We've either dated them or had the unfortunate opportunity to meet them through friends who've made the mistake of marrying them. We're talking about controlling, mega-ego men with Lothario tendencies. You know, good guys like "Mad Max" star Mel Gibson. Psychologist Dr. Abby Rosen and author of a new book, "Lasting Transformation
," knows them so well that she's even given a name to their type: NCCDPD. It's a mouthful -- just like these men can be a handful -- so we asked Rosen to dish on the curious disorder.
Lemondrop: We've recently watched several high-profile men publicly implode what appeared to be solid marriages thanks to infidelity. Can you define the term you've coined for these types of individuals, and explain your thinking behind it?
I use NCCDPD to endearingly describe people who have a Narcissistic, Critical, Controlling and Domineering Personality Disorder. NCCDPDs typically grow up in families where there's a lot of anxiety, criticism and trauma. As a consequence of the emotionally disconnected experiences they had as kids, their needs didn't get met and they become focused on getting those needs met as adults -- often at the expense of others. They develop a defense mechanism that's so impenetrable they simply can't see themselves as being at fault. And since societal and familial conditioning gives men messages like "big boys don't cry" and "if you're sensitive, you're a wimp," they're unlikely to become more conscious, self-loving and caring of others unless something devastating happens to them.
So how exactly do these events from childhood turn men into classic NCCDPD personality types?
Men raised in homes with domineering, controlling, and critical parents often have problems with anxiety -- no matter what they did, it was never good enough. As adults, whenever these men feel vulnerable, they also feel anxious, and anxiety that goes unexpressed turns into irritability, anger and rage. The greater their vulnerability, the stronger their anxiety and the more they express anger, resulting in even more critical, controlling and domineering behavior. For many NCCDPDs, addictions are used to numb feelings of anxiety. In its extreme form, addiction can be a way to self-medicate anxiety with a "drug" of choice, creating sexaholics, alcoholics and rageaholics. As a result, their marriages often wind up falling into that 60 percent divorce statistic.
Aside from narcissistic tendencies, you mention that these people are also ragers. Is this true of all NCCDPDs?
NCCDPD is an extreme manifestation found among narcissistic people. Although not all narcissists rage, most NCCDPDs do. For example, a patient I'll call Michael had an alcoholic father who'd become enraged when he drank. He even went after Michael's brother with a kitchen knife once. Instead of feeling hurt by his father's rage, Michael shut down that part of himself. To regain control, whenever he felt fear, hurt or sadness, he'd get angry. After all, he'd learned to protect himself from a master teacher: his father. This behavior was responsible, in large part, for the failure of Michael's three marriages. Ironically, the cover-up that he created to protect himself was the very cause of his failure to have the kind of love he so yearned for in his life.
What about women? Can they also have this disorder?
Women can exhibit these behaviors, but due to gender-specific expectations in our society, there's a greater tendency for men to become domineering and rage as a way to maintain control.
What are the warning signs of a guy who could be an NCCDPD?
NCCDPDs can be very charming and charismatic, which is another mechanism they adopt to get their needs met. The other traits to look out for: selfishness, egotism, an inability to be empathetic, a need to be the center of attention, and an excessive desire for admiration. When these needs are thwarted, they exhibit critical, controlling and domineering behavior, or they withdraw affection and make you feel punished. Even if a guy is your garden variety narcissist, it's still bad for a relationship because they tend not to have a strong backbone or a solid sense of self -- otherwise they wouldn't need to focus so extensively on themselves.
Can you have a long-term relationship with someone like this?
There are many NCCDPDs in the world and they can have lasting relationships, albeit not necessarily healthy ones. It has to do with a law of the psyche that says we attract what we've either disowned or never learned, so controlling and domineering men tend to marry women who are pleasers and caretakers. This unhealthy dynamic will continue until either the narcissist sees that their needs can be better met by someone else, or the self-sacrificing woman speaks up for herself. Narcissism is one of the most difficult disorders to treat and transform. And even if they do come to therapy, they rarely stay because they're unable to take responsibility for their behavior.
What advice do you give people with NCCDPD?
My new book has an entire chapter devoted to learning how to confront the underlying causes of being an NCCDPD. Here's the bottom line: Deal with it head on! Rather than get angry, critical, or withdrawn, find a better way to channel that anxiety because these behaviors just obscure the anxiety. I sometimes wish I could put all the NCCDPDs on an island together. Over time, as they'd bump up against each other in their attempts at domination and control, their hard edges would get worn down, and hopefully, they'd become more peaceful and less defensive people.