Personality disorders

Various investigators have reported personality disorders among the mentally retarded. Corbett (U) found impulsive, immature, and anxiety-prone types, Reid and Ballinger(l2) found significant personality disorders in more than half of their sample of 100 hospitalized adults, mostly of the explosive and hysterical types. Zigler and Burack(l3) identified several personality characteristics such as overdependancy, low ideal self-image, limited levels of aspiration, and an externally directed style of problem solving. Goldberg et al/1.4) found a high prevalence of personality disorders among mildly as well as moderately retarded individuals. The relevance of the concept of personality disorder with regard to the mentally retarded has, however, been questioned by a number of investigators. (!5,!6.and 17>

Levitas and Gilson(18) have stressed the importance of a crisis period during the process of personality development and the related psychosocial aspects. The authors speak of an atypical path of development of those who are mildly and moderately mentally retarded which results in a secondary psychosocial deficit with components such as an atypical sense of the self, a primitive superego, an omnipotent ego-ideal, profound ambivalence toward autonomy, etc. Other developmentally oriented authors*!?.,20) make a link between, on the one hand, the problematic processing of particular phase-specific aspects of emotional development and ego structuring such as the achievement of secure attachment, an intercompetitive separation-individuation process, and the establishing of ego functions, and, on the other hand, the increased vulnerability of these individuals to particular psychiatric disorders such as depression, social withdrawal, disruptive behaviours, etc.

It appears that the main problem at the root of the personality disorders of the mentally retarded pertains to an underdeveloped personality structure in relation to a delay in psychosocial development. One is then inclined to speak of an immature rather than a disturbed personality.

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