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Psych Cents

Personality Traits and Disorders

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and classifies/categorizes mental disorders, and is used by mental health care professionals.  It defines and categorizes characteristics/traits/syndromes for use by practioners and researchers of different psychological orientations (e.g., cognitive, psychoanalytic, behavioral, biological, systems analysis, etc.).  It also contains diagnostic codes that can be used to satisfy record-keeping and insurance reimbursement needs.  For a thorough description of the DSM click on this link   http://www.behavenet.com/capsules/disorders/dsm4TRclassification.htm

The DSM-IV TR organizes each psychiatric diagnosis into five levels (axes) relating to different aspects of disorder or disability:

  • Axis I: clinical disorders, including major mental disorders, as well as developmental and learning disorders
  • Axis II: underlying pervasive or personality conditions, as well as mental retardation
  • Axis III: Acute medical conditions and Physical disorders.
  • Axis IV: psychosocial and environmental factors contributing to the disorder
  • Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning (on a scale from 100 to 0 — GAF score)

Psychodiagnosticians generally perform a clinical interview, administer a battery of tests, score and interpret the tests, and write up a written report which includes the DSM IV diagnosis.

Common Axis I disorders include See reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diagnostic_and_Statistical_Manual_of_Mental_Disorders

Axis II Personality Disorders
Personality or character traits are enduring patterns of behavior and feelings that pervade most aspects of day to day life.  These traits taken together define one's personality. 
A personality disorder is defined as a pervasive chronic psychological disorder, which can significantly adversely affect one's life.  Having a personality disorder can negatively affect one's work, family, and social life.  Personality disorders exists on a continuum and range from mild to more severe in terms of how pervasive and to what extent a person exhibits the features of a particular personality disorder.
Most people live fairly normal lives with mild personality disorders, however, at times of increased stress or uncontrollable circumstances (job loss, family issues, broken relationships, etc.), the symptoms of the personality disorder escalate and begin to seriously interfere with the emotional and psychological well-being, and general functioning of the individual.  This in turn exacerbates further relationship, job, family and personal stress.

Those with a personality disorder (or with many traits of one or more personality disorders) possess several distinct psychological features including disturbances of self-image, an inability to have successful relationships, inappropriate range of emotion, skewed or distorted ways of perceiving themselves, others and the world, and/or difficulty possessing proper impulse control (such as difficulty controlling anger). These traits and behaviors act together to create a pattern of behavior and inner experience that is pervasive, inflexible, of long duration, and causes distress in social, work and family situations.

Personality Traits
Personality traits or full-blown personality disorders that are obvious and more likely encountered are narcissistic, histrionic, dependent, borderline and/or obsessive-compulsive personalities.  Avoident, paranoid, schizotypal, and schizoid types might be less familiar in everyday life.
Personality types and traits can be grouped by characteristics.  A person with depressive personality traits might have frequent feelings of sadness, difficulty enjoying life, a belief that they are defective, etc.  A histrionic personality may be unusually concerned with physical appearance, seek affirmation and attention for their own perceived physical beauty, be somewhat exhibitionistic, manipulate using their sexuality, attachment to people who they perceiveve as powerful and who will adavnce their social status, etc.
An obsessive compulsive personality type might rumminate over issues of morality or control.
 An explanation of various personality traits and disorders will be discussed.