Personality Disorders and Diagnosis

No two people are alike and for those of us in the people business, we try to quickly ascertain particular personality traits to give us a better understanding of how best to relate to a particular individual. I am not particularly fond of labels, but have always been fascinated by the four basic personality types and use my, “What kind of cat are you?” framework as a lighthearted tool.

Personality traits such as how a person sees and interacts with their life and others seem to fall into basic categories and most people are a combination of one or more of these temperaments.

Beyond particular personality traits, there are personality disorders which are considered undesirable and could cause problems in the life of someone struggling with a dysfunctional personality trait or negatively affect the life (or lives) of others.

Diagnosing personality disorders is really a very complex method which should be left to the licensed professionals specializing in this type of work. It is an ever-evolving science of psychotherapy which changes moment to moment and year to year as we accumulate data and as we as human beings amidst societal environments continue to evolve. It is a continual moving target.

Currently, the trend suggests there are ten basic prototypes used in the diagnosis of personality disorders. Even so, even with a correct diagnosis it is common for any two people with the same diagnosis to express their particular personality disorder completely differently. Again, this is because even though we all share some of the same basic temperament traits, we are all so uniquely separated by individual life experiences and influences which give us our astounding uniqueness.

That being said, the process of diagnosis is more likened to art than science due to the complexities and variances of each subject. At the moment there exists no scientific testing equipment that can be used to adequately diagnose a particular person (and I think that is a good thing) but the scientific community would like to embrace a scanning technology which could adequately report which people are likely to not have compassion or feelings, are likely to break the law, be manipulative and predatory, overly frightened or highly dependent on the system or others.

Not being an exacting science regulated to a series of yes or no criteria, we’re all just doing the best we can with what we have, and just as each subject is completely individual, so is each evaluator, which skews the process of diagnosis even further as data is scrutinized and perceived to arrive at an adequate conclusion.

As we continue to diagnose and categorize personality disorders, it causes concern about how these diagnoses will be handled in the future, because history depicts society as having a propensity to punish or banish people who express particular brands of individuality. I am not convinced this is a good thing.

In my work, I have found myself working with people and their issues among the Antisocial Personality Disorder spectrum, particularly those who have a propensity for being predatory or involved in criminal activity. In the past, these individuals were labeled as “psychopaths” which is the term that I use to categorize them, when working with their victims.

While these methods of categorization helps me communicate, deal with and integrate with this particular group of individuals, I struggle with the idea of reducing human beings to their simplest form(s) and see potential pitfalls in such activity.

Even you could be easily diagnosed with a particular personality disorder, which could be problematic.

For instance, you could be diagnosed as being a Paranoid, Schizoid or possess a Schizotypal Personality Disorder if you’re a loner, suspicious, assert that you have certain “rights,” ruminate over injustices; believe in magic, UFOs and government conspiracies.

You could receive a diagnosis of Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic or Narcissistic Personality Disorder if you lack empathy or compassion, are self-confident, aggressive, manipulative or feel as though you are above the law. This spectrum also includes those who might be attractive, sexual, suicidal, emotionally unstable and/or selfish in nature.

Then there are the Avoidant, Dependent, and Anankastic Personality Disorders which include individuals who are self-conscious, shy, subservient, are apt to display anxiety, fear of abandonment and may (or may not) have been a victim of sexual abuse. This group also harbors obsessive statisticians and workaholics who may lack a sense of humor and are likely to see things as black-or-white or good-or-bad.

What do you think?

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