual diagnosis. So where does the idea of this condition come from, and what are some possible alternative diagnoses?
What is a high-conflict personality disorder?
The concept of high-conflict personality disorder likely stems from Bill Eddy, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and author. He wrote a book on the dangers of dealing with people who have high-conflict personalities, 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life.1 The inflammatory title paints a negative picture of these individuals but he specifically refers to high-conflict personalities throughout his book.
Eddy outlines five common personality disorders that high-conflict individuals may have: borderline, narcissistic, paranoid, antisocial, or histrionic. While these personality disorders do cause difficulty in many interpersonal relationships, mental health treatment programs equip people who have a high-conflict personality with the skills needed to manage their symptoms.
Common types of personality disorders
Personality disorders are conditions that cause an ongoing pattern of thoughts and behaviors that deviate from traditional societal expectations.2 People with personality disorders tend to be rigid and inflexible, which leads to difficulties navigating and adapting to normal demands and uncertainties in life.3 The five conditions that Eddy associates with high-conflict personality disorder include:2
- Borderline personality disorder: People with borderline personality disorder experience instability in their interpersonal relationships, emotional experiences, behavior, and self-image. They view things through an all-or-nothing lens, have chaotic relationships, act out impulsively, and put themselves in risky situations.
- Narcissistic personality disorder: People with narcissistic personality disorder have a distorted sense of self-importance which negatively impacts their relationships. They have fantasies of limitless success, seek excessive attention, are hypersensitive to failure, and experience severe mood swings.
- Paranoid personality disorder: People with paranoid personality disorder perceive others’ behaviors as threatening or demeaning. They are untrusting and unforgiving, believe others are disloyal or unfaithful, and commonly lash out with angry or aggressive outbursts
- Antisocial personality disorder: People with antisocial personality disorder disregard traditional expectations of social behavior to act out on their conflicts. They may be viewed as irresponsible, callous, and impulsive and show no respect for others or remorse for the effects of their behaviors.
- Histrionic personality disorder: People with histrionic personality disorder experience intense, irregular emotions and have an exaggerated sense of importance and self-image. Their self-esteem depends on what others think of them; they have a consuming need for attention and often behave inappropriately or provocatively to receive the attention they desire.
Finding help for a high-conflict personality disorder
If you or someone you love shows signs of a high-conflict personality disorder, mental health treatment can help. Treatment facilities like Clearview Treatment Programs offer specialized behavioral healthcare programs that understand the difficulties of living with a personality disorder.
Through our evidence-based therapies like dialectical behavior therapy and motivational interviewing, Clearview Treatment Programs help you develop the skills and tools needed to manage your emotions and establish healthy relationships. If you would like to learn more about the programs we offer at Clearview, please call us at 866-339-3544 to speak with an admissions counselor today!
- Penguin Random House. (2018). 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2022). Personality Disorders.
- Mental Health America. (2022). Personality Disorder.