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THE CULTURE OF PERSONALITIES
Personality disorders are a group of mental illnesses. They involve long-term patterns of thoughts and behaviors that are unhealthy and inflexible. The behaviors cause serious problems with relationships and work. People with personality disorders have trouble dealing with everyday stresses and problems. They often have stormy relationships with other people. The cause of personality disorders is unknown. However, genes and childhood experiences may play a role. The symptoms of each personality disorder are different. They can mild or severe. People with personality disorders may have trouble realizing that they have a problem. To them, their thoughts are normal, and they often blame others for their problems. They may try to get help because of their problems with relationships and work. Treatment usually includes talk therapy and sometimes medicine.
PERSONALITY / CHARACTER
In a 1996 article, Dan McAdams, a professor at Northwestern University, noted that "...personality psychologists must seek first and foremost to know persons." With that professional goal in mind, he asked the following elegant question: "What do we know when we know a person? What does it take to know a person in a scientific way?"
In his article, McAdams answered that as psychologists learn about someone, they progress across "three levels of knowing," steadily building an understanding of another person as they move from one stage of knowing to the next.
McAdams' Level 1 is a description of a person's broad, general traits, such as how shy, outgoing, intelligent, or warm someone is. He writes:
"Knowing where somebody stands on extraversion or neuroticism is indeed crucial information in the evaluation of strangers and others about whom one knows very little. It is the kind of information that strangers quickly glean from one another as they size one another up and anticipate future interactions. It is the kind of information that people fall back on when they know little else about the other who is being observed."
According to McAdams, "...the ultimate outcome of a good trait analysis would appear to be little more than a systematic psychology of the stranger."
Level 2 provides a description of an individual's personal concerns -- descriptions of personal strivings, life tasks, strategies of defense and coping, and similar matters that involve the specific times, places, and endeavors of the person's life. As McAdams puts it:
"They [pesonal concerns] speak to what people want, often during particular periods in their lives or within particular domains of action, and what life methods people use (strategies, plans, defenses, and so on) to get what they want or avoid getting what they do not want over time, in particular places, and/or with respect to particular roles."
As a psychologist moves from an analysis at Level 1 (general traits) to Level 2 (personal concerns), their sense of knowing the other person increases. There is one more level:
"As one moves from Level 1 to Level 2, one moves from the psychology of the stranger to a more detailed and nuanced description of a flesh-and-blood, in-the-world person, striving to do things over time, situated in place and role, expressing herself or himself in and through strategies, tactics, plans, goals, and so on...So what is missing? The answer stems from the...mindset of...individuals [who] are expected to create selves that develop over time and that define who they are...what is missing is identity."
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A contemporary person, according McAdams, creates an identity through a process McAdams somewhat whimsically refers to as "selfing" -- composing one's personality and personal story by weaving together an overall self-definition. This sense of mature identity is unique to thinking adults. As McAdams put it rather provocatively -- (and here I have abridged and omitted much material):
"...8-year-olds are too young to have identities in this sense because they are generally not able to experience unity and purpose as problematic in their lives...But not so for a modern adult. Although the question of "Who am I?" may seem silly or obvious to a young child, modern men and women are likely to see such a question as...challenging, ego-involving, and so on...[they] construct...more or less coherent, followable, and vivifying stories that integrate the person into society..."
That is, people construct stories of themselves to convey who they are (e.g., "I was born on a farm in Oklahoma, but was irresistibly attracted by Manhattan's bright lights...My move to New York was the beginning of my life in the arts...").
Editors often advise writers to use specifics when they write (see here), such as providing details of a story-character's life, so as to make their narratives more alive and real-seeming. This may be an example of how providing specific life events creates in us a sense of knowing another person.
Does gaining knowledge across these three levels make psychologists, other professionals and insightful people special in their knowledge of others?
As I read McAdams' article, he provides a second answer to the question of how scientists get to know someone -- an answer that he himself mentions just in passing. This answer is about the scientific method. He wrote:
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"In personality psychology, observations and measurements of persons are generally made in systematic and structured ways through the use of standardized questionnaires, laboratory investigations, interviews, ethnographic inquiries, content analysis, and so on. These observations and measurements must then be organized in terms of constructs and propositions, and these constructs and propositions should be further organized into an integrative framework... ".
In my opinion, this method, brought up by McAdams, also helps to assure that the professional person-perceiver's analysis of personality is as close to the reality of the person as is scientifically possible.
The use of the scientific method along with the inclusion of more details of a person's life (e.g., McAdams' Level 3) may create not only a sense of knowing, but a systematic, organized collection of information from which good descriptions can be made of an individual's personality.
Symptoms," the observable, behavioral manifestations of any disorder, are explained significantly by internal, mental or emotional factors, not generally visible to the naked eye, and that attention to these internal emotional factors or states is an essential part of the treatment process; and
Over the course of a psychotherapy, some of the emotional factors that influence the problematic behaviors or symptoms and that had previously been unclear to the patient and therapist become clear to both through their mutual, careful attention to the goings on in the treatment relationship, which includes the transference of images within the patient's mind, which they may not be fully aware of, to the person of the therapist (and others in their life).
Impulsive and risky behavior, such as having unsafe sex, gambling or binge eating
Unstable or fragile self-image
Unstable and intense relationships
Up and down moods, often as a reaction to interpersonal stress
Suicidal behavior or threats of self-injury
Intense fear of being alone or abandoned
Ongoing feelings of emptiness
Frequent, intense displays of anger
Constantly seeking attention
Excessively emotional, dramatic or sexually provocative to gain attention
Speaks dramatically with strong opinions, but few facts or details to back them up
Easily influenced by others
Shallow, rapidly changing emotions
Excessive concern with physical appearance
Thinks relationships with others are closer than they really are
What Is "Personality"?
Personality refers to a distinctive set of traits, behavior styles, and patterns that make up our character or individuality. How we perceive the world, our attitudes, thoughts, and feelings are all part of our personality. People with healthy personalities are able to cope with normal stresses and have no trouble forming relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.
Those who struggle with a personality disorder have great difficulty dealing with other people. They tend to be inflexible, rigid, and unable to respond to the changes and demands of life. People with personality disorders tend to have a narrow view of the world and find it difficult to participate in social activities.
Some experts believe that events occurring in early childhood exert a powerful influence upon behavior later in life. Others indicate that people are genetically predisposed to personality disorders. In some cases, however, environmental facts may cause a person who is already genetically vulnerable to develop a personality disorder.
A personality disorder must fulfill several criteria. A deeply ingrained, inflexible pattern of relating, perceiving, and thinking serious enough to cause distress or impaired functioning is a personality disorder. Personality disorders are usually recognizable by adolescence or earlier, continue throughout adulthood, and become less obvious throughout middle age.
TYPES OF PERSONALITY DISORDERS
There are four defining features of personality disorders.
1) Distorted thinking patterns, 2) Problematic emotional responses,
3) Over or under-regulated impulse control, & 4) Interpersonal difficulties.
. . .
These four core features are common to all personality disorders. Before a diagnosis is made, a person must demonstrate significant and enduring difficulties in at least two of those four areas. Furthermore, personality disorders are not usually diagnosed in children because of the requirement that personality disorders represent enduring problems across time.
These four key features combine in various ways to form ten specific personality disorders identified in DSM-5 (APA, 2013). Each disorder lists asset of criteria reflecting observable characteristics associated with that disorder.
In order to be diagnosed with a specific personality disorder, a person must meet the minimum number of criteria established for that disorder. Furthermore, to meet the diagnostic requirements for a psychiatric disorder, the symptoms must cause functional impairment and/or subjective distress. This means the symptoms are distressing to the person with the disorder and/or the symptoms make it difficult for them to function well in society.
The Three Clusters
Furthermore, the ten different personality disorders can be grouped into three clusters based on descriptive similarities within each cluster. These clusters are:
Cluster A (the "odd, eccentric" cluster);
Cluster B (the "dramatic, emotional, erratic" cluster); and,
Cluster C (the "anxious, fearful" cluster).
Oftentimes, a person can be diagnosed with more than just one personality disorder. Research has shown that there is a tendency for personality disorders within the same cluster to co-occur (Skodol, 2005).
Now let's look at how all four core features merge to create specific patterns called personality disorders.
Too sensitive to criticism or rejection
Feeling inadequate, inferior or unattractive
Avoidance of work activities that require interpersonal contact
Socially inhibited, timid and isolated, avoiding new activities or meeting strangers
Extreme shyness in social situations and personal relationships
Fear of disapproval, embarrassment or ridicule
Schizoid personality disorder
Lack of interest in social or personal relationships, preferring to be alone
Limited range of emotional expression
Inability to take pleasure in most activities
Inability to pick up normal social cues
Appearance of being cold or indifferent to others
Excessive dependence on others and feeling the need to be taken care of
Submissive or clingy behavior toward others
Fear of having to provide self-care or fend for yourself if left alone
Lack of self-confidence, requiring excessive advice and reassurance from others to make even small decisions
Difficulty starting or doing projects on your own due to lack of self-confidence
Difficulty disagreeing with others, fearing disapproval
Tolerance of poor or abusive treatment, even when other options are available
Urgent need to start a new relationship when a close one has ended
Schizotypal personality disorder
Peculiar dress, thinking, beliefs, speech or behavior
Odd perceptual experiences, such as hearing a voice whisper your name
Flat emotions or inappropriate emotional responses
Social anxiety and a lack of or discomfort with close relationships
Indifferent, inappropriate or suspicious response to others
"Magical thinking" — believing you can influence people and events with your thoughts
Belief that certain casual incidents or events have hidden messages meant only for you