Self-Defeating Personality Disorder

I’m building believable antagonists using Sean Mactire’s book  Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists, and Other Criminal Think. In it, Mactire offers three factors in creating a great antagonist: the Four Basics (irresponsibility, self-indulgence, interpersonal intrusiveness, and social rule-breaking), a mental illness, and one or more characteristics from the list I posted on June 22, 2012. So far, I’ve covered a bunch of the thirteen mental illnesses Mactire covers. Today is the Self-Defeating Personality Disorder (SDPD). There’s only one more after this, then we move on.

Mactire says, “These are chronic self-perpetuating victims. At least five of the following factors must be evident:”

  • Chooses situations and/or people that lead to disappointment, failure or mistreatment, even when better options are evident and available
  • Rejects or subverts the efforts of others to help him or her
  • Responds to positive personal events with acts of guilt, depression and/or a pain-producing nature, such as having self-induced accidents
  • Causes others to reject or become angry at him or her, then feels devastated
  • Avoids or rejects opportunities for pleasure or has difficulty accepting personal enjoyment
  • Sabotages own plans or activities
  • Engages in unsolicited self-sacrifice 
  • Rejects or is uninterested in people who treat him or her well

I’ll admit, this is a hard one for me to wrap my mind around, as this person has a serious masochistic bent, which directly contradicts most people’s self-preservation instincts. When I first typed the list, I thought of women who stay in abusive relationships (I am NOT stating that all women who stay in abusive relationships have a mental disorder, but some definitely do), and yet, I think this disorder goes beyond that. The person with SDPD seeks out abuse. They seek out people who will humiliate them, or offer criticism, or even offer physical violence.

When using this personality disorder in an antagonist, I’d pair him up with a dominant partner. Someone who will issue demands, choose victims, direct the torture/killing, then punish the SDPD partner after the victim’s been polished off. The SDPD antagonist will derive their pleasure from that end punishment, rather than the abuse of the intended victim, which would also increase the dominant partner’s pleasure–he gets twice the fun, first with the victim, then with the partner. I’m feeling a bit nauseous just thinking about this pairing, but it would definitely make for a nail-biting suspense thriller by having these two unleashed on an unsuspecting population.

When applying the SDPD to a specific personality trait, I’d avoid all the extroverted types and stick with the eight introverted types. I think I’d also avoid Feeling personalities, mainly because the SDPD personality would not be capable of weighing what other people care about or other points of view in their decision-making. That still leaves six personality types to choose from.

Do any of you have further insight into the personality disorder? Can you think of other ways to use this person as an antagonist in your writing? Please share.


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