Psychoanalytic Theories of Personality Disorders

Psychoanalytic accounts of the origins, diagnosis, and treatment of personality disorders fit well into the contemporary research and literature of personality disorders. When Freud (1899/1913) originally conceived of psychoanalysis, he grounded it firmly in the sciences of his time, particularly the work of Charles Darwin. Although Freud did not specifically elaborate on the effects of natural selection and Darwinian processes for normal and abnormal psyches, he recognized the effects instincts and temperaments had on the developing and adult personality structure and afforded them a central status. To his credit, he also recognized the importance of environmental features interacting with these instincts and temperaments to produce long-lasting psychological effects. Thus, in Freudian theory, early childhood experiences and parenting styles interact with heritable factors and, therefore, play dominant roles in the final form of the adult psyche.

Freud can also be credited with developing some of the earliest theoretical foundations of personality disorders such as the Dependent, Passive-Aggressive, Borderline, Narcissistic, Histrionic, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorders. Besides their instinctual bases, he viewed these personality disorders as emerging from unsuccessful resolutions of the psycho-sexual stages of development he posited. We now examine the psychoanalytic concepts relevant to the formation and maintenance of these and other personality disorders.

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