People with personality disorders can experience overly strong emotional responses to upsetting life events, they often have chaotic relationships with people. They are also more likely to have had some type of trauma as a child although trauma in itself does not cause personality disorders. They often also can have problems with addictions, eating disorders, body image, and anxiety. A person with personality disorders has trouble controlling his thoughts and managing his feelings, and often has impulsive and reckless behavior. Here are the condition’s main symptoms:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid feeling abandoned
  • History of unstable, intense relationships
  • Tendency to view people and situations as either “all good” or “all bad”
  • Poor self-image
  • Impulsiveness (spending, sex, substance abuse, etc.)
  • Self-harm (e.g., cutting) or suicidal behavior
  • Mood swings involving anger and depression, usually in response to stressful events or relationships
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Problems managing anger and unpleasant emotions
  • Paranoia 

As a result of our judgemental nature, we often ignore these obvious signs of psychological or mental illness choosing rather to focus on a person’s personal failures as the cause of their negative behaviour. Sometimes in relationship or marriage, we see a couple swinging from far left to far right in rapid movements, today they are happy and appear to be in love, the next minute they are at each other throats with extreme hate and real intention to cause bodily harm. Sometimes also you see a man or a woman appear incorrigible and unable to take simple correction and will repeat the same offence over and over, these are always dismissed as signs of stubbornness, meanness, inability to love, submit or respect their spouse. 

What we have failed to understand in this part of the world is that some people suffer from different types of undiagnosed psychological and psychiatric illnesses. What some of them need may be medical intervention. It is important that we understand that not all sudden changes in a partner’s behaviour is as a result of spiritual manipulation, outside influence, infidelity or lack of love, a lot of people are suffering from personality disorders or clinical depression and this can be very dangerous if left untreated.  It is not only when a person’s strips in public and puts dirt on themselves that we should consider them mad. There are so many mentally ill people masquerading as husbands or wives who should be on medication or in hospital getting the help they need. Depression just like personality disorders as a form of mental illness is real and has wreaked havoc in marriages.  These are some of the symptoms of depression 

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no other cause can be diagnosed.

When you study the symptoms of borderline personality disorders and depression above you will understand that most problems in marriages may be linked to untreated mental ill health. Domestic violence, alcoholism, anger, infidelity or sex addiction can all be symptom of either one form of personality disorder or depression. Things we used to blame on the devil, demons, remote control from the village may all have its roots in mental ill health. 

Personality disorders and depression are not the exclusive reserve of white people, it does not exist only in movies and novels, it is here with us, a lot of Africans living in Africa suffer from these conditions and we ignorantly allow them to roam without treatment. People affected by these conditions are a danger to themselves and others around them. In the symptoms above, you may recognise some of the unsavoury behaviour exhibited by your spouse, if you do, please encourage them to go for psychiatric and psychological evaluation to ascertain their mental state. 

 A lot of lives have been lost to domestic violence and in our usual blame game, we have failed to focus and investigate the real reason why a previously peaceful and loving man or woman will exhibit very severe personality changes in an instant, some even stab or beat their spouse to death, what can cause this sudden and extreme swing from loving to hating or even killing in an outburst of savage brutality?  It may be an undiagnosed serious case of personality disorder, depression or other forms of mental ill health. It is important for us to begin to depart from our usual practice of blaming the devil, an enemy in the village, a concubine, a boyfriend or sheer spousal wickedness for certain behaviours exhibited by our partner, we should be attentive to the signs of mental ill health in our partners and seek help immediately. A stitch in time saves nine – Sir Stanley Ekezie