November 30, 2022

Opeyemi Adefemi

The Medical Director and Psychiatrist-in-Chief of Pinnacle Medical Services, Dr. Maymunah Kadiri, speaks about the incessant violence between couples, in this interview with OPEYEMI ADEFEMI

There is a growing trend of spouses or lovers turning violent or even taking the life of one another. Is there a psychiatry angle to this worrying trend?

The growing trend of spousal violence is a multidimensional problem, which seems to be spreading like a wildfire. A number of factors could be responsible for this phenomenon, which ranges from alcoholism, mental illness, relationship retention behaviour (the idea that violence can help save a relationship), suspicion of infidelity, and personality or psychological problems. Hence, the psychiatric angle to this problem should not be neglected.

What do you define as a healthy relationship?

A relationship can be considered healthy where dialogue or communication exists between both parties. A healthy relationship is also anchored on mutual trust, honesty and compatibility of the parties involved. It is also predicated on common goals set by both parties, and their willingness to make compromises for each other.

An unhealthy relationship, on the other hand, negates all the aforementioned qualities of a healthy relationship. It is dominated by mistrust, violence, and imbalance of power and authority with high levels of animosity between partners.

What are the common toxic signs that lovers ignore?

The most commonly ignored toxic signs include financial irresponsibility, lack of emotional intelligence, dishonesty, attacks on self-esteem, verbal abuse, excessive jealousy, hostile communication, making excuses for a partner’s behaviour, and lack of respect.

How can lovers build a healthy relationship?

Lovers can seek help by reopening lines of communication, seeking professional help, maintaining and earning lost trust, making a conscious effort to respect one another and building self-esteem through unconditional positive self-regard

Can a relationship make one mentally unstable?

Relationships have the capability to make a person mentally unstable, especially when the stress encountered from such relationships becomes psychologically overwhelming for an individual, hence triggering mental and emotional breakdowns. A classic example is when gas-lighting occurs (a psychological manipulation and emotional abuse tactic which is intended to make a victim question his/her reality and perception).

When is the right time to leave a toxic relationship?

There has been considerable debate on when individuals who are in toxic relationships should leave such relationships; however, no two situations are the same; so, it is generally advised that people in toxic relationships should leave at the first signs of physical violence and abuse.

How can one leave a toxic relationship?

There are several steps to take when planning to leave a toxic relationship. They including seek professional help; building a strong support system; cutting off contact after leaving; starting over; remaining resolute on your decisions to leave; knowing that you deserve better and practicing self-care; practise mindfulness by keeping track of your emotions (keep a diary of your emotions).

What kind of mental state can cause violence in a relationship?

A number of mental health issues can cause violence in a relationship, ranging from depression, anxiety, manic episodes of bipolar affective disorder, alcohol and substance abuse.

To what extent is a toxic relationship harmful?

Toxic relationships can be notoriously harmful to individuals who find themselves in such relationships, as it has both physical and psychological potential for harm.

What are the things that shouldn’t be tolerated in a relationship?

Dishonesty, lack of respect, authoritativeness, and verbal and physical abuse are the major red flags that should not be tolerated in any relationship.

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How do previous experiences affect future relationships or marriage?

Previous experiences from past toxic relationships may considerably affect future relationships. For instance, a survivor of a toxic relationship may develop severe trust and commitment issues, which may affect him or her moving forward.

Does a toxic person ever change?

A toxic person can only change if they make a conscious effort to change and it starts by seeking professional help.

Could having multiple relationships result in being toxic?

Having multiple relationships is a key indicator of toxicity as dishonesty is a key ingredient of toxic people and relationships.

Is therapy important for recuperation?

Therapy is a key tool in ensuring emotional and psychological recuperation, as numerous researches have shown its efficacy in this subject matter.

Could nature and nurture be a major factor or contribute to one being toxic?

The nature and nurture controversy has a major foothold in the phenomenology of domestic violence. A key indication of this is seen as human beings are directly or indirectly a product of past experiences; and on the other hand, individual’s psychological composition (nature) also plays a key role. A clinical example can be taken in the case of a man with antisocial personality disorder who was raised by a verbally and physically abusive father.

What does abuse or violence do to its victims?

Domestic abuse causes a number of negative side effects on its victims which are not only physical but also psychological. Studies have shown that victims of domestic violence and abuse suffer immensely from anxiety and panic-related disorders, depression, trust issues as well as lowered self-esteem.

Is there a new wave of mental illness that is making lovers stab themselves to death?

The recent upsurge in suicide and murders of passion in Nigeria is not new and has always been there but has recently been more apparent due to the increase in the use of social media platforms. What could be considered new in this regard is the heightened levels of environmental stress in the country, which magnifies the trigger effect on people with mental illness.

Will victims ever recover or remain the same?

Victims can recover and become better versions of themselves if professional help is sought.

What are the insignificant signs that suggest that a relationship is toxic?

Subtle disrespectful remarks, lack of shared interests in activities, and avoidant behaviour are all insignificant signs of a toxic relationship.

Could it be that there are underlying mental problems that cause someone to act in a toxic manner?

There are a few conditions that could cause a significant other to act in a toxic manner, such as personality disorders, affective disorders and psychotic conditions.

What advice do you have for people who are struggling to leave a toxic relationship?

 Leave to live. You deserve better. Life is to be enjoyed, not endured. Seek professional help; try to engage in productive dialogue with your significant other.

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