- Some criteria used for reaching a diagnosis cannot be observed directly.
It appears that the difference between some of the possible personality disorders is a question of why rather than what (Nevid & Rathus, 2005). For instance, the difference between a diagnosis of schizoid personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder is a question of why people avoid the formation of close relationships, rather than that they avoid the formation of close relationships. This means that the diagnosis itself can be affected by clinician bias, which is completely subjective. Also, not all clinicians agree about when personality traits become persistent personality disorders. The downfall to this reality is that a diagnosis is predicated on clinician bias rather than objective tests.
- Personality disorders can be similar to each other.
Apparently, several personality traits overlap between several personality disorders. For instance, the fear of disapproval and inadequacy could point to either avoidant personality disorder or dependent personality disorder. The problem with this is that a person could receive a wrong diagnosis and therefore be treated with the wrong type therapy or medication. Even though both avoidant and dependent personality disorder shares common traits the treatment is different in each case.
- People with different personalities can be given the same diagnosis
I honestly do not see a problem with this. As our text explains, personality traits are highly correlated with both biological and psychological/sociocultural foundations. That means that a person’s personality traits aren’t some objective, static formula, but rather a somewhat measurable fluidic equation. It is like trying to find the exact equation for pi. It is not completely possible but after the millionth decimal who cares? An example would be someone who exhibits several Type A personality traits and another person who exhibits many Type B personality traits both receiving a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. The person with several Type A personality traits might be avoiding the formation of social relationships because they are too busy becoming a success and completing the task; whereas, the person with more Type B personality traits might just need to develop better social skills.
- Do you think that personality disorders are true mental illnesses? Why or why not?
Yes, I do think that personality disorders are true mental illnesses. I do fear the sociocultural reproductions of a personality disorder diagnosis. Indeed a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for some people. The personality disorders are important though because they can lead to, and often do lead to, major disorders such as depression or certain anxiety disorders. For instance, poor social support has been linked to depression, which could first manifest itself as an antisocial personality disorder. That is not to say that the depression is caused by the antisocial personality disorder, but rather that the personality traits usually exhibited during this personality disorder predispose someone to future depression through a lack of social support.
Nevid, J.S., & Rathus, S.A. (2005). Psychology and the challenges of life: Adjustment in the new millennium (9th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.