Are Abusers Mentally Ill?

tin foil hat

Not crazy, just abusive. Okay, maybe a little crazy.

A common myth about abuse is that it is a symptom or result of mental illness on the part of the abuser. It’s a completely logical thought, isn’t it? Surely only a crazy person would hurt someone they love like that. And they’d have to be really crazy to think they could behave so outrageously and get away with it, right?

Well, no. This has been a research topic for decades, and the evidence is just not there. While some studies do show a link, there are many more that do not. There is stronger evidence showing that a mental illness may make an abuser more likely to use violence or at least make the violence more extreme, but it doesn’t appear to be the cause of abuse. What we do know is that mental illness makes someone more likely to be the victim of abuse.

And when you think about it, doesn’t that make sense? Someone who is already compromised is going to have far fewer defenses. With an unhealthy Mercury (mind), it is more difficult to recognize abusive patterns in real time and put them in their proper context. However, abusers are not compromised in the same way. They are very clear about their actions.

Not convinced? Think about it this way – when an abuser is throwing things around the house, whose stuff are they breaking? Their own, or their victim’s? When they are out in public, are they having breakdowns and starting fights with their boss? Or do they save their outbursts for their partner? And when they’re exhibiting their sadism, how often do they apply it to someone their own size?

Abusers, by and large, are in control of their own minds, and the selective nature of their abuse is proof. While it would be very convenient for them to blame their abuse on mental illness (and many try), it’s important to distinguish abusive behavior from true sickness. Abuse is about entitlement and control. Any argument to the contrary is an excuse.

Have you known anyone to blame abuse on mental health?  What other misconceptions about abuse have you encountered?

Consult with Midara.




Are Abusers Mentally Ill? — 17 Comments

  1. It depends on how sick they are. I would consider coming after someone with a knife abusive, yes? Not that it’s a get out of jail free card, but it’s obvious the person needs extreme help!

    As for women beaters and emotional abusers. I can fall for that a psychotic break may make someone impulsive or angry, but it’s not a consistent thing. And no, it’s not an excuse, I’m just explaining how nasty severe mental illness can get.

    I think a good chunk are more likely personality disordered, though! Again, all this just my two cents.

    • I think you have a point about personality disorders. The research does show more of a link there. Though, again, the connection is much stronger in the most extreme cases. But with there being so much overlap between abusive behaviors and behaviors associated with personality disorders, and given the degree to which both are resistant to treatment, in some cases it begins to feel like a distinction without a difference.

  2. I want to add that while I think it’s important to dispel myths about the causes of abuse, ultimately it doesn’t matter why it’s happening. No reason can excuse it, nor can it diminish the pain of the person on the receiving end. My goal is to remove the tendency to analyze and excuse abusers, not perpetuate it.

      • Not mentally ill, but spiritually ill. Same for the abused. In my case, I made the abuser my god, that was the symptom of my spiritual disease. His spiritual disease made him think he was god, lol. Our spiritual illnesses dovetailed in a symbiotic way.

        That’s the only misconception I can think about in regards to abusers, but I can think of a bunch of misconceptions about the abused.

        • Meant that reply as a general reply.

          But to reply directly to hermit. I wouldve said exactly what you said, until I went through it. You dont understand the breaking down that happens before the first slap.

          • @Libra Noir,

            I remember reading that John Lennon probably hit his wife once. I was shocked because he always sung and preached about love, peace, etc, etc.

            I bet he had stuff in his childhood that he took out on on a woman. I guess I thought a Libra Sun (John Lennon) would know better, but then I thought about how sensitive Libras can be! Sorry, I’m not hinting at you by mentioning John Lennon’s sign, I’m not that passive aggressive, LOL.

            I’m just saying that his wounded Libra side probably didn’t know how to deal with all his anger!

    • I always think that abuse in adulthood reflects abuse in the playground when we’re very young. The big kids pick on the little kids and unless the little kid does something extreme like sticking up for herself regardless of the fact she might get beaten to a pulp, it will continue for the duration of school life.

      The pretty/rich/sporty kids pick on the introverted/poor/less attractive kids and unless they stick up for themselves and really mean it, the bullies will continue indefinitely.

      Typically no one steps in to remedy the situation permanently – so bullying continues and it continues into adulthood and home and work.

      And unless the bullied adult does something extreme (leave home/work, fight back) the bulling continue.

      There’s enough evidence (articles and results from research on abuse) to prove people usually do know about abuse of other people (colleagues/family/kids) but do nothing about it and don’t punish the abuser. So it continues…

  3. My ex was being treated with Depakote for a short time which helped him tremendously with controlling his rages but he would not take it because it gave him headaches.
    I get where you are coming from but studies do show common factors that abusers have.
    Many have lost a parent as a young child causing abandonment issues. Which in turn results in the controlling issues abusers can have. There are also a correlation between men that serve in the military and as police officers who have learned to control through violence as being abusive. {not all certainly but it is all part of a perfect storm} Then of course growing up in a violent home . My ex had all of those in his background.
    I did make excuses for my ex for years but I finally came to the conclusion that it did not matter, knowing never changed his behavior. I had to save myself. Yes I was pretty screwed up.

    • I agree with you, Opalina. There is a if not several root causes, either for the abuser and the abused behavior pattern, which usually origins in early childhood. Child-parent fucked up dynamics or parent-parent. Kids learn from what you do, not what you say. BUT, I also agree there is nothing that can be done for abusers. I read somewhere you can’t change a person by loving them, they can only change themselves if they actually love you. I still struggle with my ex and this story is old as fck. His problems derive most certainly from an absolutely weird, co-dependent, neurotic, manipulative both ways relationship with his devouring mother. Yeah. His moon 12th sagg. Her sun somewhere on his sagg asc. I think she will have to die before he ever experiences true freedom and responsibility. And even so… it might even be worse the remedy… i dunno. I let it up to god to decide if this person ever comes to deserve me. At this point im just so tired of this experience myself 🙁

  4. I’ve had chronic depression since puberty. My Mercury (mind) is conjunct Chiron (wound) in Virgo and opposing Saturn rx. What does that say about my mental health? For so long my only purpose has been to recover and go back to normal.

  5. I was taken by the statement that mental illness makes one more likely to be abused. I don’t think that’s always true. I was born with health issues, so I was ill PHYSICALLY. I learned much later in life that my family resented me and I became the scapegoat child.

    Didn’t TRULY begin figuring things out until I moved in my 50’s to be near my aging mother and help her. That’s when I began to study narcissism and how deeply it had affected my life in every single way. When you are a victim at an early age, you become accustomed to it and attract it to you.

    I’ve dumped almost every single family member and friend from the past. The only people I keep in touch with are a few high school friends (who remember me fondly), my father (very aged) and my son. The rest? Poof. I don’t care anymore and never should have.

    Interesting how once I did all that I don’t have any more abusers in my life. I don’t tolerate it. Too bad it happened 3-4 decades too late.

    I do agree that mentally ill people (as compared with actual personality disordered people) are more likely to be abused. Personality disordered people are more likely to abuse.

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