Manipulation: searching for an understanding

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2003 Jun;10(3):329-34. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2850.2003.00603.x.


Manipulative behaviour is one of the reasons why some psychiatric professionals dislike personality-disordered (PD) patients and dislike working with them. Being manipulated arouses strong negative emotions towards the manipulator and can have severe repercussions on the ability to care for or treat those suffering from personality disorders. In order for practitioners to cope with manipulative behaviour and manage their emotional responses towards it, it is necessary to find ways to understand or construe that behaviour, so that moral condemnation and rejection of the patient can be avoided. This article offers a summary of three such methods of interpreting manipulation which are to be found in the literature: manipulation as normal behaviour; manipulation as unconsciously motivated; and manipulation as cognitive distortion. These three viable schemes for the understanding of manipulation provide not just a means to enable a non-judgmental approach, they also provide ways to manage that behaviour in a therapeutic manner.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Behavior Control* / psychology
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Personality Disorders / nursing*
  • Personality Disorders / psychology*
  • Persuasive Communication*
  • Power, Psychological
  • Psychiatric Nursing* / methods
  • Unconscious, Psychology