Gender Differences in Personality Disorders

The overall prevalence rate for personality disorders is fairly equal in men and women. There are a few specific disorders, howeve , that show a tendency to be more prevalent in men or in women. The one disorder with the most disparate gender distribution is antisocial personality disorder, which occurs in men with a prevalence rate of about 4.5 percent and in women at only about a 0.8 prevalence rate. As such, about one out of every 20 adult men have antisocial personality disorder , whereas it is less than one in a hundred for women (Oltmanns & Emery , 2004).

A few other personality disorders show tendencies to be more common among men or among women. Borderline and dependent personality disorders may be somewhat more prevalent in women than men, though the evidence is not strong. Paranoid and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may be more common in men than women, but the dif ference is not lar ge. One important issue concerns gender biases in diagnoses. For example, in dependent personality disorder , a few of the distinguishing traits might be viewed as traditionally feminine characteristics, such as putting others' needs ahead of one' s own or being unassertive. Consequently , if the criteria for this disorder are based on feminine stereotypes, then it might be relatively easier for women than men to meet the criteria for this diagnosis, even if a particular woman is not suffering significant impairment from those particular traits. Clinicians need to be awar of how stereotypes af fect the ways they diagnose their clients.

A related issue is gender dif ferences in the manifestation of the dif ferent disorders. For example, in histrionic personality disorder a main issue concerns excessive attention seeking. A woman might pursue this through hyperfemininity , perhaps even being sexually seductive. A male might pursue this through hypermasculinity, perhaps through shows of strength and bragging about accomplishments. Each is engaging in excessive attention seeking but doing it in ways that are gender stereotyped.

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