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Personality Disorders Essay

1588 words - 6 pages

Personality disordersWhere personality goes awryA multifaceted research approach is providing more clues to the origins of personality disorders.BY CHARLOTTE HUFFMonitor staffPrint version: page 42Over the years, few large-scale prospective studies have targeted the causes of personality disorders (PDs). But recently, a new body of research has begun to explore the potential influences of several factors, from genetics and parenting to peer influences, and even the randomness of life events.Indeed, says Patricia Hoffman Judd, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, research into the origins of PDs is just beginning to take off. "I think for years people thought, 'It's just personality--you can't do anything about it,'" she explains. "There's also been moralism [that people with such disorders] are evil, that they are lazy," adds Judd, author of "A Developmental Model of Borderline Personality Disorder" (American Psychiatric Publishing, 2003).But research is helping to turn such misconceptions around. Genetics researchers, for example, are closer to identifying some of the biological underpinnings that may influence PDs. Last year, for example, a team located--and described in Molecular Psychiatry (Vol, 8. No. 11)--a malfunctioning gene they believe may be a factor in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Other researchers are investigating genetic links to aggression, anxiety and fear--traits that could be influential in the later development of a personality disorder.However, genetics don't work in a vacuum. Studies continue to indicate that abuse, even verbal abuse, can amplify the risk of developing a personality disorder.For some disorders, such as antisocial PD, the evidence suggests that genetic factors play a significant role, while others, such as dependent personality disorder, appear to be more environmentally influenced, says longtime PD researcher Theodore Millon, PhD, DSc, editor of an ongoing book series, "Personality-guided Psychology" (APA).But regardless of the specific disorder, researchers increasingly observe a back-and-forth interplay between genetic and environmental influences."We see a paradigm shift taking place in the field now toward a more interactionist perspective," says Jeffrey G. Johnson, PhD, associate professor of clinical psychology in Columbia University's psychiatry department. "I think the field is getting away from genetics versus environment--it's a major change."The genetic/environmental convergenceOne of the largest efforts to look at PDs, the Collaborative Longitudinal Personality Disorders Study (CLPS), is attempting to gain insight into a cross-section of the disorders' characteristics, stability and progression. The multisite study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health until 2005, has since 1996 enrolled 668 people with the diagnoses of avoidant, borderline, obsessive-compulsive or schizotypal personality disorders. A summary of the study's aims appeared...

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