The concept of personality disorder has been with us, widely used in clinical psychology and psychiatry, for decades now, although at first grossly associated with the psychoanalytical theory. Today, this concept refers to a specific class of personality types, one that has received careful attention and has been classified in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) even from the 1950’s.Some researchers tend to agree that these disorders are the result of a strange mix between certain psychological, genetic and environmental factors. Normally, the diagnosis is based on psychometric personality assessment or a clinical interview (i.e. The Big Five test), and other DSM IV general diagnostic criteria, all primarily focusing on the individual’s way of complying with social norms and with having healthy and meaningful social relationships. But what exactly is so unusual, odd or different in an individual with a personality disorder? Let’s have a look at some of the least known personality disorders.
1. Schizoid Personality Disorder or SPD
First of all, we would like to avoid any confusion that the name of this disorder might arise and state that schizophrenia and SPD are two different disorders, although they share a few similar characteristics and research has found an increased prevalence of SPD in people with schizophrenic relatives. One the most noticeable cause of the SPD development is sexual abuse experienced in early childhood and it is generally characterized by no desire or interest in human interaction, a strong tendency to avoid emotional attachment or intimacy while being cold and distant, disregard for social norms and social conventions, and last, but not least, a constant preoccupation with introspection as the individual prefers asolitary lifestyle.
2. Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Schizotypal personality disorder is closely related to schizophrenia, sharing more characteristics with it than SPD and there is a lot of controversy whether DSM IV has correctly classified this disorder or not. Meanwhile, this condition is commonly described as debuting in early adulthood with a peculiar set of behaviors like social anxiety and isolation, adopting irrational beliefs (magic, telepathy, UFO’s, and bizarre fantasies), experiencing bodily illusions and increasing suspicion or paranoid delusions. Researchers have found conclusive evidence to argument that schizotypal traits develop in people with a childhood history of neglect, maltreatment and trauma.
3. Avoidant Personality Disorder
The Avoidant personality disorder or the anxious personality disorder develops even from early childhood and can be easily recognized by parents. The essential characteristics of this disorder are the child’s strong feeling of social inadequacy, extreme sensitivity especially to negative criticism and a powerful fear of not being ridiculed or humiliated by others. Because the individual is extremely emotionally sensitive to outside stimuli, the logical associated behavior would be shyness and avoiding physical contact. However, social anxiety is usually complemented by feelings of inferiority and a constant need to escape reality through building a personal safe fantasy. There is no specific known cause for this disorder.
4. Dependent Personality Disorder or DPD
On the other side of the personality disorder spectrum, we find Dependent personality disorder or DPD which manifests as a chronic need to have someone else deal with life-like situations due to the presence of a distorted perspective of the self, seen as weak and incapable. Patients that suffer from this disorder usually see the world as too complex and cannot live in the present at all. While the others appear in their eyes as competent and all powerful, but also vital for their survival, the patients hold on to an immature world view, according to which they have to avoid taking responsibility for themselves and offer instead total submission towards others. Without continuous support these people would not know how to live their lives at all.
5. Depressive Personality Disorder
A rather controversial psychiatric diagnosis, Depressive personality disorder or melancholic personality disorder is characterized by a constant pattern of depressive behaviors and cognition (lasting at least 2 years) manifested in a variety of situations: interpersonal relationships, social contexts, personal lifestyle. The patients have a pessimistic view on life in general and tend to over criticize themselves, often feeling remorseful or guilty, thus being prone to suffering major depressive episodes or developing eating disorders.
Taking into account that statistically speaking 1 in 4 people can develop one of these personality disorders during their lifetime, where do we draw the fine line between normality and pathology?