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Thursday, October 8, 2009

T3 - Personality Disorder Overview

Many of you asked for it, so here's the first installment (overview) of the Personality Disorder Parade.

A personality disorder is an "enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early childhood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment" (DSM, p. 685).

There are three clusters of personality disorders that are based on descriptive similarities outlined below:

Cluster A = Odd/Eccentric


Cluster B = Dramatic/Emotional


Cluster C = Anxious/Fearful


All the personality disorders have six diagnostic criteria:

1) an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from cultural expectations and is manifested in at least two of the following areas:
  • cognition (ways of perceiving/interpreting self/others/events)
  • affectivity (range, intensity, ability to change and appropriateness of emotional response)
  • interpersonal functioning
  • impulse control
2) the pattern is inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations

3) the pattern leads to clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning

4) the pattern is stable and of long duration, and its onset can be traced back to at least adolescence of early adulthood

5) the pattern is not better accounted for an a manifestation or consequence of another mental disorder

6) the pattern is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or general medical condition

These general diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder will give you a better understanding of how widespread the effect is on a person who suffers from them. Next week, I'll continue the Personality Disorder Parade with a rundown of the more prominent personality disorders (like antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive).

How can this help you as a writer?

Personality disorders are a great vice to give a villain or even the main character. Once the reader understands that the villain has an actual disorder, they are more likely to feel a little sympathy toward them. If the villain is mentally ill and not taking medication or getting help, then there is still hope for the him or her. See how that can be helpful?

Some of these personality disorders are just begging for you to snap them up and use them in a WIP. Just by reading the descriptions of the criteria for diagnosing someone with antisocial personality disorder or borderline personality disorder...your writer brains will be working overtime as the possibilities you'll hopefully come away with!

Stay tuned for next week...Antisocial Personality Disorder is first. It's a terrible thing to actually diagnose a real person with, but a writer's playground to give a fictional character!

Q4U: Is there a particular personality disorder that you've "heard something about" that you might want clarified when I get to that disorder?

Wordle: signature


Tabitha Bird said...

My sister has schizophrenia and lots of people assume then that she has multiple personalities, but she does not. Do most people with my sister's disorder have multiple personalities? I get asked that a lot and I have always wanted to ask someone.

Jessica Nelson said...

I'm really fascinated with personality disorders. Can't wait to see what you come up with! I'd also be interested in how much is genetic and how much is because of the child's background/family life.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

great questions! i'll be sure to address these in my coming Thursday Therapeutic Thought posts. thanks, ladies!

Rosslyn Elliott said...

I'm so excited for this series! Thanks for starting it.

Susan R. Mills said...

This is interesting stuff! Like Jessica, I'd like to know the genetic aspects.

Katie Ganshert said...

I've heard of borderline personality disorder and never understood what it meant. So I'm looking forward to learning more about that one.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

you got it, susan. katie - i'll definitely be featuring worried. for now, it's like, "I hate you, don't leave me." :)

Betty Ost Everley said...

Jeannie - While I'm not a therapist, I believe my husband's ex is a sociopath. Can I assume that is "more" than just anti-social?

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

betty - i wouldn't say that every antisocial person is necessarily a sociopath, but i would be more likely to say that every sociopath is probably antisocial. b/c you feel so strongly about her, my thoughts are that you'll probably read the post on antisocial PD next week and think i'm describing her. let me know next week what you think.

Stephanie Faris said...

I once knew someone who had a problem making eye contact with anyone. My aunt said it sounded like a personality disorder? He lived in an apartment, rarely left (he works from home), and had only a cat for company. He couldn't maintain relationships in real life because he was really difficult to get along with. He could be good at a relationship for a while, but once things progressed he began growing difficult, obstinate, and seemed unable to understand whether or not he had feelings or not. He seemed confused about he didn't understand whether he still loved her or not. We tried telling him that all relationships die in intensity over time but he just kept pushing these women away...and now he's alone. I am concerned for him and will often suggest ways he can meet women but he seems to prefer to just stay alone, 24/7, with nothing but TV and the Internet to keep him company.

Is this a personality disorder possibly?

Diane said...

Wow..... I am thinking of many relatives that might seriously have this. What are the remedies?

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

stephanie - sounds pretty classic personality disorder. my guess would be schizoid or perhaps avoidant (but it doesn't fit that he actually entered into relationships)...but we'll delve into it. i'll keep this in mind. thanks.

Tamika: said...

I look forward to this series! There is much to learn, thanks Jeannie!

I would love to learn more about bipolar disorder, I am thinking one of my secondary characters may be suffering from this.

Very interesting...

Anonymous said...

Can people have an attachment to fictional characters like on a tv show or in a book? Like when the series ends they cry and they often re-watch episodes and don't watch the last episode because they don't want it to be over? I know some people just don't want it to be over because they like the show but I mean like it really emotionally hurts them for the show to end or the series of books to stop. I don't know if its a disorder and I would really like to know and I can't bring it up to my parents because they think I'm joking.

Anonymous said...

I've also experienced this attachment to fictional characters on an extreme level. To the point where I would cry and scream in class at school. And where I believed this show was reality.
Can anybody tell me about this ? Please ?

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

i don't think it's too unusual to get attached to fictional tv shows or book series. we are seeking ways to remove ourselves from the drudgery of life and reading/watching tv can do it. i don't think it's necessarily a disorder because you really related to a show or book or character, but i suppose anything taken too far could be a disorder. the question to ask is this: does not having the book or tv show on anymore impede your life? your social functioning? if so, seeking professional help might not be too far out in left field. if not, it just means you're passionate about what you like. hope that helps.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.