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Recognizing and Understanding the Cycle of Abuse

Abuse can be hard to understand and recognize, especially when you’re not familiar with the cycle of abuse and how it works. However, knowing this information could potentially save you or someone else’s life! 

If you’re struggling with abuse and mental health problems, then keep reading to learn more about this serious topic. 

Cycle of Abuse

This four-part cycle helps distinguish certain behaviors and patterns that abusive partners tend to have. By knowing these patterns of abuse, you can better protect yourself in future and current relationships. 

The four-part cycle starts with tension building, then an incident where abuse or violence takes place. After that, reconciliation is made, followed by a calm state. This tragic cycle repeats itself over and over again until the victim becomes worn down.

1. Tension Building

Tension building can be brought on by anything. Some of the triggers for an abusive partner are fatigue, overworking, being hungry, and other family issues.

The abusive partner will then begin to show signs of anger, fear, and feeling unempowered in the relationship. The tension that builds up as a result of these feelings can weigh heavily on you.

You might try to find a peaceful resolution. However, there may not be a solution until the abusive partner feels in control again.

Because of this, you might start feeling anxious and even scared. It is considered emotional abuse. Often, abusive partners use this tactic to inflict pain on others. 

2. Incidents of Abuse or Violence

Once the abuser has reached the breaking point, they will externalize these feelings. Abusers will use physical and verbal tactics to gain back control.

For example, they won’t allow you to wear certain clothes, or they’ll make you cut off communication with family and friends. Sometimes these tactics turn into sexual and physical aggressions. 

It is the most dangerous stage of the cycle. In fact, a recent report stated that six women die every hour as a result of domestic violence.

3. Reconciliation 

This stage in an abusive relationship can be very confusing. Often, the victim thinks that the abuse has stopped because the abuser has calmed down.

The abuser will start to show the victim their preferred love language like gift-giving or physical touch. Unfortunately, this “honeymoon” stage only lasts for a little bit.  

Often, those in a normal relationship don’t understand why the victim “doesn’t just leave.” For starters, the victim might not be physically or financially able to leave the relationship. 

The abuser might also hurt them for trying.

Most importantly, mental abuse causes a shift in a person’s brain chemistry. During the “honeymoon” stage, the victim’s brain releases oxytocin and dopamine.

Often, the victim is longing for this gratification, but the abusive partner will withhold affection to gain control. This causes the victim to stay and chase this feeling of “happiness.”

4. Calm State

During the calm state, the abuser will try and justify their abuse by apologizing. However, the apology is never sincere. It is really just a tactic to make the victim think the abuse won’t happen again.

The abuser will also blame their actions on others or sometimes the victim.

Here are some examples:

  • “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you made me mad.”
  • “Sorry for snapping you earlier; it’s just my job has been stressing me out.”
  • “The only reason I hit you was because you were provoking me.”
  • “I didn’t even hit you that hard; you should get over it.”

After their apology, the abuser will convince the victim that it won’t happen again. They might try to manipulate you by making the situation seem smaller.

You might start doubting yourself and think that you were dramatic. And slowly, you start believing that your partner will change. 

How Does Abuse Affect Mental Health?

This cycle of abuse can leave someone with permanent damage. Many times battered women and men show symptoms of PTSD.

This mental disorder can bring on intense feelings of anxiety and paranoia, even if the victim has left the relationship. Over time, being in an abusive relationship can diminish someone’s self-worth and confidence.

It happens because the abuser is constantly attacking them and making them feel less than them. The abuser will use this tactic to wear down an individual not to seek happiness outside of the relationship.

Battered women and men are also likely to develop depression and suicidal ideations. Overall, being in an abusive relationship can deteriorate someone’s mental health. That’s why it’s essential to get help immediately!

Gaslighting and Manipulation 

Gaslighting and manipulation go hand in hand with the four stages of abuse. For starters, gaslighting is a form of lying by creating a false reality. 

For example, if a person finds their spouse cheating on them and the abuser outright denies the accusations, this is considered gaslighting. 

This tactic makes the victim’s reality and perception unclear. Often, the victim will feel “crazy,” but just because they don’t know what’s real and fake anymore. 

Manipulation is similar to gaslighting. For example, an abuser will try and control a situation by providing false information or showing empathy. Nevertheless, the abuser is doing this to establish control over a person.

Red Flags to Look Out For

All of the abuse mentioned doesn’t necessarily begin at the start of a relationship. Sometimes abusers will withhold these strong emotions and actions until they feel secure. 

However, there are minor signs that you should look out for during the start of a relationship. For example, love bombing is when a partner shows a lot of attention and affection during the first few weeks of being together.

It may seem normal at first, but this will progress at an unusual pace. The abuser might tell you they love you and that they want you to meet their family.

The problem with love bombing is that when the abuser has “locked” you down, they begin to withhold love. Love bombing eventually turns into a cycle of abuse.

Living Your Truth 

Abusive relationships can leave you feeling hopeless. But knowing the cycle of abuse can give you back some power! If you or a loved one is struggling with an abusive relationship, get help immediately!

If you have any more questions, contact us today to receive more information on our different services!

Understanding and Treating Histrionic Personality Disorder

Have you or someone you love recently been diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder? If so, you should know all you can about this personality disorder so that you can manage it or help someone that is struggling.

The word “histrionic” means theatrical or dramatic. This disorder tends to co-occur with other personality disorders and is characterized by dramatic, erratic, or overly emotional behaviors.

Keep reading to learn more about this disorder, its symptoms, and the treatment options available.

Histrionic Personality Disorder: The Basics

Typically, someone with histrionic personality disorder depends on others for feelings of self-esteem. They often tend to have a strong desire to get the approval of others and want to be noticed. When they do not receive this approval or attention, they will often behave inappropriately or dramatically in order to get the attention they desire.

Histrionic Personality Disorder is classified as a cluster B personality disorder. Cluster B personality disorders cause difficulties in regulating emotion and behavior. Of these 4 include antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, and histrionic.

People with histrionic personality disorder tend to have a distorted self-image.

Someone with this disorder may rely on others for self-esteem, meaning that self-worth does not come from their own true feelings. This disorder tends to be more common in women and usually is evident in early adulthood.

Potential Causes

While the exact causes of this disorder are not known, many mental health professionals believe that both inherited and learned behaviors have a role in its development.

For example, the tendency for this disorder to run in families could mean that it could be genetically inherited. However, it’s also possible that a child of a parent with histrionic personality disorder could have learned the behavior. There are other factors involved that could lead to this disorder, as a child may grow up with some confusion regarding what kind of behavior earns parents, and eventually others, approval.

These factors could be that the child received a lack of punishment or criticism, that unpredictable attention was given to the child by the parent, or that positive reinforcement was only given to the child upon certain approved behaviors.

Common Symptoms

Typically, someone with a histrionic personality disorder will have good social skills — perhaps impeccable social skills. However, they may use these skills to manipulate others.

They may also use these skills to make themselves the center of attention. The individual may become uncomfortable if they are not at the center of attention.

Their emotions may shift rapidly, and they may act very dramatically as if they are performing for an audience. They may exhibit exaggerated emotions and expressions but appear to lack sincerity. To get attention, they may dress provocatively or exhibit inappropriate flirtatious or seductive behaviors.

They may constantly be seeking reassurance and approval and may be overly concerned about their physical appearance. Additionally, the individual may seem gullible, allowing them to easily be influenced by others. It may be difficult for the individual to accept criticism or disapproval.

They may be sensitive yet have a low tolerance for frustration. They often get bored by routine and may often start projects without ever finishing them. They often make rash decisions and do not think before acting.

They may exhibit behaviors that seem self-centered, and may rarely show concern for others. This can make it difficult for them to maintain healthy relationships, as others may feel that they are shallow, insincere, or fake. Also, those suffering from this disorder may threaten or even attempt self-harm or suicide to get attention from others.

Diagnosis and Treatments

If the above signs and symptoms are present, a doctor will begin and physical examination of the patient while also reviewing their complete medical history. There are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose personality disorders, but the doctor may choose to run different diagnostic tests in order to rule out any physical illness that could be causing the symptoms. If the doctor finds no reason for the symptoms, then they will refer the patient to a psychologist or a psychiatrist that is professionally trained to diagnose and treat mental illness.

These healthcare professionals will use specially designed assessment and interview tools to evaluate someone for a personality disorder. Typically, those with this disorder do not believe that they need therapy, which can make following a treatment plan difficult. This is especially true if they dislike routine or tend to exaggerate their feelings.

However, those with these disorders often also have feelings of depression, which may be triggered by the loss of a relationship or friendship, or any other issues that their thoughts or behavior may cause, which may make them seek help out of distress. A type of counseling called psychotherapy is usually the treatment of choice for this disorder. The overall goal of this treatment is to help the patient uncover the fears or motivations behind their thoughts and actions.

This can help the patient learn ways to relate and communicate with others in a more positive way. Medication may be prescribed to the patient to treat some of their distressing symptoms, such as depression and anxiety.

Your Guide to Histrionic Personality Disorder

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with histrionic personality disorder, keep the information in this guide in mind. If you have this disorder or know someone who does, treatment is the answer.

Are you looking for a mental health treatment center in San Diego? If so, contact us today to get the help you need.


Black & White Knight Narcissists

Did you know that 5% of people in the United States have a narcissistic personality disorder? All of these people are overly focused on their self-esteem issues. In turn, narcissists form strategies that are meant to enhance their poor self-esteem.

Among those individuals are two main types of narcissism: black knight narcissism and white knight narcissism. The distinction between the two lies in whether or not the narcissist is pro-social or anti-social.

To learn more about the differences between black knight narcissists and white knight narcissists, keep reading.

Pro-Social Narcissists vs. Anti-Social Narcissists

In order to evaluate whether or not a narcissist is pro-social or anti-social, you have to ask yourself three things:

  1. What are the narcissist’s intentions?
  2. How do they supply their self-esteem?
  3. What kind of impression does the narcissist want others to have of him/her?

Pro-social narcissists want to help others. They want others to see them as good.

Of course, they want credit and praise for their good deeds. But, they add a lot of value to their friendships and society as a whole.

On the other hand, anti-social narcissists take advantage of others. They exploit others’ weaknesses for their own personal gain. Overall, they want others to fear them.

At the worst, anti-social narcissists humiliate and berate others. Often, these kinds of narcissists are the toxic, malignant individuals who represent the ‘typical’ narcissist.

The History of White Knights and Black Knights

You may have heard of the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. These knights repeatedly swore to do good deeds for the weak and innocent. In fact, they often called themselves heroes.

In these stories, there were also knights that self-identified as powerful and destructive. They thrived on dominating over the weak and innocent.

Those knights who only worked towards their own personal gain wore all-black armor. Because of their armor, these are the Black Knights.

In contrast, the knights who are offering help are the White Knights.

This story translated into the two main types of narcissists: Black Knights and White Knights. Just like the knights in the story, these different kinds of narcissists are either for or against helping common folks.

The Black Knight Narcissist

Just like with King Arthur’s Knights, the black knight narcissist is focused on defeating everyone else for their own gain. In fact, they thrive on putting others down. It makes them feel better about themselves.

These are the anti-social narcissists. And, some people refer to black knight narcissism as selfish narcissism. (This is even though both forms of narcissism are selfish at the center.)

They don’t enjoy helping people, and they may not even believe that these people deserve help. In their minds, everyone else is lesser than they are. And, the narcissist will make sure that they know it.

Black knight narcissists are not inherently evil, although they make come off like this. They don’t offer help to individuals in society. But, there is an explanation behind their behavior.

Black knight narcissists have such low self-esteem that they feel like they need to knock everyone else down. By taking everyone else down, they are picking themselves up.

Usually, this behavior draws back to the inner child. Then, they grow into adults with narcissistic behavior.

The White Knight Narcissist

The white knight narcissist is the individual who is contributing to society. They are helping people and bettering society for their own gain. While it is for selfish reasons, their help is great for those around them.

These individuals are pro-social. And, some people refer to white knight narcissism as altruistic narcissism.

At the very heart of it, white knight narcissists are looking to make an impact on the world in return for recognition. They want others to praise them for their good deeds. In the long run, they want to be remembered for everything they did during their lifetime.

You may find these individuals volunteering at food banks, working at hospitals, or contributing to charity. They aren’t the typical picture of a narcissistic individual.

While white knight narcissists may not seem harmful, they can be harmful to themselves.

They’re contributing to society and benefiting everyone around them, but they are hurting themselves. The individual equates others’ reactions to their worth.

If someone doesn’t say thank you, the white knight narcissist notices. These interactions negatively impact them more than they should.

Similarities Between All Narcissists

Both black knight narcissists and white knight narcissists have much in common. This is even though there is a difference in how they approach their lack of self-esteem.

Here are some of the qualities that you may find in both white knight and black knight narcissists:

  • Narcissists revolve around their own unstable self-esteem and base their decisions on how each will affect their self-esteem
  • Narcissists can’t engage in whole object relations, a thought process in which people can see themselves and others together with both likable and unpleasant traits
  • Narcissists can’t engage in object constancy, which is the ability to maintain positive feelings for someone when you feel negative emotions at the moment
  • Narcissists have an obsessiveness with their status
  • Narcissists have a binary sense of self in which they’re perfect or worthless
  • Narcissists have intellectual empathy rather than emotional empathy
  • Narcissists believe that someone needs to take the blame when something goes wrong

Both white knight narcissists and black knight narcissists have these personality traits in common. Even though they go about their wants differently, they have the same issue: low self-esteem.

Treating Narcissism

If you or someone you know is dealing with narcissistic personality disorder, there is help. If you live in or near San Diego, you can trust Solara Mental Health with the treatment plan.

Our team is dedicated to helping narcissists overcome their challenges. Whether you need help with black white narcissism or white knight narcissism, we know how to help.

Get into contact with us today. The sooner that you reach out to us, the sooner we can get to work on improving your mental health.