Traumatized and Bullied by a Patient

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

This problem started when I was volunteering for a mental health charity at a drop in centre. Day after day I would volunteer there with one particular member repeatedly trying to undermine my professionlism by asking for my help and then claiming harassment (non sexual) when she got it. I sensed it was to cover her embarrassment that she needed my help. One minute I was her best friend next she would stab me in the back with a public criticism of my appearance or phone manner, boasting her crodentials. After a year of abuse and a multitude of attempts to adapt to her behaviour – empathising, befriending listening, reporting to my superiors without results I crashed out of the voluntary sector with burnout.

For 10 years forced to share mental health resources with her. I’ve come to bitterly hate her. I tried researching her diagnosis to help me cope with her naracistic boasting and vindictive public humiliations. Not to mention her malicious satisfaction in sneering at the distress of others.

It is her total lack of remorse or empathy (a symptom of her diagnosis) that I resent the most and her moral preaching at other times simply rubs salt in the wounds.

A. It is not clear what question you are asking. The behavior of this individual obviously is very upsetting to you. There may be nothing that you could have done to change her behavior. You cannot control other people.

Is there another treatment facility in the area that you could move to? To the best of your ability, you should try to avoid this individual.

There may always be people who are difficult to tolerate. They may be doing or saying things that are upsetting but it is important not to let this impact you. Understandably, this may be difficult to do.

It is also important to keep in mind that no one causes you to feel a certain way. Every feeling an individual has emanates from him or herself. Someone may make a comment that irritates you but the feeling you have comes from you. It is important to realize this fact. Because no one is “making” you feel a certain way, it means that to some degree, you may be able to control your feelings. At the very least, you can control how you react to the situation. In addition, you may be able to control where and how often you interact with this individual. That might be one way (and perhaps the only way) to manage this situation.

I am sorry if my answer was not as nuanced or specific as you would like but it was difficult to determine exactly what you were asking. If you have a more specific question to ask, please do not hesitate to write again. I wish you well. Please take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Aug 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Traumatized and Bullied by a Patient. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/08/17/traumatized-and-bullied-by-a-patient/