Summary And Evaluation

We began this chapter with a discussion of how disorders of personality draw on almost all the other topics studied so far . The concept of disorder relies on making a distinction between what is normal and what is abnormal. There are several defini tions of abnormality . One is statistical and relies on how frequently a condition appears among a population of people. Another definition is sociological and has t do with how much a society tolerates particular forms of behavior . A psychological definition emphasizes to what extent a behavior pattern causes distress for the perso or for others. For example, is the behavior associated with disor ganization in the person's own thoughts, emotions, or social relations? The hallmark of the psychological definition of abnormal is anything that prevents a person from having satisfying rela tionships or from carrying on productive work. Most of the personality disorders result in problems with relationships because they impair the person' s ability to get along with others. Many of the disorders also impair the person' s ability to engage in productive work. We saw that all of the personality disorders refer to symptoms that cause problems with relationships or with work, or both.

The study of abnormal psychology , also called psychopathology , has evolved into a distinct discipline within psychology and psychiatry . A major goal of this discipline is to develop reliable taxonomies for mental disorders. The most widely used system for classifying abnormal psychological conditions, at least in the United States, is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disor ders, fourth edition (DSM-IV). This sourcebook is the major reference for diagnosing and describing all mental disorders, but in this chapter we focused only on the personality disorders.

Personality disorders are enduring patterns of experience and behavior that differ greatly from the norm and the expectations of the individual' s social group. Disorders typically show up in abnormalities in how people think, in how they feel, in how they get along with others, or in their ability to control their own actions. The patterns are typically displayed across a variety of situations, leading to distress, either for themselves or others, in important areas in life, such as at work or in relations with others. Personality disorders typically have a long history in a person' s life and can often be traced back to adolescence or childhood.

In this chapter, we covered the 10 personality disorders contained in the DSM-IV. We organized these 10 disorders into three clusters: the erratic cluster (disorders pertaining to ways of being unpredictable or violent), the eccentric cluster (disorders pertaining to ways of being odd), and the anxious cluster (disorders pertaining to ways of being nervous or distressed). Each disorder consists of a syndrome of behaviors and traits. Disorders are actually dimensions, and people range in the severity of the disorder from mild to severe, depending on the number and intensity of symptoms that they exhibit.

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