Abnormal Psychology: Mental Health and Mental Illness

Disorders of Personality

How do we define personality pathology?

In general personality pathology can be defined as any enduring pattern of personality that causes distress or dysfunction and that falls outside the norms of the individual’s culture. It is possible to divide the large literature on personality pathology into three overall approaches, categorical, dimensional, and schema. The categorical approach suggests that different kinds of personality pathology can be classified into specific categories, as is found in the DSM. The dimensional approach suggests that people vary as to the strength of various personality traits, and that each individual will have a unique profile of high and low scores on measures of these traits. Perhaps the best known dimensional approach is the Five-Factor Model, as described by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae.

The schema approach is somewhat more complex and comes out of both psychoanalytic theory and cognitive psychotherapy. In this view, our personality is shaped by our expectations of ourselves and other people in relationships. This set of expectations, or schemas, operates largely out of consciousness and guides our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in meaningful situations.


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