What Exactly IS a Personality Disorder
Because we live in the information age and we can Google literally everything, the average person is fairly familiar with some of the rank and file psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, panic, phobias, compulsions, impulsivity, and addictions. Most people however are completely unaware of “personality disorders” and are uneducated as to how common and pervasive these disorders really are in our society, churches and families. If you understand them, the lights will go on and it will give you a new lens through which to see and understand persons who are causing severe relational distress around you.
What is a personality Disorder?
“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 adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment.” Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychological Association.
What does it feel like to be around someone with a personality disorder? There are several characteristics that I see frequently in my office and hear on our nationally syndicated counseling radio talk show New Life Live (www.newlife.com).
- They have high levels of agitation and internal alarm when others have a lack of conformity to their hopes, expectations, opinions, beliefs or values.
- Because they have poor self-reflective skills and self-observation capabilities to accurately see how theyare relating to others, they seem to only focus on the behaviors and attitudes of others.
- They are very hard to convince that they have a problem or that their perceptions are anything but accurate. Thus, they often struggle to admit culpability in relational problems. In contrast, many others who come into our offices are clear that they have a problem of some sort and are able to say aloud, “I am struggling with anxiety, anger, worry, an addiction …etc.” They struggle with the concept of a marital struggle or negative core dynamic being “co-created” and that they play a part.
- Due to these characteristics, they tend to become agitated when others fail to comply with their standards and they become increasingly angry and controlling in an attempt to bring the other person into compliance. They end up being defined by others as very controlling. They say things like “If you will just agree with me on these things, and do what I want you to do, things will be just fine!” There is a high need for others to see things their way.
- They are resistant to personal reflection or to hearing the reflections and feedback of others, thus their “readiness” or willingness to engage in the counseling process is very low or non-existent.
- Personality disorders are very destructive to the marriage and family dynamics and these disorders often go unchecked for years, even decades because the average person, spouse or pastor is untrained in identifying them.
What is origin of personality disorders?
Is “nature” or “nurture”? I’m sure its both. We all have a sin nature and can easily go astray and transgress God’s mind, will and heart. Even our genetic code is broken and for many of us this results in disabilities of many types including the ways our brain affects our minds.
As a child, the greater the distress foisted upon us by our families of origin (FOO) the greater our relational struggles within adulthood. Emotional trauma, abuse, neglect, misuse, disconnection and abandonment (either chronic or acute) will cause injuries within our souls. The love styles, spoken about in our book How We Love are all attachment injuries, common to us all that carry with us into adulthood. Very severe relational injuries that deeply affect the child in the early years, lead to the more severe personality disorders.
Again, they are pervasive patterns of thinking and reacting that encompass all aspects of the person’s emotions, thought patterns and logic. It is so deep and a part of the fabric of one’s soul, personhood or inner being, that it is called a “personality” disorder.
How many personality disorders?
There are ten different types and we will talk about them in more detail in weeks to come. They are:
- Paranoid Personality Disorder
- Schizoid Personality Disorder
- Schizotypal Personality Disorder
- Antisocial Personality Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Histrionic Personality Disorder
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Avoidant Personality Disorder
- Dependent Personality Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
Over the next few weeks, we will briefly describe each of them and try to address the following:
- Can they ever change?
- How do you work with someone who you may suspect has a personality disorder?
- What if you think you have one?
- How do I protect myself and my family.
- How does therapy help?
- What are the support systems to help friends and family?
In closing, God tells each of us that we are broken and that we need to understand clearly how the power of the Christ’s shed blood and the strength of the Body of Christ (The Church) can help all of us all grow into a person of strength and maturity. Romans 6 will be our guiding text in this 5 week journey. Look ahead and read it.
Thanks and blessings,
Milan & Kay
Next week: More On Personality Disorders.