Personality Disorders Are Increasingly Difficult to Define

Personality  Disorders

Personality disorders have become increasingly difficult to define in recent times. That’s not because signficant personality disturbances don’t exist. Indeed they do. But just how to determine when someone’s personality style represents a true “disorder” is not as simple as it once was. Moreover, properly categorizing and labeling the various types of personality  disorders has also become increasingly difficult.

Historically, our official categories and labels helped us define exactly what was wrong with someone, the likely underpinnings of their problems, and what was needed to make things better. But in our age of widespread personality and character dysfunction, most of our prior understandings about these things have been turned upside-down.

Everyone has a personality. By accepted definition, that’s a person’s particular way of seeing and dealing with the world. It’s their preferred style of relating. (See pp. 28-33 in In Sheep’s Clothing and pp. 23-58 in Character Disturbance.) And while there are many psychological ills that can plague a person, sometimes one’s very way of relating can itself be a problem. And it can also be the cause of many other problems.

See also: Personality and Character Disorders: A Primer

Definition Difficulties in a Personality and Character-Disturbed Age

In the past, professionals considered someone’s style of relating a disorder when:

  • Their particular ways of behaving were extreme and/or deviated significantly from sociocultural norms
  • They were so inflexible in their ways of doing things that they couldn’t modify their approach even when it would profit them to do so.
  • Their ways of seeing and doing things significantly compromised their ability to function at work, in society, and in their relationships.

But today, even the most problematic displays of personality and character don’t deviate all that significantly from the norm. In fact, such disturbances are the new norm. Moreover, we’ve become accustomed to all manner of displays once considered outrageous or totally unacceptable. Society has changed. And certain styles of behavior that just didn’t work at one time appear to have become more adaptive. Sometimes, they’re even championed, reinforced, and handsomely rewarded.

Believe it or not, officially, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is still regarded as very rare condition. But almost everyone knows how widepread narcissism is and how detrimental it always is to relationships. What I’ve mentioned above helps explain the apparent contradiction.

Food for Thought

I’ll be talking a lot about why and how styles of behavior once thought abhorrent have become so normalized on Character Matters. I’ll be focusing in particular on narcissism and its role in a variety of personality and character disturbances. And I’ll also be talking about how our inadequate and inaccurate definitions of problems make it difficult for folks to get good help.

Look for an announcement soon on when the first live once-a-month program will air and I can take calls. In the meantime, use the Contact feature to send in questions you want addressed on the program. Then you can avail yourself of the podcast on my YouTube Channel or on the Character Matters archive page.


El Dr. George Simon sabe cómo algunas personas tocan la fibra sensible de otras. Tus hijos –en especial los adolescentes– son expertos en esto, al igual que tu pareja. Puede que tus compañeros de trabajo desacrediten tus esfuerzos calladamente pretendiendo ser serviciales, o que tu jefe se aproveche de tus flaquezas. Las personas manipuladoras persiguen dos propósitos: ganar y quedar bien al hacerlo. A menudo, aquellos de quienes abusan apenas perciben lo que les está pasando. Esta reveladora obra te abrirá los ojos y en ella descubrirás:

  •  4 motivos por los que a las víctimas les cuesta tanto romper con sus relaciones abusivas
  • tácticas que utilizan los manipuladores para imponer sus intenciones ocultas y justificar su comportamiento
  • técnicas para redefinir las reglas del juego entre tú y el abusador
  • cómo detectar aquellos puntos débiles de tu carácter que tienden a hacerte caer en las redes de los manipuladores
  • 12 técnicas de fortalecimiento personal que te ayudarán a tener mayor firmeza en todas tus relaciones

One thought on “Personality Disorders Are Increasingly Difficult to Define

  1. With the incentives of social media, and kids trying to be “influencers” its pretty scary. I know of some who create a fictitious life just to get clicks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *