Two of the issues that came up in those first counseling sessions were Michael’s drinkingand what Diane described as his moodiness. Whereas Diane had cut down severely on her drinking beginning with her first pregnancy, Michael drank two or three cocktails every night, which he justified as providing relief from his stressful job as a financial adviser. But as Diane explained, “If Michael gets into one of his moods, his cocktails only make it worse.”
Men with BPD
Michael suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD. Like the vast majority of men with this disorder, however, he has not been diagnosed as such. Instead, the counselor he and Diane met with initially gave him two diagnoses: alcohol abuse and impulse control disorder. Michael was told that he needed to stop drinking and enroll in an anger management program. And though this may be objectively true—Michael may indeed have had did have a drinking problem, and his behavior at times was aggressive—this turned out not to be of much help in changing Michael’s behavior.
One reason why men like Michael are often misdiagnosed is because BPD typically manifests itself in different ways in men than it does in women. Here are a few examples of how BPD manifests itself in men:
- Aggressively thin-skinned: On the few occasions when Diane tried to talk to Michael about any behavior on his part that bothered her—such as his drinking–he would fly into a rage and drive her away. Also, on these occasions he would sometimes accuse Diane of thinking she was “too good for him.” In other words, as insecure as he might be, Michael always took the offensive when he felt criticized.
- Controlling through criticism: BPD men are more inclined to compensate for the lack of control they experienced as children by being overly controlling in their adult relationships. This often takes the form of being overly critical. For example, despite the fact that Diane had a full-time job just as he did, Michael was quick to criticize her if the house was messy or if dinner was not ready on time.
- Irrational jealousy: Michael’s reaction after his and Diane’s night out with friends, along with his inclination to accuse her of being inappropriately “sexy” are good examples of this. It was, of course, Michael’s insecurity and his unconscious need to monopolize Diane’s attention that drove this behavior.