By LINDA J. STOCKTON
EDITOR’S NOTE: Last of three columns.
In today’s final article on personality disorders, I’ll share what expert Gregory Lester says causes personality disorders, as well as how they are treated.
Three reasons have historically been given for the cause of personality disorders:
• Aversive Childhood Theory.
• The Genetics Theory.
• The Biopsychosocial Theory.
The first offers that a child’s personality structure was established in a way that produces distorted experiences and dysfunctional behavior because of early childhood experiences that disrupted the secure attachment of the child with his parent/significant other.
While frequently reported by patients, research does not support this theory.
For example, most victims of sexual abuse do not develop a personality disorders nor have all personality disorders experienced trauma. This informs treatment, but is not an accurate model of causation.
The second says that personality disorder patients are born with irregularities in neurological transmissions in the areas of the brain that form personality. This explains the chronic nature of personality disorders as well as poor results when treated with conventional “talk therapy.”
The problem is that studies with identical twins do not support this. Lester’s conclusion is biological factors are the fundamental cause plus other-yet-undefined variables also contribute to personality disorders.
The third suggests the personality disorders temperament (part heredity, part neurology) and character factors (psychological, environmental and components of experiences), merge to create a pattern of distorted experience and unhealthy behaviors.
This explains its chronic nature and how it is displayed early on as well as the randomness of the inheritance patterns of the disorders. Though supported by experience and data, the other elements which combine with the genetic factors have not been clearly identified.
Lester concludes the cause of personality disorders is mostly biological, part neurological and part experiential.
Lester says in some cases the treatment goal is management, focusing on decreasing damage created by the disorder, which doesn’t get rid of the disorder itself.
More often treatment aims to repair the neurological and psychological deficiencies of the self. Goals include the demonstration of one or more of the following changes:
• Increase flexibility and adaptability.
• Improve self-management capability.
• Reduce unproductive “dramas” in their life.
• Increase use of problem solving skills.
If you are the spouse or family member of someone with a disordered personality, life can be quite challenging for you, too.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Family-to-Family program, as well as professional therapy can help others learn how to deal with your loved one.
Stockton is a professional clinical counselor and owner of Inner Peace Counseling, Findlay. If you have a mental health question, please write to: Mental Health Moment, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay, OH 45839.
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