Psychiatrists ponder the dangers of bitterness

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Nomad, May 25, 2009.

  1. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Psychiatrists Draw Parallel Between Bitterness, Mental Illness

    I thought this article was VERY interesting. The first few paragraphs appears below....
    5/19/2009, 3:25 p.m. PDT Los Angeles Times
    The Associated Press (AP) — We all know them, and, increasingly, psychiatrists know them: People who feel they have been wronged by someone and are so bitter they can barely function other than to ruminate about their circumstances.
    This behavior is so common -- and so deeply destructive -- that some psychiatrists are urging it be identified as a mental illness under the name post-traumatic embitterment disorder. The behavior was discussed before an enthusiastic audience Monday at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association meeting in San Francisco.
    The disorder is modeled after post-traumatic stress disorder because it too is a response to a trauma that endures. People with PTSD are left fearful and anxious. Embittered people, however, are left seething for revenge.

    "They feel the world has treated them unfairly. It's one step more complex than anger. They're angry plus helpless," says Dr. Michael Linden, a German psychiatrist who named the behavior.
    Embittered people are typically good people who have worked hard at something important, such as a job or a relationship or activity, Linden says. When something unexpectedly awful happens -- they don't get the promotion, the wife files for divorce or they fail to make the Olympic team -- a profound sense of injustice overtakes them.

    The article goes on to say that such folks can not "let go" of these bitter feelings and continue their lives in this "hopeless" and "hateful" state.

    Some estimate 1 to 2 percent of the population are "embittered."

    Additionally, folks who were once kind and loving, but suffer an unfair experience and become bitter, might suffer from post-traumatic embitterment syndrome.

    Lasted edited by : May 25, 2009
  2. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    For a very long time I lived in the place of a victim. My life from birth to 23 was no piece of cake. And honestly, the years since haven't been the kindest. But, I learned long ago that I could not live in a place of anger and helplessness. It made me a horrible person and impeded my growth. My gfgbiodad (who I refer to as the original difficult child) once told me, "If I let the guilt of what I did bother me (he was referring to not being a good father---and he wasn't) than I would kill myself. Just know I'm sorry." From that short conversation I learned a lot. People make mistakes. They are so into their own lives they forget about the collateral damage. I try to remember that everyday. I don't take husband's addiction and difficult child's issues personally. I understand my gfgbiomom is who she is, and I can accept her as is. Learning that I could only control my own actions and reactions led me to a place of peace.
  3. mrscatinthehat

    mrscatinthehat Seussical

    I know someone that this would apply to. I actually copy and pasted what you had there and sent an email to someone else and asked if it sounded familiar to them.

    I am intrigued to see what others think of this.
  4. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Oh gosh, that's my DAD to a T, and sister in law#2 as well. Lucky us with someone on both sides of the family like this. These people are simply toxic and a drain to be around.
  5. Steely

    Steely Active Member

    OH - I totally agree! I was just talking to my boss about an employee that fits this decription 100%. The more I work as as a manager, the more I see this syndrome in people - and it literally ruins their lives - as well as careers.

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing.
  6. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    Nomad, very timely article. Thank you for sharing. I can see how easy it is to slip into bitterness and to always feel the victim.
  7. Marcie Mac

    Marcie Mac Just Plain Ole Tired

    That describes my mother to a T, in fact, a lot of aunts/uncles/grandparents to a T. Maybe they should do a little more research to see if its got a genetic component to it - they could use my extended family as a case study LOL.

    My mother harbored bitterness and hatred for my father ever since their divorce. He cheated on her. He was an Italian difficult child of utmost porportions, there was our family and THE family, if you know what I am getting at. Her bitterness spilled over into my life - she developed an absolute hatred of males, and drilled into me at a very young age I didn't need men in my life, I could do anything a guy could do (and thus began my initiation into codependency.

    And then there was more bitterness spilled over because I wasn't that dutiful daughter she wanted, someone who was pliable, who did all the right things, said all the right things, acted all the right ways - nope, I came out too headstrong, never listened, way too independent, impulsive, and the genetic family tree of mental health issues I seemed to be loaded with didn't help matters.

    Now I find it funny to realize when I was young my independence seemed to be a good thing as long as it was working in her favor - the minute I started exerting it for my own benefit, all h#ll broke lose. Ahhh, If I only had a dollar everytime she said "your just like your father"

    She is moving into her mid 80's, still cannot deal with my fathers leaving her without the bitterness, and bitterness towards his girlfriend, who truth be told was much better suited to him as they were almost together 40 some years. And the bitterness towards me for leaving, even though it probably saved me from killing myself had I stayed there in the mire of negativity that had become her life

    I often think how in the heck can someone hold a grudge and be bitter for ,mmm, like 50 years or so. Ok, someone has done you wrong - get over it already and move on. Hanging on to that bitterness you never get to realize all the good stuff you may have lost. Susan Schultz the poetess once wrote Relationships that don't end peacefully, never end. My mother is pretty much living proof of that

  8. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    I can see how easy it is to slip into bitterness and not be able to find your way out again. But I'm having a bit of trouble believing this as a mental illness per se. I think that is pushing the envelope.

    I dunno. To me comparing this behavior to PTSD is not the same at all. People who had PTSD had no control over what happened/what was done to them. Their symptoms are a result of that. But I just can't wrap my head around something like.....oh, I worked my arse off for x amt of years and didn't get the promotion, fancy house, sports car, so my wife left me and now I'm bitter to the point of being mentally ill thing. Just doesn't wash for me, sorry.

    My childhood was a nitemare. Life with husband and 2 difficult children wasn't a whole lot better in many respects. Yet I managed to hoover it up, get that life happens, and move on without being bitter.

    Perhaps the self absorbed bitterness these patients display is itself the symptom of something else. But I don't buy that bitterness is it's own disorder. Ridiculous.

    in my opinion.......I happen to believe it's a major symptom of a very spoiled society as a whole. Just my own thoughts on this, so don't stone me or anything. lol
  9. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Miss KT's father could be the poster child for that article. His "professional victim" routine is nearly perfect, after 50 years of practice. I have to agree with Lisa on his reasons for the bitterness, though, since he's still being supported by his mommy, I would say it was related to selfishness. His mother has developed the "bitter gene" since she was widowed, and has basically ignored Miss KT, her only grandchild, who spent a lot of time over there prior to Grandad's death. A formerly kind and generous woman has gone from showering her granddaughter with clothes and toys to someone who has requested a "hard copy" before she sends a check, made out to the college, for the first semester tuition that she offered to pay...and money is not the issue, she has it to burn.

    I think Grandma has allowed her shock and sadness to develop into bitterness and depression, but she hasn't spoken to me in about five years...
  10. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    I'm so glad there is a name to this. I also have someone in my life who just can't let go of things that happened 30, 40 and 50 years ago. She dwells on them and though she is loving (probably more loving than most), when that switch turns on, the geiser blows and everyone gets showered with bitterness. It is not pleasant to witness.
  11. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Very interesting article Nomad.

    I agree that it's possible to let bitterness take over your life, to your own detriment and to those around you. However, I think I agree with Lisa and KTMom that it doesn't seem to warrant a separate disorder. I think it's more like a symptom of another disorder, or a high degree of self-absorbtion, not being able to look past your own worries to those around you, etc.

    My Step-D and difficult child's biomom seems to have a real lock on bitterness. Granted, she did have some terrible life experiences, and I suspect that there's a boatload of undiagnosed mental illness sailing through her family tree. Thing is, I also had some terrible life experiences, but I chose not to let them ruin my life.

    I see Step-D rapidly following in her egg-donor's footsteps, down the bitterness and self-pity trail, and it's bringing out all sorts of difficult child tendencies in her that none of us saw before. I think she's in for a very hard road ahead if she doesn't pull her head out of her @$$. But then, I think I'm a more than a bit short on patience for self pity and bitterness...
  12. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I don't think this is a mental illness. I think it's a mind-set. This is where the kids' BM is stuck. Still trying to get revenge on husband for divorcing her when she ran off...
  13. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    I agree. I think it's a mindset...rather than a mental illness. My sister has this mindset. My sister can be the most loving, kindest person and will do anything for you. But once the focus shifts back to her - forget about it - it's all bitterness from our childhood and her co-workers, her ex-friends, her H, everyone else. She never ever seems to see what part her role plays in any given situation, unless it's a good outcome. I fear that difficult child is like this as well. And I know that exh is like this too. I wonder how long it will take for the pharmaceuticals to grab hold of this and run with it!
  14. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    This is exactly how I view family members who complain about everyone and everything. Nothing in the world is as good as they think it should be yet they play a big part in growing that bitterness and the negative emotions.

    Sometimes I wonder if it is a bit obsessive thinking? They can't stop the constant internal dialogue of whatever person or situation is their current reason for misery. Once you see that problem resolve they find something else to be miserable and bitter about.
  15. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    I'm still "processing" this...
    Perhaps it doesn't matter whether or not psychiatrists want to label it as a mental illness or not.
    What intrigues me is that the behavior leads to distorted, unhealthy thinking and makes folks profoundly unhappy. Unless it stops and stops fast, it seems to grow in leaps and bounds. Psychiatrists have noted that people who remain in this "bitter" state, are so unhealthy that they might enter into the realm of mental illness at some point. To me, this could mean that it might be a good idea to do what we can to shake ourselves out of this mindset as soon as possible. by the way, I think it is only natural to be upset when things go wrong. We can learn from such experiences. But its not healthy to rumminate. I just found the whole idea sooooo interesting...I'm glad you guys liked it too!!! :D bring up a good point. Perhaps those people have taken some comfort in complaining or it has become a habit. This is a sad state.
    I find the new Steven Covey book (8th Habit) addresses this topic to a certain extent. Might be good reading for those interested.
  16. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen

    I'm not big into diagnosis. To me, it's just called life. Sometimes it's good...some times it just plain stinks. What I find funny is a bunch of doctors sitting around discussing and writing articles about this. Hello? You want to remove bitterness is to have some good things happen. Everyone has their level of what is good. It could be food on the table. It could be a hand to hold. And for some it could be the diamond ring you always wanted.

  17. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    Abbey, if there is no discussion or research, no matter how ridiculous it seems there is no learning. It requires a label for now but how else will we learn more about how things work? I'm sure people thought it was ridiculous that scientists talked about used moldy bread experiments to develop penicillin.
    How about genetics and growing beans?
    Even if the premise turns out to be wrong, it has to be studied.
    It may be ridiculous but I want all the scientists, doctors, professionals to keep working on identifying and learning about the brain. Progress in treatment keeps moving forward and eventually we will get it right. It's what separates us from other animals. The ability to identify a problem and to try to problem solve.
  18. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen

    Maybe I just don't want to be diagnosed, Fran.:tongue:

  19. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    in my opinion, at least for the two people I know who fit this description, something happened to them during an important developmental time where they were hurt very badly emotionally. For my dad, it was probably being bounced around foster homes from age 4 to his teens, knowing that he wasn't wanted by his parents and never really having a stable and positive force in his life -- no one person who nurtured and cared for him.

    For sister in law#2, it was growing up in a dysfunctional home and being essentially left on her own to care for my husband and younger sister while her mom travelled the world with her older sister and dad worked two and three jobs. She felt abandoned and it still shows today with many of the issues she has. No one, not an aunt, not a grandmother, took her under their wing and provided that source of nurturing she needed during those years (she was in her very early teens when mom took off and she was left to run the house).

    But I ALSO think that when stuff like this happens to people who are predisposed to mental illness or even personality disorders, those problems are triggered and are harder to overcome without heavy-duty counseling. Most people just don't see things for what they are, and they don't want to admit they have a problem that can be helped. Too much stigma. And it's much easier to wallow in the victim mentality than to face the painful past, deal with it, and move on.

    Just my two, teeny, tiny cents. :p
  20. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I can see this in my family, too. There are those of us that internalized things and had one type/set of problems, then there are those that apparently decided the world owed them something better and instead of reaching out to others they tend to try to use everyone and live by hatred/anger. I'm angry about a lot of things, too, but I could never understand the narcissistic approach to dealing with bad things.