Personality disorders

Personality was defined by Schneider in 1959 as “The unique quality of the individual, his feelings and personal goals.“. ‘Personality’ has been further defined as the set of enduring qualities of an individual which are revealed in the ways she s/he behaves across a wide range of situations. Such characteristics are apparent from late adolescence onwards.

Personality traits are described as constituting ‘Disorder’ when two criteria are met:

  • Deviance – the individual’s behaviour differs from the ‘norm’ on at least one aspect of behaviour; e.g. attachment behaviour: over attached (‘Dependent’) at one end of the spectrum to lacking attachment (‘Schizoid’) at the other
  • Distress – the behaviour causes suffering to the individual or to others.

Such a definition obviously creates problems; many psychiatrists and social commentators are uneasy with the medicalisation of social deviance; it is difficult to see how personality disorders could be described as illnesses in the way that say schizophrenia can be. Most psychiatrists take the pragmatic view that medical and psychiatric skills may ameliorate the suffering caused by personality disorder and therefore where possible they have a duty to offer help. Furthermore, individuals, their families and society make demands for intervention. (Understandably, but not always appropriately).


Personality disorder handout

Link to Blog posts featuring personality disorder

Internal video resources

External links
Wikipedia article on personality disorder
— Royal College of Psychiatrists leaflet on personality disorders
NHS page on personality disorder
BBC video where Ruby Wax questions Kath, who has borderline personality disorder (BPD), about how it affects her
— A personal story from the Scottish Personality Disorder Network website (.doc format)
— A series of videos on ‘Videojug’ on personality disorders including borderline personality, antisocial, paranoid, schizoid,¬†narcissistic, dependent, anankastic (aka obsessive compulsive), schizotypal and avoidant personality disorders
— A video of Dr Christian Schmaal discussing the neurobiology of borderline personality at the Karolinska Borderline Seminars in 2007