Embitterment pp 177-186 | Cite as

Embitterment and personality disorder

  • Max Rotter


Justice is a central concern in humans and the experience of injustice can lead to strong “hot and burning” emotional reactions (Miller 2001; Ross and Miller 2001; Lerner and Lerner 1981; Bies and Moag 1986; Bies and Tripp 2002; Mikula 1986), including anger, hostility, shame or guilt (Harlos and Pinder 2000; see also Dalbert, Chap. 2.3, this volume). One specific emotional reaction to perceived injustice, degradation, devaluation or humiliation is bitterness. Bitterness is always associated with a burning sense of unfairness or injustice, a protesting feeling of having been wronged without cause. The feeling of bitterness is a prevalent and common phenomenon, and it is experienced as an unpleasant feeling justified by external reality (Alexander 1966). While the term bitterness describes a transient emotional arousal, the term embitterment signifies a personal trait or a prolonged emotional condition (Grimm 2005). Preliminary epidemiological data show that about one half to one third of the general population remember feelings of embitterment (Linden et al. 2009). Thus, bitterness is a widespread emotion, familiar to many human beings, and therefore part of the normal spectrum of emotions, similar to anxiety, depression, anger and many others (see Znoj, Chap. 2.1, this volume). Yet there are marked differences among individuals in regard to the occurrence, duration and intensity of bitterness and embitterment they experience (Linden et al. 2009). Similar to anxiety, embitterment can occur in increased intensity and duration and result in impairment. There are different forms and contexts in which embitterment may arise. Best defined is posttraumatic embitterment disorder (PTED; Linden 2003; Linden et al. 2007a; see Linden, Chap. 5.4, this volume), which is characterized by strong and persistent embitterment in the wake of a single unjust and/or humiliating event. An important criterion of PTED is that prior to the onset of the illness no other mental disorder that could explain the present mental state should have been present. On the contrary, Linden et al. (2007) state that many patients with PTED were well adjusted personalities before the critical event and the onset of illness.


Personality Disorder Negative Life Event Case Vignette Adjustment Disorder Justice Sensitivity 
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© Springer-Verlag Wien 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Max Rotter
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Group Psychosomatic RehabilitationRehabilitation Center Seehof LichterfelderTeltowGermany

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