Paradoxical adjustment syndrome: what it is, characteristics and phases
Paradoxical adjustment syndrome is a form of psychological dominance in cases of abuse.
Domestic violence is a social scourge to which a solution must be found. Unfortunately, this is difficult because many people do not dare to report it, which is why it is difficult to know precisely how many cases of partner abuse there are.
In addition to economic dependence and fear, this inability to report their aggression is compounded by the compassion factor. There are victims who, despite being physically and psychologically abused, do not report because they adapt to the new situation and, moreover, come to feel sympathy for what their aggressor has done.
Cases of violence are very complex and the proof of this is the existence of paradoxical adaptation syndrome.The situation is similar to the Stockholm syndrome that many women and men experience in their intimate relationships.
What is paradoxical adjustment syndrome?
Paradoxical coping syndrome is a term used in contexts of domestic violence. It describes an apparently contradictory phenomenon: people who are victims of aggression by their partner also end up feeling that it is their aggressor who is protecting them.They establish a relationship of compassion and refuge in the person who mistreats them.
The learned helplessness in which the victim is trapped ends up becoming the paradoxical adaptation syndrome. This, combined with the fact that on many occasions victims of domestic violence do not report out of fear or economic dependence, makes them reluctant to report because they have "adapted" to the situation, fearing that any new change will alter it and make it worse. They end up convinced that they can do absolutely nothing to change their situation.
Intimate partner violence is a very common scourge in most societies around the world.. In most cases it is men who commit the aggressions, but we should not ignore the fact that there are also women who are physically and psychologically violent towards their partners. Cases of male violence are the most visible, but it is known that cases of aggression against men, which are less visible, have also increased.
Paradoxical adaptation syndrome occurs in all types of couples regardless of the sexual and gender identity of the partners.. It occurs in heterosexual couples, in homosexual couples, and it can also occur in couples whose members have non-binary genders. In most cases, however, the violence occurs at an intimate level, is not usually reported to the courts, nor is it brought to the attention of the appropriate organizations against partner violence.
The syndrome and its relationship to intimate partner violence
Paradoxical Coping Syndrome is experienced by the victim in a dysfunctional romantic relationship.. It should be said that intimate partner violence is a very complex phenomenon, in which a wide repertoire of contradictory feelings, thoughts and beliefs appear.
In the best cases, the situation leads to separation, causing the victim to break free before it escalates further.In the best cases, the victim sees that trust and respect have been broken and, therefore, there is no choice but to end the relationship.
However, on other occasions the victim is unable to break free of the abuser's chains.. Among the reasons why this happens we must take into consideration the following three factors:
- Intense fear that paralyzes the person and prevents him/her from making decisions.
- Perception that there is no way out of the situation.
- Lack of emotional and material resources necessary to free oneself.
These three factors would be those that would occur in a typical case, although this is not what occurs in absolutely all cases.
There are also people who, although they are apparently independent and appear to have the necessary alternatives to escape from their situation of physical and psychological abuse, they do not flee from it and experience paradoxical adaptation syndrome.
How does this syndrome arise?
In all the couples where there is violence from the beginning there is an imbalance of power, whether it is economic, social, material or emotional.. It is this situation of imbalance that is considered an essential condition for the abuse to consolidate in the relationship.
Paradoxical adaptation syndrome is a psychological reaction of people who are victims of domestic violence and, therefore, involves changes in both the cognitive and cognitive aspects of the relationship, involves both cognitive and emotional changes..
These changes occur with the aim of enabling the person to cope with or survive the situation. At first it would be an adaptation mechanism, although it would not be functional because the person is adapting to a situation from which he/she should flee, not tolerate it.
Given its characteristics, this psychological condition is related to the Stockholm syndrome.. In both problems, feelings of love, attraction and sympathy towards the aggressor are born in the victim. One of the reasons why this happens is that the victim herself compares the harm perpetrated, the one she is suffering or has already suffered, with the potential harm, reaching the conclusion that she is receiving a benefit, since it could be much worse.
The phases of paradoxical adaptation
As we said, paradoxical adaptation syndrome is a consequence of maltreatment, both physical and psychological abuse. This situation does not occur immediately or spontaneously, but is nurtured by a long process in which four phases can be identified:
1. Triggering phase
The triggering phase takes place when the first aggression, generally of a physical nature, is received.. This destroys the security and confidence that the victim believed was given to her by the person who has now become her aggressor. A situation of mistreatment is unchained, of danger.
2. Reorientation phase
After the triggering phase, the victim feels disorientation and uncertainty before the new direction that has just taken their relationship.
Anxiety, guilt, shame and sadness are the main emotions expressed by the victim.These feelings make the person rethink the beliefs he or she had about his or her partner, in search of a new balance to compensate for the fear.
3. Coping phase
The victim contrasts the challenges of the new situation with the personal resources available to him/her.. Depression and stress arise and increase further. Pain tolerance increases and sensitivity is reduced. The coping phase of paradoxical coping syndrome is the phase of passive resistance.
4. Adaptation phase
Finally comes the phase of paradoxical adaptation itself. The deterioration of the relationship also causes physical and mental deterioration in the victim, leading her to progressively submit to the conditions imposed by her aggressor. The feeling of inferiority makes them identify with the aggressor at some point, and even sympathize with him/her..
Once these four phases have occurred, paradoxical adaptation occurs. The victim ends up protecting himself by changing his behavior and attitude towards the aggressor. In this way, the initial rejection of what her partner had done to her becomes a kind of plea for help, even pity for what he has done to her. This syndrome can be so alienating that it makes the victim thank her aggressor for not inflicting more pain on her.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)