It's All Your Fault, the podcast from High Conflict Institute, with Bill Eddy & Megan Hunter • Episode 104: The 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life

The 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life

In this episode, Bill and Megan give an overview of the five types of personality disorders that can become HCPs – narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, paranoid, or histrionic personality disorders or traits – why the ways we interact with them don’t work, and why you can’t get them to reflect on themselves. Tune in!

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When an HCP also has a personality disorder…

Personality disorder or not, people with a high conflict personality (HCPs) have a pattern of high-conflict behavior that increases conflict rather than reducing or resolving it. This pattern usually happens over and over again in many different situations with many different people. The issue that seems in conflict at the time is not what is increasing the conflict. The “issue” is the high-conflict personality and how the person approaches problem-solving. With HCPs, the pattern of behavior often includes a lot of these four characteristics:

  • Blaming others
  • All-or-nothing thinking
  • Unmanaged emotions
  • Extreme behaviors

HCPs also seem to have personality disorders or some traits of these disorders. This means that they have long-term patterns of:

  • Interpersonal dysfunction
  • Lack of reflection on their own behavior
  • Lack of change

Mental health professionals have identified ten personality disorders. Five of these have a tendency to become HCPs: those with narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, paranoid, or histrionic personality disorders or traits. This helps us understand why they stay stuck in conflict – namely because of two reasons: they don’t reflect on their part of the problem, and they don’t change. So, the conflict continues or gets worse.

Perhaps you know someone with this pattern. Someone who insists that you – or someone you know – is entirely to blame for a large or small (or non-existent) problem. If so, he or she may be an HCP and you likely have felt targeted by them and unsure what to do.

In this episode, Bill and Megan give an overview of the five types and why the ways we interact with them don’t work, and why you can’t get them to reflect on themselves.

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Episode Transcript

Intro: Welcome to It’s All Your Fault on TruStory FM, the one and only podcast dedicated to helping you identify and deal with the most damaging humans, people with high-conflict personalities.

Megan Hunter: I’m Megan Hunter, and I’m here with my co-host Bill Eddy.

Bill Eddy: Hi, everybody.

Megan Hunter: And we’re the co-founders of the High Conflict Institute in San Diego, California. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the five types of people who can ruin your life, but first, we have a few quick reminders. Here’s the deal. We want to hear from you. Have you dealt with a high-conflict situation, been blamed, or experienced violence or abuse from an HCP? Or maybe you simply dread seeing that person again, but you probably have to tonight at home or tomorrow at work. So send us your questions and we just might discuss them on the show. You can submit them by clicking the submit a question button at our website highconflictinsitute.com/podcast, or emailing us at [email protected], or dropping us a note on any of our socials. You can find all the show notes and links at highconflictinstitute.com/podcast as well. Make sure you subscribe, rate and review, and please tell all your friends about us. Telling just one person that you like the show and where they can find it is the best way you can help us out and help more people learn how to address high-conflict people. We appreciate you so very much. And now, on with the show. People come to us for help when they’re in crisis and feel like they’re out of options. They’re frustrated beyond imagination and many feel as though they’re in a deep dark hole with no clue how to get out. We get many, many calls like this and emails, and we have for all the years we’ve been working in this high-conflict arena. So it may be a family situation in which a parent has turned their children against the other parent and that parent’s family. It could be a challenging employee, a boss, a neighbor, customer, client, grandpa, student, teacher. Obviously the list is endless, but our ears perk up when we hear about these situations and we listen carefully to assess whether the situation they’re in is high conflict or not and if the person they’re dealing with has a high-conflict personality. The question is, how do we assess this? We do this by checking for four important factors. Bill, I’m going to hand it over to you. What are those four key characteristics that make up a high-conflict personality?

Bill Eddy: Well, these four are really usually easy for anybody to see over time. The first is a preoccupation with blaming others. They don’t take responsibility. It’s all somebody else’s fault and it might be all your fault in their mind. And it’s not like 50 or 60 or 80%. It’s 100% your fault and 0% their fault. Then there’s a lot of all-or-nothing thinking. It’s my way or the highway buddy. Then there’s unmanaged emotions. Now we don’t always see it. It may be going on inside, but it really makes the person very reactive to things. But sometimes you do see it outside. You see the anger, the frustration, et cetera. And lastly, they have extreme behaviors. Now there may be a pattern of extreme behavior or even one very extreme incident that grabs your attention. And these are things that 90% of people would never do. So look out for that. So these four characteristics, usually it dawns on people, "Oh wow. I’m dealing with a high-conflict person. What do I do?"

Megan Hunter: But do you think it really like… Until they hear the terminology high-conflict person, I guess in my experience, they know they’re dealing with someone really difficult, but they can’t quite put their finger on what that is. Do you have that same experience?

Bill Eddy: Oh, very much so. I think I should emphasize this. Isn’t always obvious at first. And so it often catches people by surprise, especially because high-conflict people often start out with a sugar-coated personality. So they could be very charming, friendly. They could seem wonderful. And then suddenly they start screaming at you or they throw something or they storm out of the room. So it can catch you by surprise.

Megan Hunter: Yeah. I’ve heard some people describe it as being fanged, F-A-N-G-E-D. Like everything was really nice and sugar coated, like you said, very charming and happy and nice and maybe even too much, but then there’ll be that email that comes across where they’ve just feel like they got fanged. So it can happen a lot. What I’d like to delve into a little bit deeper is to understand what all-or-nothing thinking is; one of those four characteristics. I mean, blame is pretty easy to spot, but all-or-nothing thinking, what’s that look like?

Bill Eddy: Let’s see, let’s take a divorce example. So both parents are going to court and each parent thinks they’re a wonderful parent and the other person’s one of the worst parents in the world. So they say, "I want to have custody of our son, Johnny. He’s five years old and I’m the better parent. The other parent should have supervised contact an hour a week in a therapist’s office." And the other parent says, "No, I’m the much better parent. That’s a terrible parent over there, and they should never have contact with the child ever again. They’re the worst person in the world." And when you get a case like that and you end up in family court, it’s all-or-nothing thinking. Now I’m describing both people having all-or-nothing thinking and solutions. Sometimes it is both, but sometimes it’s just one. Maybe half the time, according to surveys I’ve taken in seminars. That’s an example in a divorce. Now in the workplace, you might have somebody say, "I can’t work with so and so. Unless you fire them, I’m going to quit." And yet what’s the issue? It’s hard to figure out what the issue is. Well, and the issue is not the issue, it’s usually the personality is the issue, and that’s the kind of extreme example you’ll get. Of course, in the neighborhood, you might get that too. You may get somebody that says, "You can’t park in front of my house." Well, the law says everybody can park on the street anywhere they want to. "Well, you can’t park in front of my house. That’s my house." And I’ve heard of disputes like that that really escalated into violence. So these are the all-or-nothing examples that we see coming from high-conflict people.

Megan Hunter: I like what you said about the issue is not the issue. That’s a quote we say quite frequently. So expand on that a little bit, Bill. I remember reading in your very first book about a divorce case you had, or maybe not a case that you had, but your expectations when you became a divorce lawyer, you thought the issues would be millions of dollars or you’d be really debating big issues within the law, but what was it really?

Bill Eddy: Yeah, it really was the personalities. And I think of a couple cases I had where I was mediating, where I was helping people that worked out a whole divorce, but they couldn’t agree on what to do with the oak bookshelf. "I want that." "No, I should have that." And the oak bookshelf was probably like $300 or something. And then another case where they agreed on everything except the cam quarter. "Well, I should get that." "No, I should get that." We spent an hour on that and I pointed to the clock and I said, "You could have bought one in the time you just paid for to argue about this." I also think of one of my worst cases, I represented a woman that was low income. Neither parent had much money, but they were willing to just go to court forever fighting about it. And that’s when it was personalities, not the issue.

Megan Hunter: Yep. The issue’s not the issue. All right, let’s also talk about one of the other key characteristics, which is unmanaged emotions. And as we all know, emotions are a natural part of us. So what is it that’s different with the high-conflict personality in relation to unmanaged emotions?

Bill Eddy: Well, it seems to be a couple things because we do all have emotions and emotions are important to have. Even anger, fear, all of that really warns us. Fear tells us there’s a problem. We’ve got to pay attention. And anger says, "Hey, wait a minute, buddy. I’m here too. You can’t just walk all over me." But the unmanaged emotions where it’s just zero to a hundred in a split second, where you have someone, let’s say you’re discussing an issue in the office, and suddenly the person starts screaming at you and throws some papers in your face and storms out of the room. Well, that’s way out of proportion. That’s not managed emotions. In many settings, you don’t really see that, but what’s going on inside the person is a seeding rage. Something that they’re holding in and it’s totally throwing them off track. Or they get into a Twitter war or something like that, when they really were supposed be getting a project done and now they’re behind. So the unmanaged emotions often take over their life and take over their thinking. And so they’re just reacting now to the extreme and this can be a serious problem in some cases.

Megan Hunter: I think a lot of people are taken by surprise when they experience someone with these unmanaged emotions. And at first they may seem minor and anyone could have those kind of emotions, but then it becomes a pattern. And you start to see that this person is always reacting and out of proportion, like you said. So it’s important to give it some time. Yes?

Bill Eddy: Yeah, because sometimes this isn’t obvious. Like the book you and I wrote on Dating Radar, we said, wait a year before you commit to someone if you’re dating, because who knows, they may have a high-conflict personality that’s covered up by that sugar coating. But usually within six to 12 months, it shows up. Could be domestic violence, could be unwillingness to work or contribute to the household, could be a lot of blaming, all of that. So you don’t necessarily know that right away. But I believe, if people are aware of these four characteristics: the blaming, all-or-nothing thinking, unmanaged emotions, extreme behavior, they’re going to be more aware that they’re getting into a situation like that at the early warning signs instead of after they’re way in deep.

Megan Hunter: Right. And one of the ways, I guess, to see that and identified it is when you realize that these folks just don’t stop themselves, right?

Bill Eddy: Yes. And that’s one of the big characteristics as well, is they can’t stop themselves. And so the people around them end up stopping them or avoiding them. And that’s why we end up with a lot of cases in court with people getting restraining orders. They’re getting orders to restrain not only someone’s physical or violent behavior, but tearing down property to restrain getting to bank accounts that they don’t have rights to or limited rights to. So it’s really amazing that they can’t stop themselves and that most people think they can. They go, "Oh, he’ll never do that again." Well, he just does it again.

Megan Hunter: And see a surprise.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. I was just thinking of Lucy in Peanuts and Charlie Brown. And every fall he’s going to go kick the football and she’s holding the football there for him. And every year, she pulls it out right at the last minute and he falls on his back. Well, that’s what it is. If you can have that picture and go, "Wait a minute, is this something the person’s going to keep repeating forever five years from now, 10 years from now?" Are you going to keep them employed by you? Are you going to keep working for them, married, neighbors, all of that. That’s the thing. Really, it’s a hidden problem because people really have a fantasy, "Oh, they won’t do it again."

Megan Hunter: "Oh, he’ll change. Oh, she’ll change. She won’t do it again." And that’s what’s so interesting about this field, is that we both have to tell so many people," Stop being surprised by people with high-conflict personalities," or as we mentioned or call them as HCPs. They’re very predictable. And often when we ask the audiences that we train, "What’s your experience with high-conflict situations and high-conflict people?" They’ll often say, "Oh, they’re just so unpredictable." But once you understand really these four key characteristics and watch for them and rid yourself of the fantasy that, "Oh, they won’t do that again," then they become very predictable.

Bill Eddy: Absolutely. And it makes me think of a quick story. And this is in terms of the extreme behavior. Remember I said, high-conflict people do things 90% of people would never do. So a few years ago, there was a story in the news about someone eating at one of the fast food restaurants and they had a chili bowl and it had a human finger in it, fingertip.

Megan Hunter: Ugh!

Bill Eddy: And that was in the news. As soon as I heard that, I said, "That’s happened before. That’s not the restaurant. That’s whoever put that finger in there. I’m going to stay tuned." And within a week they found out that, yes, it wasn’t just a stray finger. It had been put in there by this woman who then was suing the fast food chain, but they found out she had sued like five or six other companies with five or six other weird things, not fingers.

Megan Hunter: Toast.

Bill Eddy: And it turned out, I think it was her brother-in-law worked in a factory and accidentally had cut off the tip of his finger on a machine and had saved it. And it obviously was too late to stitch it back on. And so he’s having dinner and she comes up with this idea. That’s extreme behavior, that’s a high-conflict person.

Megan Hunter: Yeah, most people would never, ever do that. It’s interesting that someone would actually have that thought in their mind, like that’s their solution for when you find a finger or have possession of a finger.

Bill Eddy: Look for the pattern that’s behind that high-conflict incident.

Megan Hunter: Right. If you’re listening to this and you’re wondering why we’re talking about four key characteristics of the high-conflict personality, well, here’s why. It’s these character that are displayed primarily by five personality disorder types. Remember this episode is titled: Five types of people who can ruin your life. So here’s where we’re going to get into that. And what are those five types? We have narcissistic, borderline, histrionic, paranoid, and anti-social or sociopath. But before I get to my question, I first want to point out that not everyone with one of these personalities is high conflict or has a high-conflict personality, whether they’re diagnosed or undiagnosed. Let’s talk about these five types, Bill.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. And just to emphasize, not telling people that you think they have a personality disorder or a high-conflict personality. And many people who maybe have a hint of realizing they may have a personality disorder, aren’t high-conflict people because they don’t have this target of blame. So that’s something really to watch out for. But if they do have a target of blame and they have one of these five personality disorders, that means that they’re really have a rigid pattern and they aren’t going to change. So real briefly, narcissistic personality disorder, most people have heard of that by now. It’s more than just someone who’s self-centered. It’s someone who puts other people down in order to feel superior, who lacks empathy, may be publicly humiliating the person be side them. And this could be their spouse, this could be their coworker, a business partner, all of that. Borderline personality is really kind of on the border between friendly and angry. And so you get these wide mood swings, they could be really clinging and then suddenly outraged. We some times see that in domestic violence cases, but not everybody with a borderline personality disorder has domestic violence. And not everybody with that disorder is a high-conflict person. They just kind of feel the world is a problem and why don’t things work for them, but they don’t blame anybody in particular. Then there’s the histrionic personality, very dramatic. "Oh my goodness. You’ll never understand what happened to me yesterday." And it can be very exaggerated and sometimes not even based in reality. When we train nurses, they often say this is the personality they run into the most. Paranoid personality. This is one where the person thinks you’re out to get them or you’re blocking their career. There’s some research suggests that this is the personality most likely to sue their employer. They think there’s conspiracies against them. All of this, again, if it’s a disorder, means it’s very unlikely it’s going to change and that they don’t have any self-awareness that maybe just going on in their head. And anti-social, which in some ways is the hardest and the most dangerous, because this personality doesn’t have a conscience. This personality, whether you call it anti-social or sociopath is willing to lie, to con, to break the law, to get what they want. Half of them you’ll see end up in the criminal law system, but the other half you don’t. In fact, many of them you see in business because they want to take advantage of people and con them out of their money. So nowadays people have to be on their toes a little bit more. All put together, these folks are in your life, whether you realize it or not.

Megan Hunter: Bill, if there’s a, I guess, a spectrum… I guess the first question would be, is there a spectrum, a range of high conflictedness? Or is there high conflict severe all the way down to high conflict light?

Bill Eddy: Yes. It’s very much on a continuum. And so there may be somebody in your life who may even be a friend who you feel like, "Well, this is kind of a difficult person. They’re always suspicious or they start saying things that make me uncomfortable, but they’re kind of okay. And we share an interest in bowling or bird watching or something and it’s manageable." And so it goes from the range of manageable, to extremely dangerous, where you have people with these personalities sometimes killing people. Anti-socials, criminal behavior, but some narcissists, some people with borderline like domestic violence, where it goes to the point of actually killing their partner instead of letting their partner leave. "If I can’t have you, nobody can." So really, it’s a wide range, but I want to point out, we’re talking about maybe 15% of people have a personality disorder and maybe only 10% are high-conflict personalities. So we’re not talking about everybody, but the ones there are, that’s a lot of people. We’ve got, in the United States is I think 330 million people. So 10% is about 33 million people. That’s why we think you know somebody like this.

Megan Hunter: Right. And it doesn’t seem to matter where you are geographically, or income levels or backgrounds, cultures. Really, you can run into high-conflict people anywhere and everywhere.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. Let me mention in every ethnic group, in every country and in every occupation, although some have a little more and some have a little less, but they are everywhere on a small scale.

Megan Hunter: Yeah. I recall being in Uganda, staying with a family there for two weeks and having a very uncomfortable time with the wife of the person we were staying with. And at one point after about… I think we were there for 15 days and it was a trying time, I have to say. But about 10 days in, we got up for breakfast, went downstairs. It was my daughter and me. And the wife was looking very relaxed and happy and she very happily proclaimed that in the night, she’d woken up, gone upstairs, woken up the young man who worked for them, like gathering chicken eggs and cleaning around the house and things. She’d been so angry at him, she woke him in the night and slapped him as hard as she could. And she was quite proud of that. Do you want to know what the reason was?

Bill Eddy: Sure.

Megan Hunter: A snake had eaten the chicken eggs and she was blaming this young man for not protecting those chicken eggs from the snakes. Now, I don’t know if that was really true or not, or if there was anything he could do about it, but I thought that was an extreme behavior.

Bill Eddy: Yes. That’s one of those that 90% of people would never do.

Megan Hunter: Right.

Bill Eddy: Even there, I’ll bet in Uganda, 90% of people would never do that.

Megan Hunter: Right. Right. It was shocking and I think that’s what most people experience with HCPs, is there’s just something shocking that happens. And even though I had some background in high-conflict behaviors at that point, you can still be surprised by people. I’m less so now than in the past, that was probably about 12 years ago. But yeah, that shock just kind of gets you and you just know it’s wrong and you think regular people don’t act this way.

Bill Eddy: It’s interesting. It reminds me of a case where there was a boy I had in counseling and his father pulled him out of bed in the middle of the night because he said, "I was thinking about him and so upset about him that I figured if I’m awake, he has to be awake." So it’s just so-

Megan Hunter: Punish.

Bill Eddy: … extreme.

Megan Hunter: It is, it is. So do we find that in the family courts and like you mentioned with the sociopath personality, that they’re largely represented in the criminal courts and in our prison systems. Would you say that HCPs really take up a disproportionate amount of our court cases and let’s say HR complaints to HR and other places where we can make complaints like ombudsman’s offices?

Bill Eddy: Oh yes, because what’s interesting is there’s kind of two sides with high-conflict people. One is they can be abusive. They can be physically violent or they can steal things or spread rumors on the internet and do all of that. So they can have abusive behavior. But on the other hand, they also perceive themselves as victims. And so they complain about everybody else, that people are doing this to me, doing that to me. It might be a complete fantasy or just a serious exaggeration, or even knowingly false allegation. And so we get the bad behavior, but we also get allegations that other people are acting badly towards them. And so any complaint system will have a lot of high-conflict people attracted to it because they really feel like victims even when they’re the perpetrator.

Megan Hunter: Right. Thinking more about these five types that you mentioned, the personality types, is there one that’s more difficult than the others?

Bill Eddy: I think of antisocial as the most difficult, because they’re the most willing to lie. They’re the most willing to con. They lack of conscience and they’re really invested in looking good and making you think that they’re wonderful. And so people give them their money. If they’re running a business, they get credit for getting really great returns. An example would be Bernie Madoff who made off with a lot of people’s money.

Megan Hunter: So to speak it.

Bill Eddy: Yes, including retirements and this and that. And they don’t care, they don’t care. And that’s what’s so hard. So I think in many ways that may be the worst, but the other personalities can ruin people’s lives in their own way, in extreme ways as well.

Megan Hunter: You mentioned that the antisocial, sociopaths like to everyone to see them as wonderful. Do they also like to have others see them as victims? Because that was my experience.

Bill Eddy: Yes. Yes. In fact, that’s something disturbing that I see in court systems, family court, but also civil courts. I know of at least two cases where I believe the person was antisocial who sued, two cases where they sued universities and they won. They won like a million dollars for being a victim of something that didn’t happen. And yet I could see it, and I talked to the lawyers in the case, but they didn’t have the evidence to prove that it was totally made up. And so it’s sad to see how far they can get in the legal system, and I’m sure some of the people listening know somebody that’s been in a situation like that. It’s very tragic because they do it without remorse and they can put businesses out of business. Sometimes they say, "You didn’t follow this one little rule. And so we’re going to call the authorities." And next thing you know, you put people out of business. So it’s a very dangerous personality to deal with and people need to have their eyes open more nowadays than ever before.

Megan Hunter: Yeah. I think about that book, The Sociopath Next Door, written years and years ago, and people who’ve read it, really begin to understand that we run into people like this in everyday life. They are the person next door sometimes. So we do have to keep our eyes open. I know from experience that when I was conned by someone, it was definitely a sociopath. I’m kind of a fixer by nature. I like to help people. And this was someone in our church group who needed help and really displayed themselves as quite the victim. And so we ended up raising a lot of money for a supposed medical treatment and it turns out it was false. It was a big con, it was the big lie. But you find yourself being very confused. And that where I finally figured out what I was dealing with, and it was because I went to the book you wrote called It’s All Your Fault. I read the chapter on sociopaths, and when I got to the part about, "If you’re confused, things aren’t adding up, this just might be what you’re dealing with." And I looked the rest of the list and it all really fit together. So that’s I think a big clue if you find yourself confused.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. That’s a real good point. And it’s check yourself. That’s one of the things we teach, is checking yourself for your own behavior, but also are you being deceived? I think you should have a healthy skepticism. That’s one of the things we’ve learned. I like to say, I don’t trust anybody more than 95% even myself, because who knows when my brain’s playing tricks on me. So we’ve always got to check ourselves and go, "Wait, is that really true? Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?" And look into it, check things out. Today you have to be more aware because it seems there’s more high-conflict people today.

Megan Hunter: I agree. I’m on Twitter for the first time. It’s been a year now. I’m seeing a lot of that. Another couple questions about these five types. So in the dating world, it seems that sort of the borderline and narcissistic personalities attract to each other. And if they’re HCPs, it’s going to be really, really a difficult relationship that’s likely going to end up in disaster, in divorce court, something like that. Are there other of the five types that just kind of show themselves more in certain areas or industries? Like you mentioned, the paranoid personality might be the most likely to sue their employer.

Bill Eddy: Yeah. Well, we see like borderline in relationship difficulties. So we see a lot of borderline people getting divorced in family court and having disputes over their children and mood swings and all of that, very much relationships. There’s a lot of people with borderline personalities in couples counseling because they want the couple’s counselor to get their spouse to change, but they’re not going to change. And they say "It’s all his fault." Or, "It’s all her fault. She’s terrible," et cetera. We also see this with domestic violence, like borderline personality, where they have the wide mood swings and it includes violence, more often men than women. Narcissists, we see them a lot. They want to get attention. They get into a lot of conflicts in the workplace, either as managers who kick down on their employees and kiss up on the people above them. So they get away with a lot, or just as coworkers who want to take the credit, but don’t want to do the work. So there’s that personality. The histrionic personality, what’s interesting is there really is a good place for people with that personality, and that’s entertainment. We see a lot of actors, actresses, et cetera, with a lot of drama in their lives who seem to have histrionic traits. But I don’t know that they necessarily have the disorder because if you have the disorder, it often really interferes with having success. And so you see some very dramatic personalities who are successful, have some of those attention-getting traits. So I think I touched on all five of those.

Megan Hunter: Yeah, yeah, you did. That’s interesting. And we’ll be going into each of these personality types in the episodes to come, but I think a good last question is, can these personality types overlap? What I find people like to do is really narrow in on one like, "This person I’m dealing with, is he or she a narcissist?" And they get focused on that one type instead of really focusing more on the big picture of the four characteristics we discussed. And then that doesn’t quite make sense with the narcissistic personality, but it kind of does. So can you have more than one of these?

Bill Eddy: Absolutely. While I haven’t seen research on it in general, I have seen research that people, for example, with borderline personality disorder, maybe close to 40% of them also have narcissistic personality disorder. So you may be dealing with somebody with the mood swings of borderline personality and the self-centeredness and the arrogance of the narcissistic personality. So the tips and tools for dealing with them, which will get to in future podcasts, you really have to use both sets of tips and tools, because both parts of these are part of who they really are.

Megan Hunter: How about all five?

Bill Eddy: It’s interesting, I’ve seen people with what I would say were all four. I don’t think I’ve seen somebody with all five, but it’s possible. Like I said, I’ve seen people with all four. So anti-social, willing to lie; borderline, wide mood swings; narcissistic, arrogant and self-absorbed; and histrionic, very dramatic. And this is called cluster B in the diagnostic manual for mental health professionals, is these four personalities. And I must say I’ve seen some people in family court that I think have displayed all four of these. Some of my worst cases… Well, I would say my worst case ever included four of these, and my second and third worst cases included at least three. So it’s not unusual, but it’s also usually bad. The more you get, the more trouble you’re going to see.

Megan Hunter: Not the person you want to bring home to mom and dad, is it?

Bill Eddy: Not at all?

Megan Hunter: No. I said that that was the last question, but I thought of another one. And that is one of the most frequently asked questions we’ve had over all these years is about bipolar. My significant other is very erratic behaving and seems overly emotional and does things that seem extreme. So they must be bipolar. And I think it’s because bipolar was popular I guess, or became just… There was a lot of information about it 15 years ago or so. So it became sort of the one thing that people glommed onto when things seemed out of the ordinary and now people are getting a little bit more information about personality disorders. And so I guess the question is maybe you can help us understand the distinction between the two and whether you can have both at the same time.

Bill Eddy: And by both, you’re probably looking at bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, because they’re both moved extremes. Bipolar disorder isn’t a personality order, but it’s another mental disorder in the diagnostic manual for mental health professionals. And it basically is someone who has highs like an intense high, a manic episode say for a couple weeks, and then very low depression say for a couple months. Well, it’s a period of time kind of thing. It’s also something that’s more treatable than personality disorders because there isn’t medication that really changes personality disorders, although it may help them with their moods. But bipolar disorder, there are medications for, which much of the time really help the person manage better. But compare that to borderline personality disorder as mood swings within minutes. So you could be having a pleasant conversation and then suddenly the person stands up and they’re screaming in your face and maybe even they’re hitting you or something. And then the next day, they’re like just normal. And in the workplace, sometimes people say, "Well, what was going on for you yesterday?" And I always say to, don’t ask that. If they’re calm today, make the most of things being calm. Because if you open up that door, now you’re back to yesterday in full rage. It’s also a question of what to do with someone like that as a coworker or employee, because a lot of companies let go too long before they deal with it and they should. But that’s the difference basically, borderline minute to minute, bipolar weeks to months.

Megan Hunter: Yeah. And that minute to minute is really mostly relationship focused. When the borderline personality or really any of them are in… It’s in these interactions and in the relationships where this comes out, whereas with bipolar and maybe other disorders that are not in the personality disorder area, they are not so relationship focused or initiated, I guess. Would that be a fair statement?

Bill Eddy: I think that’s true. I think that’s true.

Megan Hunter: Okay.

Bill Eddy: We’ll get into all those in the coming weeks into much more depth. Hopefully people have questions about each of these too.

Megan Hunter: Right. Right. Humans are just downright fascinating, aren’t they? And I just want to say that if certain people in your life, if you’re listening to this, that if certain people have come into mind while listening to us, that’s pretty normal, but you just have to promise us that you won’t go tell them or anyone else that you figured them out because HCPs don’t have insight into their personality or behavior. It’s just their operating system. So they will be shocked that you think they’re high conflict. Instead, keep it in your head and just learn what to do, which is what we’ll be talking about, as Bill said, in a lot of upcoming episodes. We’ll help you understand why they’re this way, what to watch for. And how to handle it. And then once you adapt your strategy with them, your life really does become easier. We’ll put the book link for the 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life, which bill wrote. We’ll put those in the show notes. And then in the next episode, we’ll continue talking about the five types of people who can ruin your life, focusing exclusively on the narcissistic HCP. That will be pretty in interesting. Until then, best wishes in all your conflict situations.

Outro: It’s All Your Fault is a production of TruStory FM. Engineering by Andy Nelson, music by Wolf Samuels, John Coggins, and Ziv Moran. Find the show, show notes, and transcripts at trustory.fm or highconflictinstitute.com/podcast. If your podcast app allows ratings and reviews, please consider doing that for our show.

Each week, Bill Eddy and Megan Hunter will be exploring the five types of people who can ruin your life — people with high conflict personalities — and how they weave themselves into our lives in romance, at work, next door, at school, places of worship, and just about everywhere, causing chaos, exhaustion, and dread for everyone else.

Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

Bill Eddy is HCI’s co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer. He pioneered the High Conflict Personality Theory (HCP) and is viewed globally as the leading expert on managing disputes involving people with high conflict personalities.

Bill Zoom
Megan Zoom

Megan Hunter, MBA

Megan Hunter is HCI’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. Within her role at HCI, she also serves as a leading expert in high conflict personalities in all settings, focusing primarily on the workplace, customer service, government/public service, ombuds, and religious organizations. Her degrees in business and economics combined with her years of experience in the legal arena are a valuable blend for many conflict settings.

Bill Zoom

Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

Bill Eddy is HCI’s co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer. He pioneered the High Conflict Personality Theory (HCP) and is viewed globally as the leading expert on managing disputes involving people with high conflict personalities.

Megan Zoom

Megan Hunter, MBA

Megan Hunter is HCI’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. Within her role at HCI, she also serves as a leading expert in high conflict personalities in all settings, focusing primarily on the workplace, customer service, government/public service, ombuds, and religious organizations. Her degrees in business and economics combined with her years of experience in the legal arena are a valuable blend for many conflict settings.