To the extreme

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“Carl,” I comment to the psychiatrist sitting beside me at a medical conference I recently attended (for some odd reason these guys seem to relish sitting by me), “Is it not true that just about everyone could be slotted into one Personality Disorder category or another?” 

“Sort of. We could all be described as having one style of personality or another, with only the degree of the personality trait determining if it becomes a disorder. You for example I would classify as a compulsive personality with...”

“Why you incompetent Freudian snake oil nincompoo... ”

“No, this is true of most doctors. But a personality style only becomes a disorder when it is taken to the extreme. Then it begins to interfere with day-to-day functioning. But by its very definition, those with Personality Disorders don’t believe they have a problem. They think they are OK, it’s everyone around them that notices the problem.”  

“Oh, it’s out there alright. I’ve noticed that my office staff, my hockey team and all of their families seem somewhat unstable.”   

“I see. While 2-3 percent of the population consistently demonstrate a full blown Personality Disorder, the rest of us need to be wary that our particular personality style doesn’t deteriorate down the continuum into a Personality Disorder. Certain triggers such as an illness, (particularly neurological illnesses), stress and even some medications may convert our style or trait into a disorder. For example, someone you might consider “sensitive” may become ill and slide down that continuum to develop an Avoidant Personality Disorder. A “conscientious” person may become an obsessive-compulsive during university exams. While personality traits are often genetically programmed, a dysfunctional Personality Disorder may develop permanently in a child who is the product of chronic moderate neglect or abuse. Once ingrained, Personality Disorders are notoriously difficult to treat. It is not easy to treat someone who thinks everyone else is the problem. These people are able to thwart any attempt at therapy. They are “difficult” people with disturbed, extreme and rigid views of themselves and the world about them.”  

Want to get the family stirred up tonight? Try gathering the clan around and determine which personality trait/style each fits into. That way, when Uncle Engelbert goes squirrelly one day while on Dilaudid after bowel surgery, you can predict which Personality Disorder you will be dealing with. To further foment family feuding, grade each player from 1-10 based on how close their trait is to becoming a disorder. But if they are at all like my family, remember they’ll all be a little odd. Rise above it.   

Personality Style :: Disorder
vigilant :: paranoid (unwarranted suspicion, envy, distrust in motives of others)
devoted :: dependant (submissive and clinging behaviour, fear of separation)
mercurial :: borderline (very unstable in interpersonal relationships, impulsive)
self confident :: narcissistic (lack of empathy for others, need for admiration)
dramatic :: histrionic (over reactive, theatrical behavior and seductiveness, attention seeking, excessively emotional)
aggressive :: explosive (impulse control, temper problems)
adventurous :: antisocial (disregard for rights of others, sociopathic)
conscientious :: obsessive compulsive (excessive concern with conformity, inability to relax easily) 
solitary :: schizoid (timidness, introversion, social detachment)
leisurely :: passive aggressive (negativism, passive resistance to demands and responsibilities)
sensitive :: avoidant (hypersensitive, social inhibition)
self sacrificing :: self defeating (“If I suffer enough and someone sees it, I’ll be loved”)
idiosyncratic :: schizotypal (eccentricity of behavior, discomfort with and reduced capacity for close relationships)

Dr. Dave's book The Doctor is In(sane) is now available for those with a sense of humor and half a sense of health. Learn more and meet Dr. Dave or contact him at www.wisequacks.org.