The dramatic and almost erratic cluster of personality disorder diagnoses are growing with each passing day. From Borderline Personality Disorder, to Histrionic Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Anti-Social Personality Disorder, persons eligible for such labels not only inspire profound chaos in their lives but debates and publications holds their plight in attentional spotlight.
Since personality disorders rose to prominence in public debates and psychiatric discourses, differences in opinion as regards diagnostic criteria, incidence and prevalence, comorbidity, suicidality and treatment of self mutilation remain irreconcilable. The mere labeling of individuals as suffering from a personality disorder has profound impacts not only on the lives concerned but also on health care providers.
In essence, modern psychiatric practice perpetuates the notion that the human condition is but group of medical disorders hence the terms dysthymic disorder, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, affective disorder and a host of other personality disorders like paranoid personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, and many others. Given such an understanding, drug therapies are being promoted as being beneficial for the emotional health and well being. Failures of drug therapeutic and management often elicit the patient non-compliance excuse.
The myriad clusters of personality disorders overlap onto each other and the edges are often fuzzy. One person may be diagnosed with countless personality disorders. At the same time a wide range of individuals may be grouped into the same disorder despite the differences in personality (Pervin et al 2008). For instance, there exists a similarity between dependent and avoidant personality disorders on one hand, and narcissistic and histrionic personality disorders on the other.
Owing to the complexity of individual personalities, it is impossible to neatly slot individuals into a specific disorder. Thus, labeling individuals into supposedly neat clusters of disorders wrongly implies that their personalities completely satisfy the diagnosis. In essence, the criteria used are always judgmental hence they can be used to discriminate against or stigmatize people. Every single individual shares personality disorders because they are manifestations of extremities of changes in thought, feelings and behavior.
Individuals may be difficult in some way that is fairly unpredictable. By giving them a personality disorder label, we not only insult and hurt but also promote discrimination. There are cases where survivors of child abuse, molestation and domestic violence have been incorrectly diagnosed with personality disorders as a result of exhibiting persistent, wide ranging post traumatic symptoms. These are basically misreads of the basic personalities (Castillo 2003).
One major impact of labeling people with personality disorders is certainly the negative perception associated with certain categories of dysfunction. Clients with personality disorder diagnosis are generally viewed as being mentally ill. This perception is rooted in the social and cultural constructs and such individuals may expect to be rejected or experience actual rejection simply because they begin to think that they possess an inadequate mental capability.
Rejection at home and in the workplace leads to feelings of depression and low self worth. Following the initial diagnosis and labeling one as suffering from a mental disorder, many employers embrace the belief that such a condition is unchanging, lifelong and untreatable. Labeling for diagnostic purposes is undoubtedly relevant in medicine, however in the current diagnostic framework; such labels are poorly defined and sometimes pejorative. Labels cause harm to people.
The adverse effects are more pronounced among the vulnerable and minority such as immigrants, the poor and women as well as the emotionally, physically and socially disadvantaged groups. Pathology labels often send negative signals to minority clients (for example black clients) who are forced to fight labels that overtly and subtly suggest racism. References Castillo, H. (2003). Personality disorder: temperament or trauma? London; Philadelphia: J. Kingley. 1-19 Pervin, L. A. , John, O. P. , Robins, R. W. (2008). Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research. 3rd Edition. Guilford Press, 28-31