Personality Disorders

June 6, 2016 - - 0 Comments Personality Disorders

Various types of personality disorder

herhouse_personality_disordersPersonality disorder can reveal itself in different ways, rearing its ugly head to wreak havoc on the individual, his or her family, continuously disrupting their lives.  The disorder does not discriminate, is color blind and infiltrates all social classes.

Let’s get right to it.  In clinical terms there is a standard system of diagnosis used by psychiatrists in the U.S. which identifies 10 different types of personality disorder, grouped into three categories: Suspicious, Emotional and Impulsive and Anxious.

Under Suspicious we have paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal and antisocial.  Under Emotional and Impulsive are borderline, histrionic and narcissistic.  Under Anxious are avoidant, dependant and obsessive compulsive.

A breakdown and classification is important to note because one person may meet the criteria for several different types of personality disorder, while any number of people may fit the criteria for the same disorder, despite having very different personalities.

Convenient categorization

How it affects you is what matters most, so before accepting these ten personality disorder classifications it should be emphasized that they are more the product of historical observation than of scientific study.  In simple terms that means they’re rather vague and imprecise deductions.

As a result they are rarely presented in classic ‘textbook’ form but instead tend to meld into one another.  Their division into three prominent clusters is intended to reflect this tendency, with any given character disorder most likely to blur with other personality disorders within its pairing.

Clinical jargon and doctor speak does little to gain one’s confidence in any system looking to lend a hand.  That’s because a majority of people with one of these branded personas never come into contact with mental health services and those who do usually do so in the context of another mental disorder or at a time of crisis.

This is common after inflicting self-harm or breaking the law, sometimes with catastrophic consequences, resulting in considerable distress and impairment with the need to be treated ‘in their own right’.

And when the condition is associated with crime, what then?  Should they be under the care of the health professionals or simply taken off the streets and jailed?  This is a matter of debate and controversy, especially with regard to those behavior disorders which predispose to criminal activity, at times treated solely with the primary purpose of preventing crime.  How then can we improve this approach?

Well, we know that identifying and understanding personality disorders are important to health professionals because being predisposed to a mental disorder can affect the presentation and management of that existing condition.

If criminal behavior is one of the criteria for the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), then it would be safe to say that at least half of criminals have a diagnosis of personality disorder, with a high proportion of those having ASPD. 

This is explained by the fact that these same people are also considered to pose a serious risk of harm to others, or have committed a violent crime and so then may be described as having ‘dangerous and severe personality disorder’.

Controversial diagnosis

These diagnoses are misread all the time.  In fact, survivors of domestic violence or child abuse have sometimes been mistakenly identified with these characteristic.  This is because they have developed persistent and wide-ranging post-traumatic symptoms, many times misinterpreted as part of their basic personality.

Although the system of diagnosis is the one generally used in this country, some psychiatrists disagree with its use and many people who are given that opinion find it stigmatizing and unhelpful for the following reasons: 

  • The classification is not accepted by some specialists and psychiatrists who believe that the standard categories are unsupportive.
  • They maintain their beliefs because there is no scientific evidence for this kind of cataloging and in turn they present a valid and sensible argument.
  • These doctors claim most people who are diagnosed with a personality disorder do not fit any one category and that the categories are based on how people behave when they are in a hospital, not in the community, which of course is where most people live.
  • In fact, they do not help with deciding what treatment is appropriate for someone and fail to realize the focus should be on what each individual needs in order to deal with their problems and live in society more successfully, not what grouping they’ve been assigned.

Diagnoses of mental health problems feel personal in a way that physical health problems don’t.  And no diagnosis feels more personal than that of a personality disorder.

A popular and rewarding alternative approach currently being advocated by the medical profession that it is more appropriate and useful asks, ‘What has happened to you?’ rather than ‘What symptoms do you have?’  This helps the person feel less labeled and insulted.

The term ‘personality disorder’ assumes that the very core of who you are means you are disordered because it doesn’t fit into what someone else has decided is the norm.  If that’s true then almost anyone can fit the criteria for each trait but that doesn’t mean they are ill.  And again, it can be mistakenly diagnosed.

What’s needed is a workable solution, something that puts the patient’s best interest ahead of psycho babble, statistics or other repetitive minutia.

Finding the right place with the right professional who is open to all available options is a big step in the right direction.

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