Personality disorders? I’m skeptical.

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There are some people who deny things that blatantly exist or did exist. Like Nick Griffin denying the holocaust, or a large number of seemingly intelligent people who prefer to believe that racism is ‘rare’, or the president of Iran who thinks that there are no gay people in his country, or someone debating whether Easyjet is actually tin foil masquerading as aircraft (it is tinfoil). Arguably, denying/ questioning the existence of certain things is silly. I mean, obviously everything should be questioned, but some things are just fairly logical.

Not so, in my opinion this thing called ‘personality disorders’. I would never deny that there are people who are downright narcissistic, selfish, paranoid, passive aggressive, self delusional, maniacal, or downright weird, but I’m not sure how useful it is to label any of this as a ‘disorder’.

I mean on a side note, the word ‘weird’ is subjective in itself, right?. I think I’m a little bit weird, at least 25% of the time, and I certainly don’t want some over zealous psychiatrist to diagnose me because I often decide to sojourn outside the normal boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour. In fact, there have been many occasions when walking through South East London with my afro unkempt, a couple of disheveled polyurethane Primark bags in hand, and an uncanny ability to hold a rambling, barely audible conversation with my alter ego, I could easily masquerade as someone with mental health problems. And I don’t say that to be facetious or disrespectful of people who genuinely have mental health problems (which is 1/3 of us at some point, by the way). What I am saying is that, people who tap dance on the outer edges of what most of us consider normal or acceptable shouldn’t necessarily be diagnosed with a mental health disorder, because I think it belittles the plight of those who genuinely do have one.

That’s not to say that someone who is diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder, for example, doesn’t deserve our sympathy or respect. They do. But more because of the fact that adverse life circumstances probably led them become emotionally unstable and manipulative, not because they have an actual medical problem. Many people with this particular disorder for example, have histories of abuse and neglect. So is that really a disorder? Or a normal human response to childhood trauma? And what about the people who haven’t had said trauma? Why are they diagnosed as  having a disorder? Why aren’t they just manipulative, childish people who need to learn to interact with others on an adult level? If we label people who exhibit behaviour patterns we don’t like as having a disorder, I’m worried that we are just medicalising what is essentially bad behaviour, and giving people excuses for acting the fool. In all honesty, I don’t have enough knowledge of psychiatry to know exactly how personality disorders are treated, but speaking as somewhat of an amateur, I think there’s a fundamental problem with labelling anti-social behaviour as a ‘disorder’, regardless of the treatment offered for it.

In fact, going though the list of personality disorders, I could have diagnosed myself with any number of them at any given point in time. Feel emotions for longer periods than normal? Yup. Reckless spending and driving? Sure, in fact my driving instructor set me a 25mph speed limit because I couldn’t be trusted to stay under the actual, legal one. Intense joy and gratitude at perceived expressions of kindness? I practically have fits of delight when someone lets me go in front of them in the queue in Superdrug .

Obviously, I understand that the disorder is diagnosed on demonstrating the majority of thee qualities for an extended period of time, but literally I know several people who are textbook for narcissistic personality disorder. In fact as I read the list, I was amazed…“Expects to be recognised as superior and special, without superior accomplishments, expects constant attention admiration and positive reinforcement from others, envies others and believes others envy him/her, is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence, lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others , is arrogant in attitudes and behavior, has expectations of special treatment that are unrealistic..“. Come on, don’t we all know at least one person with this? In fact, I’m fairly certain some of my arch enemies (see – textbook narcissism, thinking I have arch-enemies) would probably diagnose ME with it.

Now the other side of the coin is that maybe it doesn’t matter whether we label these personality traits as disorders or not – if the person realises they have a problem and seeks help, then we should treat them in whatever way we can. And I support and appreciate that in an ideal world…but the fact is, we have an NHS. We can’t afford to be treating people for stuff that is slightly dubious. I mean apparently parents can now get funding from their local council because their child has “oppositional defiance disorder”. I defy anyone to go to India, the Caribbean or anywhere outside the West and tell someone their child has a “defiance disorder”. They will put you on their countries version of the comedy channel.

What do you guys think? Do personality disorders exist, or are we just medicalising people who don’t conform to what we deem to be societally acceptable?

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