RELATIONAL DISORDER (A Comprehensive Guide)

This article is a detailed overview of relational disorder and discusses some pertinent aspects related to this disorder.

Also, this article reveals possible symptoms, diagnostic aspects and possible treatments which offers insight into this problem.

An Overview of Relational Disorder

The relational disorder is a condition that occurs between at least two people and involves an actual morbid problem in a way that they relate to each other.

Any individual does not cause it, but rather the relationship is a problem itself.

It is an unhealthy, disturbing, or painful pattern of behavior among two people sharing a personal and vital relationship such as mother and daughter.

The psychological idea of relational disorder among individuals is relatively new to medicine.

Some of the early psychoanalysts alluded to the history of marital problems, where the couples are seeking therapy.  

According to Moreno, a major pioneer of group psychotherapy, had noted the idea that relationships among two individuals can be disrupting and be sick even when they both are otherwise healthy and even vice versa.

Sick people can also find themselves in healthy relationships.

These ideas may have influenced many individuals in family therapy, and there were many developments in counseling and sciences relating to it. 

As time passes, the idea that relationships can themselves be the problem became quite common.

Parent-child relational problems have also been coexisting in society for a considerably long time, but they go unaddressed by both individuals very often.

Presentation of Relational Disorder

A relationship between two people is fully capable of exhibiting characteristics that have a psychological effect on both individuals.

In cases related to the relational disorder,  problems were present, but neither of the partners was suffering from this psychological disorder.  

A relational disorder is although psychological, but its symptoms can exist both ways, psychologically and behaviorally.

These symptoms can eventually lead to the disruption of the relationship without anyone being at fault.

According to DSM-5, just as two individuals with mental illness can establish a perfectly healthy and understanding relationship with each other, just like that, two neurologically healthy people can have a disrupted relationship for no particular reason. 

Many people may consider relational disorder being a mental illness having neurological effects.

Still, it is not so as none of the patients suffering from the relational disorder have any illnesses such as borderline personality, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. that may affect the present conditions directly.

Various Categories of Relational Disorder

Currently, relational disorders can be broken down into many different types, such as 

It can involve any kind of relationship as long as the relationship is important to the people that are involved in it. 

There is also an increasing body of research on problems in dyadic gay relationships and on problematic sibling relationships.

Colleagues may also experience relational disorders, but they are not highlighted since their relationship is not considered as important as the other people that experience it.

How Common is Relational Disorder?

The relational disorder is still a new condition under the DSM-5 as it does not have a painful and violent effect on the personality of the patient, the problem being the relationship itself.

No studies are available yet to indicate and explain how common this condition is.

However, thousands of married couples annually go through problems in their relationship, indicating it is a prevailing disorder targeting them. 

Parent-child therapy is also commonly observed all over the world, suggesting that people that have either abusive or neglecting parents tend to undergo relational and behavioral problems with them in the future.

This can lead to the possibility of a healthy relationship with their parents being nil if not treated properly with therapy sessions and counseling with a professional.

However, if the child or wife has been abused and neglected, the problem can be prevailing in their spouse or parent, leading to their abusive and neglecting behavior towards their present relationships.

Signs and Symptoms of Relational Disorder

1. Violent Behavioral Tendencies

Violent behavior is a behavior that can threaten or threatens or injures an individual or others or destroys valuables.

It can begin with verbal threats, but with time it can escalate to involve possible physical harm to people. 

Violent behavior can also be learned, and people with relational disorders can tend to be violent for no apparent reason as there is none.

It has been studied over the years that people who develop violent behavior in their adulthood, usually have some history of childhood trauma, low self-esteem, anxiety, etc.

2. Ridiculing or Mocking Someone

Ridiculing is dismissive behavior or mockery of an individual for no reason.

People may include it into bullying, as not all people can take ridiculing easy.

It is also one of the main onset symptoms of relationships that suffer from relational disorders. 

Parent-child relational disorder or platonic relational disorders may observe ridiculing as a triggering symptom as the relationship may have disrupted.

People ridiculing one another for no apparent reason being present can contribute to the existence of relational problems among them, no matter what relationship they have with one another.

3. Dissatisfaction or Discomfort

Individuals tend to have a feeling of discomfort or dissatisfaction when it is a case of relational disorder.

Couples that have marital disorders sometimes seek psychiatric attention because they can recognize some long-standing dissatisfaction and come to a clinic by their own choice or through a suggestion of a healthcare professional.

Martial relational disorders may also face dissatisfaction in their sexual lives with one another.

4. Role of Neglect 

Neglect is often a triggering symptom for relational disorder when it comes to parent-child relational disorder.

Research on parent-child abuse bears similarities to that on marital violence, with the defining characteristic of the disorder being physical aggression by a parent toward a child. 

Their aggression isn’t always physical, often being psychological and behavioral for children who suffer from low self-esteem due to their parent’s neglecting attitude towards them in childhood or teenage years.

Parent-child relational disorder can have this primary symptom very prominently, and the problem may also be based on neglect.

Diagnostic Aspects of Relational Disorder

For diagnosing a relational disorder among two people, health care professionals examine both individuals separately, so that they can check for mental disorders like bipolar disorder, borderline personality, anxiety, behavioral problems, etc.

Usually, people who have the relational disorder don’t have any neurological symptoms as there is nothing wrong with the individual themselves, the problem being in the relationship. 

A health care professional examines various dynamics of their relationship to check and evaluate whether their relationship is disrupting or not.

For example, a relationship between parents and only one of their children is unhealthy; then, the therapist may be able to conclude that a specific relationship is disruptive and unhealthy. 

Similarly if the spiritual relations of a person with everyone are healthy, then the issue is with the person and not the relationship.

In spiritual and parent-child relational problems, people do not address these issues to a professional or each other, usually assuming the problem exists within the other person and often dismiss that individual completely. 

One of the most significant causes of relational and mental disorders are unhealthy relationships.

Furthermore, most of the individuals seeking help for psychological issues may confirm that they do not have stable and supportive relationships in their present life, or they experienced childhood trauma or problems in their early or teenage life.

People commonly believe that the problems prevailing may be in one of the individuals due to their past or personality, dismissing that their relationship may be problematic at all. 

How is Relational Disorder Treated?

The relational disorder is treated with diagnostic therapy, such as family, marital, or any other type of counseling.

During these counseling sessions, a therapist may examine the relationship dynamics of both the individuals and then identify each person’s role in the problematic areas of the relationship.

Afterwards, the therapist may suggest some ways to change the dynamics of the prevailing relationship among those two. 

Healthy and neurologically fine people having no problems with themselves are not at a common risk of being prescribed medications by a healthcare professional, just because their relationship is facing problems.

However, if one of the individuals is facing some problems, professionals may prescribe some treatment for it.

Counseling for relational disorders may be able to prevent immediate threats like divorce, abuse, violence, etc. 

Is Your Relationship, Disordered or Troubled?

If you and another person seems to be in a constant state of conflict and discomfort with each other, usually with a marital relationship that seems to be disrupting, slowly leading to something bigger such as divorce or abuse, your relationship may be a disorder. 

Many family psychologists have been working on this for years.

They have been making the argument that certain kinds of family relationships, characterized by particular patterns of interactions, tend to be destructive of the mental health of individuals within the family.

Therefore if you are in a relationship that tends to drain you emotionally and is visibly sinking, with no apparent problems with either of you two, there a strong possibility of a relational disorder.  

If your spouse or friend has a past full of abuse, neglect, and failure, the problem may be with them as people who experience such trauma tend to have behavioral issues in their lives as it progresses. 

How to Deal with Relationship Problems?

One of the first and foremost ways to overcome relational problems with your spouse, parent, friend, etc. is by working for it and making efforts for its betterment.

Preventing relational problems before they begin can also contribute to individuals coexisting in a problem-free space that they create for each other. 

Cultivating a connection with the other person and having a mutual understanding of your issues can be very effective.

People who engage in emotions during conflicts, and also engage their partners the same way, can prevent disruption. 

Try not to dominate your relationship with the other individual, and rather than telling your partner to stop doing something or to do things a certain way, try to encourage conversations about it. 

If they don’t agree, open it up to alternatives and negotiation.

They are uncovering any implicit memories that drive unhealthy behaviors and dealing with them by seeking therapy.

Another way is by talking about them to the other person; it can also be very helpful as not addressing your suppressed emotions can lead to violent outcomes in behavioral patterns.

People tend to feel alienated when they do not address these types of issues

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is a relational disorder?

The relational disorder is persistent painful patterns of problems among two individuals who are mentally fine but they seem to be unwell when they are together.

Such disorders require clinical attention.

Q2. What are relational issues?

Relational issues or problems are various behavioral or psychological symptoms (or syndromes) that have clinical significance.

They are usually associated with profound distress or disturbance in various relationships.

The issues may also related with an enhanced risk of suffering pain, disability, death related suffering/trauma, feelings of loneliness or a perceived loss of freedom.

Q3. Can friends have a relational disorder?

The relational disorder can be observed in platonic relationships as well.

People who seem to be fine in large gatherings and groups often have problems among themselves that seem to exist for no apparent reason.

Q4. Who commonly has a relational disorder?

The relational disorder is commonly observed in a husband-wife relationships and parent-child relations.

Q5. Are people with relational disorders sick?

No, people who are recipients of the relational disorder are mentally dined by themselves but they experience difficulties and issues when it comes to dealing with their relationship.

Q6. What are the diagnostic characteristics of relational dysfunction or relational disorder?

Relational disorder has been defined as a consistent and persistent patterns of damaging behaviors, painful feelings and disturbed interactions between two or more individuals who are sharing a close relationship (e.g., parent-child, husband-wife). 


  1. Find out about relationship disorder
  2. Family relationship disorder
  3. A guide to anxiety
  4. Benefits of relational therapy 
  5. Relationship loneliness guide
  6. Reasons of violent behavior

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