When childhood went awry – personality disorders

I will not go through formal descriptions of Personality Disorders, presenting raw criteria is not a goal of this blog. Just an ultra short summary in case you are not familiar with this topic: one has a Personality Disorder if all this applies: a) he feels and behave differently than most other people, b) he or other people suffer because of it and c) it never leaves him.

I mostly agree with what is presented in formal descriptions provided by APA (American Psychological Association) and WHO, but there are almost only symptoms there, no “why” and “how” explanation, only vague causes descriptions that look like this: something went wrong in your childhood and/or something wrong is in your genes, but we really don’t know for sure.

To fill this gap, below is simple and coherent explanation what Personality Disorders really are and what process lies behind them. I also changed “Cluster ABC” Personaliy Disorders classifications (used by APA) to something more suitable.

[note: descriptions below base on Integration process introduced previously: From a child to a (un)happy adult]

  • disclaimer: I ceased to use the label “Integration structures” replacing with simpler names: “personality” or “personality structures”

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I. Stuck personalities

In these personalities the integration process is not completely destroyed, but it’s broken. It stopped at some stage of personality development, because of serious problems precluding further integration. The process still tries to go on, but without progress.

Following three disordered personalities fit the criteria of stuck integration.

  • Borderlines are examples of integration disrupted very early in childhood. Even the first layers of personality structures were not able to be constructed properly. „I need someone as a proxy to the World (but expect him to leave me)”
  • Avoidants had more luck. The very first layers of the personality were properly constructed, but the process broke soon after that. „I want to be part of the World but it keeps rejecting me”
  • Obsessive-Compulsives are examples of conditioned and endangered integration. Some parts of the personality are properly and fully constructed, but some are stuck and damaged, making personality unsafe. „I must do everything right, the rejection is looming.”

II. Entrenched personalities

These disorders are examples of broken integration that was not accepted by the sufferer. The personality incorporated various defence mechanisms to deal with rejection and engulfment.

Defence mechanism is the layer covering whole personality like an umbrella. It protects inner damaged and vulnerable personality structures by presenting to them a better version of the reality. The outside signals are either dismissed or converted to fit the false reality scenario.
The personalities from previous section also have them, but fortunately not so well developed and not covering the whole personality.

  • Histrionics are examples of simple denial strategy. „I can just pretend I’m part of the World”. Defence mechanism tries to bring external attention to the sufferer and use it latter as a proof that integration with the World works correctly.
  • Narcissists are examples of reversed integration. „I’m better than the world, and it’s Me with whom others must integrate.” Signals from the outside are converted to fit the false reality where the sufferer is the special one and others are damaged, lower beings, explaining their wicked behaviour toward narcissist.
  • Schizoids are examples of dealing with isolation by being heavy guarded from the World. „I have my own small world, no one will get me here”. Schizoid created the fantasy world using only his own inner resources, because the world is too frightening to him.

III. Given up personalities

Following two personalities represent coming to terms with external abuse and that the World (caregivers) don’t truly want them. Engulfment or rejection was „accepted” and sufferer personality just tries to fit into the imposed schema trying to survive.
The third disorder is the most isolated one, but has different genesis.

  • Dependents are examples of the enslavement, engulfment. „The world owns me, I must do what it wants to survive.”
  • Sociopaths cut all ties with the World that obviously didn’t want them. „I have nothing in common with the World, it’s evil and don’t want me either.”
  • Psychopaths don’t have Integration structures at all (or they are turned off). They were born like this. It makes them a somewhat different species.

[note: I distinguish here sociopathy from psychopathy as opposed to DSM V ASPD definition]

I will describe particular Personality Disorder in other posts.

Paranoid and Schizotypal personality disorders are missing here. They seem to be a mix of some aforementioned personality disorders with schizophrenic symptoms.

NOTE [28.VII.2018]: I previously used different classification of personality disorders. However, my knowledge about the topic expands and I changed the classification to fit my current understanding.

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