In a world full of millions of people, there is said to be about sixteen types of personalities when it comes to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which is a well-known inventory used to distinguish personality types. While it sounds like only sixteen personalities for millions of people are too few, we need to remember the variations in severity to the traits in these personalities. These types of personalities were scientifically discovered through studies and the use of inventories like MBTI, but how can we really be sure that they are the only major types when there are so many distinct minds in this world? How do we know that what we consider “Personality Disorders” are disorders at all and not just variations or new types of personalities? This is the question that fuels the controversial debate when it comes to Personality Disorders.
Personality is something that makes us who we are. The American Psychiatric Association describes it is as the foundation of where our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings build up from. Our personalities are an early creation of our experiences and innate traits. On the other hand, a personality disorder (PD) according to the DSM-5 guidelines, is apparent when the personality has been endured for a length of time, deviates from cultural expectations, is invasive and obstinate, has an early onset, is stable through time, and leads to distress or impairment. With the exception of leading to distress or impairment, the difference between personality and personality disorders doesn’t seem too far off.
Personality disorders have been a subject of debate and controversy for some time now among psychologists and psychiatrists. According to Mind.org, agreement on the understanding of personality disorders can be hard to find. Personality traits mistakenly being diagnosed as a disorder and the somber stigma associated with a diagnosis of a personality disorder makes this mental illness a legitimate and unnerving controversy.
The agreement among specialists on their understanding of personality disorders is a difficult task. As I brought up earlier, with so many types of personalities with such varying degrees of each trait within those personalities, seeing eye-to-eye on what can be determined a disorder is a struggle. As Kim and Tyrer (March 2010) elaborated in their study “Controversies Surrounding Classification of Personality Disorder” that “…clinician[s] need to be aware of the importance of assessing personality abnormality in terms of a severity dimension, and of the ways in which such an abnormality can impact on treatments for conditions.”
We often use words reflecting personality disorders like Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder, loosely. These words, correspondingly, include those such as “narcissist,” “psycho(path),” “sociopath,” and “drama queen.” When we use these words, we are more likely to be saying them in regard to a person’s personality and traits rather than a personality disorder that they may or may not have, demonstrating the stigma associated with characteristics of personality disorder. Often times this happens and can be exacerbated when specialists misdiagnose a patient’s personality for a personality disorder. For example, someone so used to hearing or using the word “psychopath” may be distraught if they were to be mistakenly diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder and may believe that they are a “psychopath” based on the stigma associated with that PD. Consequently, it can lead to other mental illnesses like anxiety or depression due to the stigma so closely associated. The misdiagnoses that fuel this controversy has these as just a few of the crucially serious consequences that can be found. To fix this, clinicians must be on the same page regarding the issue, so as to have the same standards for what constitutes a personality disorder diagnosis. If a clear and accurate way to distinguish the difference between personality and a disorder is created, we can lessen the stigma and the effects that sufferers feel from the stigma.
Kim, Y.-R., & Tyrer, P. (2010). Controversies Surrounding Classification of Personality Disorder. Psychiatry Investigation, 7(1), 1-8. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2848771/
Mind. (n.d.). Personality Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/personality-disorders/why-is-it-controversial/#.Wpl3SGY-LOR
American Psychiatric Association. (n.d.). What are Personality Disorders? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/personality-disorders/what-are-personality-disorders
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disroders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). (n.d.). Personality Disorders. Retrieved from https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.dsm18
The Myers and Briggs Foundation. (n.d.). MBTI Basics. Retrieved from http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/