Is an Abusive Personality Genetic?

Is an Abusive Personality Genetic?

There are many articles written on the subject of abusive personalities, most of which explore the possibility that the trait of abuse may be a genetic one. Just like a predisposition to addiction, this theory hinges on certain traits being passed from parent to offspring and is not based on environmental factors. Most of these articles on abuse genetics, however, conclude that there many reasons why a person may have an abusive personality, while others do not.

abusive personality

Why Are People Abusive?

There are many answers to why a person may be abusive. An oft-mentioned one is that some learned to abuse from their parents, or other family members. Having a childhood history of being abused, verbally or physically, or watching a loved one repeatedly abused as someone grows up can make them believe that this is a normal condition of life.

After years of being the victim, and believing that the only two choices are to be the victim or the abuser, some people choose to take on the role of the abuser. In making that choice, a victim of abuse may feel in control of their own life for the first time, as opposed to constantly being at the mercy of another’s mood.

Abusive individuals may not even realize that they are hurting others as they were once hurt themselves; the feeling they derive from their new role in life overrides that memory as they bask in the newly found feeling of being in control of their own lives for the very first time.

Mental Health Can Play a Role

Mental health issues also can play a role in abusive personalities. Someone with anger management issues, or with an addiction related to a mental health disorder, may have an inability to restrain themselves due to an emotional dysfunction in their brain. Because of this they may abuse their loved ones repeatedly, either verbally or physically, until it becomes natural for them to act that way.

Still others may have personality disorders. Personality disorders are very hard to treat because people don’t often believe that their behavior is abusive, so they see no reason to change. Such personality disorders that contribute to abusive behavior are:

  • Narcissistic personality disorder – a narcissist often acts with grandiosity, requiring the admiration of others to reinforce their feeling of superiority over others. People with narcissistic personality disorder completely lack empathy for others, instead choosing to brag to them about their own accomplishments. They have an undeserved sense of entitlement, are arrogant and exploit others for their own benefit.
  • Antisocial personality disorder – those with this personality disorder have a total disregard for the rules of society, or for the rights and feelings of others. They lie, are aggressive, have no regard for safety and break the law for which they display no remorse, even if it has tremendous negative consequences.
  • Borderline personality disorder – this personality trait manifests itself in people who engage in intense and unstable relationships. People with this disorder have a poor self-perception and often uncontrollable bad moods and poor impulse control. They have severe abandonment issues, harm themselves or are suicidal, feel inappropriate anger and are usually quite paranoid.

Abuse Is Often Driven by Emotional Pain

Abusers also can act out of an emotional pain that has become so intolerable that they stop thinking rationally. They will do anything to relieve the pain they are feeling. They can’t or won’t relate to other people as people, instead treating them as objects, solely there for their own convenience. The sense of power and control they get from abusing others feels so good that they do get relief from their own emotional pain, by transferring it to others.

So while there are many reasons that people become abusive to others, genetics does not seem to play a huge role.

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