Mental Health Issues

Disorders that can be catalysts for estrangement

Note: My listing of a link does NOT mean that I agree with the information and opinions found at each site or that any of these sites will be helpful to anyone. I am not a mental health professional nor an expert on any of the conditions or situations mentioned below.

Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger's Syndrome, Asperger's Disorder or AS is an autism spectrum disorder. I heard of Asperger's for the first time that I can recall in 2007. I have read only a little bit about it. Some adults with AS have been in the news recently, having learned for the first time that they have Aspergers. These are people who are married with kids and professions and the whole nine yards. As I read about AS, I'm thinking of people I have known who had some eccentric behaviors and histories. I have been wondering whether . . . ? The big "hmmmmmmmmmmmm?" My father-in-law perhaps?

You'd have to go some distance to find a more reserved person than him! Yet in his profession he was brilliant. Reserved, withdrawn, quiet and smart. Also odd and also estranged from his parents and siblings at his choice. One of the symptoms is social awkwardness and a lack of empathy.

Do you know someone who is reserved? Socially awkward but smart? Clumsy? With poor handwriting? Are you estranged from them? Are they you?

Your Child's Disorder May be Yours, Too by Benedict Carey, Dec. 9, 2007, NY Times. (May require registration to read article but registration should be free.) Fascinating article! Worth the trouble of registering if registering is required.
From Page 2 of the NY Times article:

"John Halpern, 76, a retired physicist living in Massachusetts, began to review his own life not long after hearing a radio interview with an expert on Asperger’s syndrome. He immediately recognized himself as a textbook case, he said, and decided to call his daughter, whom he hadn’t spoken to in 10 years. He wanted to apologize, he said, “for my inadequacy as both a father and a husband to her mother.”

But as soon as he started explaining, he said, his daughter cut him off. “That’s Asperger’s,” she told him. “She knew,” he said. “She had been looking into it herself, wondering if in fact I had it.”

Mr. Halpern said that over several calls they shared feelings and agreed “to work on our new relationship and see how far we can take it.” The two now talk regularly, at least once a week, he said."

Wikipedia article on Asperger Syndrome

O.A.S.I.S.: Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison. This is not about estrangement as far as I know but it is about having Asperger's Syndrome and being diagnosed with it relatively late in life. Robison is the brother of Augusten Burroughs who is the author of Running with Scissors: A Memoir, an account of his dysfunctional family. Burroughs' book was made into a movie.

Google Search Results on the words: asperger's syndrome.

Mood Disorders

Bipolar Disorder

This disorder can result in impulsive decisions and behavior, extreme irritability, and paranoia. There is a high risk of suicide in people who have this disorder due to the impulsivity and the despair when a sufferer has a recurrence of depression. It is the kind of disorder where people act before they think.

Information on Bipolar disorder at the National Institute of Mental Health

Bipolar Disorder on Psych Central.

Catching a Darkness: Glimpses of my Sister's Mania. Catching a Darkenss is Boris Dolin's online memorial in photographs and words to Jessica Dolin, his sister, who committed suicide in 2003. The site offers an intimate window on the interior life of a young woman with bipolar disorder and her family's attempts to help her despite her frequent rejections of assistance and her inability to see them as being helpful when she was in the depths of her illness. In 2002 she wrote The Holy Book of Illusion: A Journey Through Mania which was her account of what it feels like to suffer from bipolar disorder.

Recovery Through Art: The website of Mara McWilliams. From the home page of her site: "Mara is in recovery with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, panic disorder, and anorexia. Mara's ultimate goal is to educate our society that through proper diagnosis, treatment, therapy, love, support, and understanding, recovery is possible."
Mara is an advocate for recovery through involvement in the arts, particularly through visual arts and poetry. Two of her poems are included on the Poetry Page.

Pendulum Resourses: Bipolar Disorder news, information, and support.

Surviving and Thriving with a Dual Diagnosis, by Lindy Fox. The link to article has become inactive since I first found it online. It might be worth searching for if you are interested. The article was her personal account of experiencing both bipolar disorder and alcoholism that resulted in many years of torment and struggle for her and her family. She has worked on research on dually diagnosed people like herself at the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center in New Hampshire.

Delusional Disorder. Persecutory Type, previously called Paranoid Disorder. May be one of the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.


Depression can be triggered by any kind of loss including the loss of someone through estrangement. Depression can also be a factor in causing a person to isolate and estrange themselves from others.

Depression: Dr. Ivan's Depression Central

McMan's Depression and Bipolar site

Personality Disorders

Note: While many normal people will find characteristics of personality disorders in their own personality or those of friends and relatives and then jump to the conclusion that they suffer from the disorder, the difference between a personality disorder and the personality of a normal person is "that it does not affect most people's daily functioning to the same degree it might someone diagnosed with one of these disorders."

There is a condition that is named in a tongue in cheek way: "Medical Student's Disease". That is a disease where you read a list of symptoms and conclude that you and most of the people that you know are suffering from the ailment described!

Borderline Personality Disorder

Excellent book: Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care about Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Randi Kreger and Paul T. Mason, 1998.

The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder: New Tools and Techniques to Stop Walking on Eggshells by Randi Kreger, Paperback. Hazelden 2008. ISBN-10: 1592853633 ISBN-13: 978-1592853632. Randi Kreger is co-author with Paul T. Mason, M.S. of Stop Walking on Eggshells published in 1998.

BPD Central. "Welcome to Oz", an online community set up by Randi Kreger for those who are in or have been in relationships with sufferers of BPD. Randi Kreger is the author of "Stop Walking on Eggshells".

NY Times Consults Blog, June 15, 2009 "An Expert Look at Borderline Personality Disorder", Personal Health columnist Jane E. Brody discusses borderline personality disorder, a surprisingly common mood disorder that has profound ramifications not just for patients but for family and friends as well. One recovered patient describes it as “a serious psychiatric disorder involving a pervasive sense of emptiness, impulsivity, difficulty with emotions, transient stress-induced psychosis and frequent suicidal thoughts or attempts.”

NY Times Consults Blog, June 19, 2009 "Expert Answers on Borderline Personality Disorder". From the Consults blog: "Recently, readers asked about borderline personality disorder on the Consults blog. Marsha Linehan, professor of psychology at the University of Washington and the developer of dialectical behavior therapy, a technique to treat the disorder, responds." The response section that follows these NY Times articles is as interesting as the articles. Highly recommended reading on the subject. Responders include family members of those who have BPD, mental health professionals, and authors (like Randi Kreger) of books on the subject.

Tom Aplomb: a blog by a writer who writes about many topics. Included in his writings are posts about his thoughts on and experience of having been married to a woman who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. A different take on the subject than the NY Times articles and one that you may find interesting.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder has some similar elements to Borderline Personality Disorder in the person's self centered approach to relationships. To make things particularly confusing, often those with NPD (or BPD) accuse others with whom they have relationships of suffering from NPD. This is called projection where someone attributes characteristics of themselves to other people. It is also called crazymaking. That is an unscientific term, in case you were wondering.

People with NPD tend to be very difficult to have a relationship with and they tend to cut people off who express any criticism of them. They don't do well in therapy for this and other reasons. They have difficulty admitting imperfection and would see that suffering from NPD would be an imperfection. This means that they are in a Catch-22 situation where they hate to admit imperfection, especially an ailment that affects the mind, and NPD is an ailment that affects the mind. They are caught in between a rock and a hard place where it comes to admitting imperfection.

From the website of the Appalachian State University, click here for a link to a page with links to several web pages on the topic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The pages include a discussion of what is normal and what is pathological narcissism. There is a paragraph at the bottom of the main page that states that the pages are a result of a project undertaken for a class at the Appalachian State University, fall semester 2001, and that they were compiled by Melissa E. Barth, a Master's degree candidate in the Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) : "How to recognize a narcissist" by Joanna M Ashmun, 1998. Very interesting reading on NPD. Also has links to other useful sites and information on NPD.

For more on Personality Disorders, click on this link to Psych Central and scroll down in the page.


Schizophrenia: A devastating mental illness which can often be treated successfully with medication. But then sometimes the person won't take their medication.

About Schizophrenia on NAMI

Understanding and responding to symptoms of schizophrenia

Cults & Stockholm Syndrome

Some estrangements begin due to differences in religious beliefs and due to involvement in cults. The process of a person aligning themselves with a different group can be due to true interest in a new set of beliefs or it can be a more insidious process that results from someone setting themselves up as a dominating authority figure over others.

Some people are more susceptible to this kind of influence than others. There are various explanations given for the resulting estrangements. The Stockholm Syndrome and Parental Alienation Syndrome are two.

The Battle for Your Mind Dick Sutphen's The Battle for Your Mind. An essay on brainwashing in our culture & cults - sometimes involved in estrangements. The Stockholm Syndrome is mentioned. I have found articles on the Stockholm Syndrome that interest me in that the Stockholm Syndrome sounds a lot like what occurs in Parental Alienation Syndrome where an inexplicable estrangement can develop despite a previously healthy harmonious relationship.

The Anatomy of Illusion by Pete Evans, The Door Magazine 2004. An interview with Rick Ross, head of the nonprofit The Rick A. Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups, and Movements.

The Cult Education Institute. Mission Statement: The Cult Education Institute (formerly known as the Ross Institute of New Jersey) is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization devoted to public education and research. The Institute's mission is to study destructive cults, controversial groups and movements and to provide a broad range of information and services easily accessible to the public for assistance and educational purposes.

The Foster Report on Scientology (scroll down on the linked page for references to Scientology being implicated in family estrangements.)

Steven Alan's Freedom of Mind Center, Cult Counselor and Mind control Expert

Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) refers to a type of alienation that may occur between children and one parent after a divorce, particularly after a bitter divorce.

Links to PAS information

Parental Alienation: An information article on Wikipedia. ("Parental Alienation" differs from "Parental Alienation Syndrome" but is related.)


National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH: the largest scientific organization in the world dedicated to research focused on the understanding, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders and the promotion of mental health.