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Parents afraid of child — 19 Comments

  1. Joyce, this is a particularly poignant article because I’ve lived in that situation, myself. Mike was a very violent adolescent, and he was actually encouraged to be defiant and violent by his father, 3 states away, during “telephone visitations,” each week. For two (or, more) days after their conversations, Mike would be EXTREMELY defiant and I often slept with my bedroom door locked. There was nothing that I could personally do to “force” Mike to behave within normal limits, or to stop THINKING whatever caused him to act-out his defiant and violent behaviors.

    And, talking to authorities is about the most useless endeavor imaginable. It was MY fault that Mike was a problem, and I was expected to MAKE HIM behave. Uh………right. The only thing that a parent can do is to come to a decision to save themselves, which is NO EASY TASK. “You’re a BAD parent,” is what we hear if we “give up” on our offspring. There is NO support for parents who have tried everything……..none. There’s only blame and shame.

    I agree that “education” would be helpful for the legal and social services systems, but both worlds prefer to pass the buck and do nothing other than blame. EUGH……….ugh……….

  2. I hear you, Truthy, and my acquaintance whose son was bi-polar and out of control had the same problems with the school and child protective services. Adult protective services, even for delusional elderly is a joke in my professional experience, and unless they actually SEE a family member setting the bed on fire they will not take any action.

    I am also frustrated by psychologists that think you can “talk to” ANY kid and get them to act rationally. If there are bi-polar, or personality disorders involved in the mix there is no way to get them to comply. Even “typical” teenagers are hands full, but those with PDs or some with bi-polar are unreachable.

    I think as the fMRIs proof of the PDs, pedophilia, and other anomoloies showing up on scans is more accepted through the medical and psychological professions that maybe, just MAY be some changes will be effected.

    • Joyce, my gut feeling about spaths and out-of-control individuals “talking” to psychologists is that, depending upon the type of disorder, this effort only FEEDS the ego – it’s attention, and it’s riveting (at some points) for the psychologist.

      I thoroughly agree that “medical proof” sort of “validates” the condition, although these disorders have always existed, and always shall. I don’t know if the proof is going to make any difference, though, because the psych communities are both so fraught with EGOS that it might be that the belief of CURE might still prevail.

  3. There was as time when I was convinced that the problem was mostly environmental but now I’m starting to observe bi-polar behavior and it really does look like a chemical problem. The person in question commented, “I really have very wide swings in my emotions.” Well, I already knew that, but I wasn’t aware that they were aware. A few weeks later, he was saying how happy he was about a successful business transaction which happened that morning. Within 10 minutes, he was bemoaning how hard his life was and how everyone is against him. (wtf?)

    I told him, “Your bi-polar is showing. You started out so excited about your good luck and within minutes you’re ranting against everyone.” I told him to control his excitement and maybe his depression would be easier to control.

    This isn’t a child, it’s an 80 year old man.

  4. Sky, at 80 there is little likelyhood that this person is going to make any significant changes. In Bi-polar, moods can change over a long period of time, or be like a ball bouncing with rapid swings in moods. At 80 also there is a possibility that the untreated disease has been going on so long, and couple that with some dementia or organic brain degeneration that they are continually like a ball.

    I’m going to bet that you have known this man for a long time, so you can compare his previous behavior to his current behavior and maybe determine if there is some dementia involved as well.

    There is NO DOUBT even among professionals that bi-polar has a LARGE part of the genetics. In many cases people with bi-polar seem to enjoy the highs and don’t like to take medication to level the highs out.Medication compliance is quite poor in the people with bi-polar I have dealt with. Also, it is a fact that many people who are psychopaths are also bi-polar and/or ADHD. Hamilton, the man that invaded our family was all three. Professionally diagnosed, so not just my opinion.

    My OPINION as well is that borderline personality disorder is also frequently found with the bi-polar and I am acquainted with a woman who is both bi-polar and diagnosed as BPD as well. Her emotions are chaotic to say the least. Her mother, sister,and entire family are also afflicted, and though the family is very rich and successful, the dynamics of that family are unbelievable to anyone that doesn’t know them well.

    A man of my acquaintence, who also has psychopathy in his family, I think is probably bi polar as well as ADHD. I don’t think he is a psychopath because he has a conscience, though when he is manic he will frequently violate that conscience, but once he is called on i t, he usually sincerely is sorry for what he has done. He isn’t a good liar so when he is manic, does something “stoopid” he will try to justify his behavior and lie about it, but when he is down, he is able to repent his actions and sincerely apologize.

    He is markedly ADHD and I had always equated his “highs” to the ADHD, but I realize now, in retrospect (I have know this man since he was a child) I can see the DEEP depressions as well as the manic stages and the swings. If you think of moods as a sine wave, going up and down in smooth waves, some people with bi-polar have sharp ups and downs, others flow more smoothly and less frequent. Bi polar is a very difficult thing to diagnose because there is so much variance and not many actually seek treatment in the first place. Many times if they DO seek treatment it is when they are very depressed. Unfortunately, anti-depression medication may precipitate a manic episode. In the case of this man, I recognized the from time to time VERY severe depression, but failed to realize the highs were not the ADHD. It would also not surprise me if he was not also a bit asbergers syndrome as well. When there are multiple diagnoses going on in one person it is very difficult to sort out all the symptoms. Many of them over lap.

    Having worked with many adolescents with the onset of bi-polar and personality disorders showing up in previously compliant kids I saw that I was NOT alone with a kid I was afraid of. When I took this job in a hospital, Patrick had been arrested for murder about 4 or 5 months previously, and I felt SO ALONE. However, doing the intake interviews of these parents, I realized I was NOT alone, there were many parents out there with out of control kids. The year and a half I was there, I learned a great deal about these youngsters, and most of all, I learned I was NOT alone. Unfortunately, I did not realize the ultimate cure for these individuals is NO CONTACT and that there are few if any really successful treatments.

    • Joyce and Sky, I was utterly ignorant of Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, until my mother (adopted mother, thank goodness) was finally diagnosed during the end stages of her life. She was also extremely narcissistic and had, IMHO, suffered a dreadful childhood of trauma, neglect, abuse, and only-god-knows-what-else. My mother self-medicated with alcohol and stopped drinking when I was 12. But, the drinking was a SYMPTOM of the disorder. And, her rapid-cycling wasn’t controlled or managed. What’s more interesting about this is that she knew…………literally knew……….that something was amiss. She went to several physicians and psychiatrists back in the mid-60’s, and they all pretty much told her to get a grip on herself. She also attempted suicide, which was probably my first traumatic childhood memory.

      As people get older, the symptoms are even harder to manage – the human physiology goes through various “adjustments” as people age, and what worked 5 years ago may not be beneficial, now.

      It’s very true that a person with Bipolar Disorder likely has other issues, as well. I know that Borderline is a dreadful condition and can actually be horribly dangerous for the person, as well as their family, friends, and associates. My eldest son, Mike, was diagnosed Borderline and ADHD, and he’s a real mess, on every level.

      There is so much that we’re discovering about human behavior, genetics, and environment, and there remains SO much that we do not know.

  5. There are definitely “levels” of all mental disorders and illnesses from “a little” to a LOT! I’m still not comfortable with the “differences” between Anti-social-persoanality diorder and Borderline. Many more men are dx ASPD (psychopaths) and women BPD and while the symptoms in the two over lap a great deal there are lesser things that people with BPDs do (like the cutting or injuring themselves) that generally people with ASPD do not do.

    As for your adoptive mother, you said she had a horrible childhood, which is the case many times when a child is born to a person(s) with personality disorder, they inherit the gene and get the HORRIBLE environment so it passes from generation to generation.

    Many children of people with PDs, bi-polar etc are given up for adoption, and the rate of these disorders showing up in adoptive children is pretty high, it is called the “adoptive syndrome” and back when “environment was everything” and adoptive kids showed up with many PDs it was blamed on BEING adopted no matter how “good” the home was, so it was blamed on their environment entirely.

    Of course now that medicine and psychology have come to realize that many disorders and mental illnesses are GENETIC BASED at least the adoptive parents are not being blamed. It is known now that ASPD, Bi-POLAR, and ADHD are all on related genes and it is not uncommon for them to be found in ONE individual. Strangely enough left handedness is found much more frequently in these people than in the general public. Dominance of which hand is also known to be associated with brain development.

    The fact that people with ADHD, and ASPD have different brains than “typical” people is also well known and there is now an approved TEST (not just observation of behavior) to determine if a child is really ADHD or just needs to be disciplined more. I am sure in the future, and not too long from now, maybe within the next 10 years there will be some changes in the diagnoses of a lot of mental illnesses and PD using OBJECTIVE (observable) tests, rather than just “guess work” from how someone behaves.

    That doesn’t mean there will be a “cure” but at least a definitive diagnosis.

    In my work with geriatriac patients in an inpatient facility. I saw all stages of dementia of many forms…the brains (or what was left of them) of alcoholics, severely depressed or anxious people, people who had become paranoid, combative, etc. The FIRST thing that “typical” people lose is JUDGMENT. They send their money to some man in nigeria posing as a beautiful girl, or to secure a 10 million dollar pay out, etc. And the sad part is, if they know the month and who is president there is nothing that their family can do….they are not certifiable to the point that someone can be appointed guardian of their persons and assets.

    I saw the problems that the families of these individuals experienced.

    With less ability to control their emotions or other impulses, these individuals “acted out” with anger (in many cases physically) and any underlying mental illnesses or PDs showed up that much worse.

    Add into that mix, the dysfunctional things that these people were taught as children or lived their entire adult lives comes to the fore.

    In speaking of children again that are “out of control” many of them were quite “wonderful” small children, but as they reach puberty and the adult hormones hit them the PDs and other mental illnesses come to the fore and flower in full bloom. My son Patrick is a perfect example. This is a very common thing, though there are children who show up as disordered as young as 8 or 10 and are actually dangerous by that age. With more and more young women taking drugs when they are with child, I think these children are becoming more frequently seen. Of course alcohol consumed while preg is also another horrible condition and if you factor in the genetics plus the environment and damage before birth it makes a horrible combination for the individual.

    While I am very much in favor of recognizing the signs of a personality disordered person or person with other “problems” that would impact on us, and requires us in good sense to be NO CONTACT with these individuals, at the same time I have some compassion for a person who displays these conditions, the same as I would have compassion on a person whose mental acuity is lacking.

    • Joyce, I am in total agreement with the aspect of maintaining “compassion.” I don’t believe that this is the same sentiment as “pity,” though it could certainly move into a more powerful level of empathy. I do (DO) feel for those people who are that messed up. I feel a level of compassion in that I cannot imagine what kind of empty, cold, and lonely world the seriously disordered people live in. The are, truly, alone.

      Knowing that they are truly alone doesn’t mean, by ANY stretch of the imagination, that I am obligated to fill that void for them! I’m just fine with “No Contact” if it’s going to protect my precious vulnerabilities from being exploited or manipulated.

      I’ve mentioned this movie, before, but I’ll type it out, again: “We Need To Talk About Kevin.” It is a very, VERY gritty examination of a child that is born, disordered. The struggles between the parents to sort this child out are literally painful to watch, so the caveat is that this movie could be extremely triggering for some of us. BUT……..it’s a well-considered discussion of how futile the effort is to try to “cure” someone who was born without a conscience.

      • While I haven’t seen the movie, I can agree with Joyce. It may be difficult for some people to watch. If you can pause it and remove yourself from it, it can be done. The movie is based on the novel of the same name, which for those who read, it is a way again, to set the book down, walk away and come back when you are comfortable with it.

  6. Thanks for bringing up that movie title, Truthy, I have not seen it, and frankly am not sure I want to given my own history with Patrick, it might be very triggering and I try to avoid triggers, but that said, I think it might be eye opening for some people with kids like this.

    My own years doing intake interviews with parents of these kids and listening to their stories are still vivid memories. At the timie Patrick had been arrested about 6 months before I took this job, and in a way it was helpful therapy for me because I realized I WAS NOT ALONE in my grief, fear, pain, etc. Of course I had to keep my own pain out of the interview, but I sure felt empathy for those parents.

    I was never actually afraid of Patrick until the last few years, and I’m not sure why I wasn’t but I didn’t trust him as a teenager and I knew he was a thief and a liar but it NEVER occured to me he would be a killer.

    I think often when I think of this subject of parents and disordered kids, of Adam Lanza’s mother, whose son killed her and then went on to shoot up the school. She was dealing with something she was NOT qualified to handle and she paid for it with her life. I am sure she never once imagined he would KILL anyone, especially not her or those kids, but she guessed wrong.

    The “sniper” who was killed at a gun range with a fellow PTSD sufferer whom he was trying to help is another example of someone trying to deal with a person with a mental condition they are NOT qualified to cope with or deal with and unfortunately this young man paid with his life, leaving h is child an orphan and his wife a widow.

    Dr. Robert Hare talks about therapy actually making the disordered MORE manipulative because they learn the “words” and “attitudes” that they can fake to appear “genuine” etc. and believe me, Patrick is GOOD at it. What a piece of work he is.

    Right this minute there are about 2.5 MILLION individuals in jail or prison and another 7 or so million on parole or probation and I have no idea how many just have “records” The statistics are pretty daunting. With so many of the violent criminals being full on psychopaths, I have no doubt that many of these were acting out as children or teens, and while some of the parents may have been as bad as the offspring, since it is genetic, I also believe there are plenty of parents out there who are withering with grief because they are NOT themselves high in P traits…I spoke to quite a few of them in my job.

    I also don’t think that our “therapy” helped even a small minority of those teens. Or when I worked with the “early developers” who were dangerous by age 10-12, those kids were very scary.

    You are right, compassion is NOT pity, and you can have compassion for someone, and not try to “fix” the UNfixable.

  7. Good article Joyce.

    This is a tough one as many times the parents are stuck in a tough spot. They love their kid(s) but are afraid of them and nobody seems willing to step in and actually help. IF help is sought… If the parents are dysfunctional as well (genetics)- this is their ‘normal’ so why would they seek help?

    Also as stated upwards in the comments, for the BPD or ASPD to see a therapist, this rather feeds the affliction. Spaths already know how to ‘mirror’ our emotions and are quite manipulative to begin with. For a professional, to validate them, that ‘Yes there is a problem and No it’s not your fault’ this just seems a way to not only stroke their ego, but may also add to their ‘vocabulary’ in ways to manipulate their victims. While the professional may be trying to get to the root of the problem, the spath is ‘reading’ them to find ways to improve their tactics. What better target for ‘duping delight’ if they think the therapist buys their story? The part about it not being their fault (genetics), that seems to go along with their whole way of thinking. Nothing is ever their fault. Just ask them.

    • Phoenix, SPOT-ON!!!!!!!!!!!!

      “While the professional may be trying to get to the root of the problem, the spath is ‘reading’ them to find ways to improve their tactics.”

      I do believe that there may be a few borderlines that DO get fatigued by their behaviors – it takes a great deal of energy to continue the manipulations and histrionics, to be sure. So, there might be people who are not sociopaths that will find some relief and recovery.

      I completely agree with the perception that a straight-up sociopath is going to mirror whatever they believe to be “normal” behaviors. And, at this point in my life, there are odd and quirky “tells” because a sociopath really cannot FEEL what they are mirroring, so there is always going to be something that is disingenuous about their responses or assertions.

      And, you’re right – nothing is ever their fault, even their own personal choices. They’ve got more excuses than Carter has green liver pills…………..

      • Truthy- That last sentence is something we have discussed here many times over. “Nothing is ever their fault, even their own personal choices.”

        How many times have we all seen the spaths in our lives, “LIE when the truth would better serve them” or even when the TRUTH and all the undeniable PROOF in the world of such TRUTH- smacks them in the face.

        As a wise woman on this subject told me once, (paraphrasing here) “They expect everyone to believe what they’ve said, because they have NO reason to think that anyone would NOT believe them.

        So the next time you find yourself questioning their statements and thinking, “Who died and made you GOD???” Question them on something and watch their reaction. Nine times out of ten, they will have no idea how to handle it. They said it so it must be true. Who are you to question them??? How dare you!!! LMAO!

        *** If anyone should choose to go the route of questioning them, do so very carefully, as their reaction may be a violent one. They typically have no way of handling it because they have no examples to follow in their “Spath Playbook”. They’ve not been confronted with this so there is nothing to mirror, which is why they may revert to violence. If abusing you into submission worked before, it will work again, is their train of thought. ***

  8. Phoenix,
    supposedly there is a therapy for BPDs, it’s called Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and it’s reported to work. I doubt it would work on a true spath, who cannot feel anything. But perhaps it would work on the BPD who feels too much.

    I do see what you mean about genetics. For the longest time I couldn’t even consider that genetics was part of the problem. Sometimes though, you can see behavior in family members that is soooo much alike, that no other explanation seems to fit.

    It’s a complicated mix of genetics, environment and CHOICE, IMO. Finding the few disordered persons who are tired enough of their disordered lives that they CHOOSE to make a change, would be a challenge, I think.

  9. You know, the genetics part of it, the actual differences in the brain structure of the psychopath gives me pause. Did the environment + the genetics, even in the womb cause the brain differences and thus lead to the behaviors? Or did something else cause all that?

    I know that an alcoholic or drug addict has a GENETIC link to becoming addicted more easily than others, but they still have a CHOICE to drink or drug, they are NOT helpless or hopeless to change their lives.

    Of course we also know that there are LEVELS of BPD, ASPD etc where some individuals are worse than others, where some individuals become criminal at an early age, and some become president of the US or CEO with the corner office of a fortune 500 company. Why are the “successful” ones able to stay out of prison? Many of them DO break the law.

    My own biological father was not only a full on psychopath, he was very smart, but quite crude and VERY criminal, I know he was a serial killer, wife and child abuser, con man, smuggler,tax cheat, animal abuser, rapist, and several other crimes, but he managed to stay out of prison.He even managed to become very very wealthy. My own son who was an “ideal ” child became very much like him, and like him had NO idea what people really thought about him. Patrick though, has not managed to stay out of jail and prison, and has not “gotten it” that ALL others don’t see him as the SUCCESS he sees himself as.

    No amount of therapy except maybe a lobotomy would help Patrick live a crime free life.

    In a way I feel compassion for these people, the same way I might feel compassion for a rabid dog, but that doesn’t mean I want to take it home and keep it for a pet. I think that at some point they reach a point of “no return” and maybe that point is early in life, or later in life, but wherever it is I think, like Patrick has, a “reprobate mind” that is simply evil. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and all the people like them that have gone on in a line back into pre-history. The most psychopathic guy in the cave got the most food, the most women and spread his genes far and wide.

  10. Sky & Joyce- The genetic behaviors I have witnessed even skipping generations or being similar behaviors in cousins, when it is clearly not the “environment”, because there are two separate and sometimes even vastly different households involved. It would also make someone researching this, wonder or at least give pause to consider, that other things such as hair color, skin tone and height can be recessive genes. Could any of these disorders be recessive as well?

  11. You know, it has been recognized for DECADES or maybe centuries that ANIMALS have different dispositions according to breeding. Beagles and Pit Bulls are NOT EQUALLY “sweet” or aggressive. Spanish fighting bulls are a perfect example too. Yet, the PC thinking was that human babies were born a blank slate on which environment wrote, so if your kid turned out bad it was YOUR FAULT.

    Recentely I had a “silver” Highland calf born from a red mama and a red daddy, but both parents had great-great grandmothers who were silver (I’m not suer how many greats) but BINGO out popped this silver calf, I’d had a cream colored one last year as well. So the thing is that everyone of us have some genetic variation even in “breeds” and disposition is definitely bred into animals. Doesn’t mean you can’t “train” an animal to be fearful or aggressive, but the NATURAL tendency of each breed that is pretty “pure” still has some genetic throw backs. Had a heifer a few years ago who was as wild as a deer from BIRTH, yet her mother was gentle, and I had culled my herd for decades for disposition and ANY sign of aggression outside of protecting a very young calf sent the cow to the butcher shop.

    My bio father had 4 kids, 3 of us turned out to be pretty “typical” but his youngest son is just like him. The rest of us went NC with him years ago. I haven’t got contact with my half sibs, and don’t know about their kids, but one of my two turned out to be just like my father. I do know that daddy-deariest’s mother was a P and her father was a P but that is as far back as I can go. My uncle and aunt on that side, sibs to my father were both nice people. My aunt is “estranged” from her one child (don’t know why) , but my uncle’s kids are all okay.

  12. Sometimes we SHOULD be afraid of our kids and people aren’t willing to accept that their kid’s anger and rage can boil over to murder. I know I had difficulty realizing that my child was indeed a dangerous man.

    Here is another news article about a kid killing his entire family because they took his computer way. I find it hard to believe that there were NO advance warning signs that this kid was harboring severe problems. Maybe out in the community he appeared “nice” but I am going to bet that his parents saw some problems but didn’t recognize the severity of them.

    CORBIN, Ky. (AP) — Friends and relatives of a 16-year-old boy killed in a shootout with police in Maryland struggled to understand how the faithful churchgoer and high school ROTC student could end up as the suspect in the slaying of his parents and younger sister in Kentucky.

    Jason Hendrix was suspected of killing his family execution-style last week before fleeing his small Southern town to the East Coast, authorities said Sunday.

    Saturday’s shootout led police to search the teen’s home more than 500 miles away in Corbin, Kentucky. There, authorities found the bodies of Kevin and Sarah Hendrix


    I think of Adam Lanza’s mother, realizing her child had “problems” didn’t think they would result in her own murder before he went off to murder the school children.

    I also think about the murder of the “American Sniper” by the ex soldier he was trying to “help”–Chris didn’t realize that he was dealing with someone who needed PROFESSIONAL HELP not being taken to a gun range…I heard yesterday that the killer had only recently been RELEASED from an in patient VA psych facility. Obviously before he was ready to be released.

    Parents and others, like Chris Kyle, not recognizing the TRUE dangers in enraged teenagers or mentally ill people also with PTSD can turn the best of intentions into their own funerals.

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