Objectives

• What is personality?

• Distinguish among personality, character, and temperament.

• What makes a personality disordered?

• Make a list of terms important in the study of personality and its disorders.

• Explain the DSM's multiaxial model. What are the reasons for having a multiaxial classification system?

• Why is personality analogous to the body's immune system?

• What are the three criteria that distinguish normal from abnormal functioning?

• Why is eclecticism perforce a scientific norm in the social sciences?

• Explain how ideas progress in the social sciences.

• What are the different components of the biological perspective?

• Describe Freud's topographical and structural models of the mind.

• What is the function of defense mechanisms? How do they work?

• Describe the stages of psychosexual development.

• What are character disorders?

• Explain the significance of object relations theory.

• Explain Kernberg's use of the term structural organization.

What sort of a person are you? What do you see as distinctive about your personality? How well do you know yourself? Are there aspects of your personality of which you are unaware? Do others know you as you know yourself? What are the best and worst things about your personality? Questions such as these are easy to ask, but are often difficult to answer. Yet, they go directly to the essence of what we are as human beings. Personality is that which makes us what we are and that which makes us different from others. People who are especially different, for example, are said to have "personality" or be "quite a character." Other people have "no personality at all." Depending on how someone affects us, he or she may be viewed as having a "good personality" or a "bad personality."

In the past several decades, the study of personality and its disorders has become central to the study of abnormal psychology. In the course of clinical work, we encounter subjects with vastly different pathologies. Some are in the midst of a depressive episode, and some must cope with the lasting effects of traumas far beyond the range of normal human experience. Some are grossly out of contact with reality, and some have only minor problems in living rather than clinical disorders. Although the problems of patients vary, everyone has a personality. Personality disorders occupy a place of diagnostic prominence today and constitute a special area of scientific study. The issues involved are complex, certainly much more sophisticated than the everyday understanding of personality described in the previous questions. This chapter introduces the emergence of this new discipline by analyzing personality and personality disorders by comparing and contrasting the basic assumptions that underlie different approaches to these ideas and by presenting the fundamentals of the classical perspectives on personality, which are essential to the understanding of the clinical chapters that follow. The questions are: What is personality? How does our definition of personality inform our understanding of personality disorders? Do the assumptions underlying the concept of personality support the use of the term disorder? How can the content of different personality disorders best be described?

One way to investigate the definition of a term is to examine how its meanings and usage have evolved over time. The word personality is derived from the Latin term persona, originally representing the theatrical mask used by ancient dramatic players. As a mask assumed by an actor, persona suggests a pretense of appearance, that is, the possession of traits other than those that actually characterize the individual behind the mask. In time, the term persona lost its connotation of pretense and illusion and began to represent not the mask, but the real person's observable or explicit features. The third and final meaning personality has acquired delves beneath surface impression to turn the spotlight on the inner, less often revealed, and hidden psychological qualities of the individual. Thus, through history, the meaning of the term has shifted from external illusion to surface reality and finally to opaque or veiled inner traits. This last meaning comes closest to contemporary use. Today, personality is seen as a complex pattern of deeply embedded psychological characteristics that are expressed automatically in almost every area of psychological functioning. That is, personality is viewed as the patterning of characteristics across the entire matrix of the person.

Personality is often confused with two related terms, character and temperament. Although all three words have similar meanings in casual usage, character refers to characteristics acquired during our upbringing and connotes a degree of conformity to virtuous social standards. Temperament, in contrast, refers not to the forces of socialization, but to a basic biological disposition toward certain behaviors. One person may be said to be of "good character," whereas another person may have an "irritable temperament." Character thus represents the crystallized influence of nurture, and temperament represents the physically coded influence of nature.

Anxiety and Depression 101

Anxiety and Depression 101

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