What is Passive-Aggressive Personality?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Couple fighting by not fighting

Passive-aggressive.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Are you stuck with a passive-aggressive?

Passive-Aggressive Personality is another one of those things that may be hard to define but you know it when we see it. The Passive-Aggressive Person (PA) doesn’t say much, but they sabotage everyone else. They can be especially annoying if you are confined with one in close quarters, at home, or at work. PA’s are responsible for a lot of organization’s failure to meet goals. They create a lot of family pain.

The PA may smile and nod their head yes, but their behavior says “No! No! No!” Their way of disagreeing is indirect. Sometimes defined as “obstructionist” they seem especially skilled at snatching misery from the jaws of success. Their favorite weapon is inaction.

PA people are known for their hostility, unexpressed hostility which leaks out by getting even with others through “not doing.” They are frequently late and forgetful, resulting in not getting things done that they were expected to do. When you look back at the record you may find they never said they would do it, they just didn’t say no when you asked them.

This failure to express themselves, particularly about emotions results in a lot of misunderstandings. When confronted with the discrepancy between what everyone else thought they would do and what they, in fact, did not do, the PA is likely to deny they ever agreed to do that, assert they forgot, or all too often give the confronter the “cold shoulder” and say nothing.

PA is considered more a trait or a personality characteristic than a mental illness. It is not officially a DSM diagnosis, though it has moved in and out of the list of Personality Disorders over time. As a personality trait, PA can vary from a few rare occurrences to a characteristic pattern that someone uses most all the time.

Most people with PA traits often report “trust issues” but so do lots of people without PA traits. We think that developing PA characteristics is related to growing up in a home that was non-affirming or where it was not OK to express emotions. In this sense, it is like the “Attachment Disorders.”  They have learned to avoid criticism by avoiding action. They are good at excessive procrastination and other forms of learned helplessness. They go along with things but make sure that the project fails by withholding effort at a critical time.

In addition to highly critical parents, the PA person is also likely to have had painful disappointments in life. They have reduced their expectations for themselves and others to avoid disappointment. Setting low sights reduces disappointments. They become so afraid of being told no they stop asking.

People with strong PA traits will fear competition and avoid situations where they will be judged at the same time they avoid dependency. They tend to keep their distance from others and are especially hard to get to know. They often express the feeling that they are unable to please anyone no matter what they do. Others feel that they can’t depend on the person with the PA traits.

Lacking truly close relationships, someone with a lot of PA traits creates a lot of chaos, makes excuses for failure to meet other’s expectations, and chronically takes the victim stance. Rather than direct disagreement they use obstructionism and sabotage to undermine those they resent. Their sabotage is of the indirect “failing to do anything” in the face of an urgent need form.

A key characteristic of the PA person is a lack of assertiveness. Unable to directly confront others they use indirect methods to accomplish their aims.

In the workplace, PA’s can be hard to spot and can rise to the top ranks since they always seem to agree with superiors despite failing to meet goals. They always have excuses for why the goals were not attainable. Management does not always value the worker who openly disagrees even when their productivity is high. Working with someone with PA traits destroys teamwork.

In the home, people with PA traits can be hard to live with and often under function. We know from system theory that when one person in a family under functions another is likely to over function, the result is a dance that is hard to change.

The family member who is PA will be hypersensitive to criticism especially when they have let others down and may resort to telling the rest of the family that their expectations are unreasonable. The result is that the rest of the family takes on the PA person’s responsibilities.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Levels or types of Borderline Personality Disorder

By David Joel Miller MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Are there different types of Borderline Personality Disorder?

personality disorder

Are there types of Borderline Personality Disorder?
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) differ so much there might be more than one type of BPD or that we may be placing several different mental illnesses together under one label. Gunderson in his book Borderline Personality Disorder describes three levels of functioning in people with BPD. Hotchkiss appears to enlarge this idea into three types of borderlines.

Diagnostic criteria for mental health disorders are largely normal characteristics that have grown so large that they begin to interfere with everyday life. Everyone has sadness sometimes and we all are or should be anxious occasionally. That same concept of degree rather than nature is applicable to BPD.

Masterson wrote about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and described this as coming in low, medium, and high levels. I think the use of that same sort of yardstick for measuring BPD might be useful.

Low Borderline characteristics or traits.

People with low BPD or beginning Borderline traits have or are able to sustain a primary relationship. This relationship may be rocky but the low borderline trait individual is able to have satisfying interactions with a partner. They will perceive this partner as supportive.

What brings a low symptom Borderline into treatment will be feelings of emptiness, loneliness, or depression despite having a supportive partner. They may also suffer from chronic boredom or masochism. They want both a close relationship and fear that relationship because needing someone exposes you to becoming dependent on them.

As a result of the presence of that supportive person in their life, a mild BPD individual may go undiagnosed. They may lack the intense anger and have fewer and milder mood swings than those that appear in more severe cases. Their self-destructive behaviors will be fewer and less frequent and may be ascribed to life experiences like layoffs or fights with their S. O. rather than being recognized as BPD traits.

What tips the clinician off to the BPD traits is not the current relationship but a history of previous unstable relationships and a pattern of over-rapid entry into and speedy exit from relationships, as well as a history of being the victim of abuse or neglect.

Medium BPD.

As the symptoms of BPD become more severe you may experience more anger, more worries about losing your partner, and more frantic efforts to keep your partner in the relationship. People with medium BPD are described as having difficulty seeing things from other’s points of view and devaluing others. They may manipulate as a way to get their needs met. They have the belief that asking will not get them what they need and that they need to force others to stay with them.

This level of borderline functioning is full of break-ups and make-ups, drama from current and previous relationships, and recurrent self-harm or suicide attempts to force the partner to stay. Someone with medium intensity BPD may plan suicide with the thought that this will punish the other for not loving them enough.

High Borderline Personality Symptoms.

When BPD reaches this level the person with Borderline Personality Disorder is unable to maintain a relationship with a significant other. They are without a functioning support system and become increasingly lonely and angry. They may develop distorted thinking, delusions, and eventually hallucinations. They may have episodes of panic involving various anxiety-provoking possibilities.

At this level of BPD symptoms, the most likely coping mechanisms are efforts to distract the self by using drugs and alcohol, abusing food, and acting out behaviors. Fights, promiscuity, self-mutilation, or suicide attempts will be common.

Are relationships a cause or the result of the level of BPD?

There is some question as to whether having a significant relationship reduces the level of borderline traits or if people low in traits can maintain better relationships than those who are high in BPD traits.

One thing that seems clear is that if you have a supportive other in your life, especially in your primary relationship, you are more likely to be able to cope with your mental illness. Learning life skills can improve your functioning and increase the likelihood of finding a supportive partner. Healthy people attract healthy partners.

Are you doing all you can to create good relationships with others and to become the kind of person who can have happy supportive relationships?

Other posts on Borderline Personality Disorder are:

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

What causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

Levels or types of Borderline Personality Disorder

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

personality disorder

What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Suggested causes for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Since this is a condition that is diagnosed by the presence or absence of a group of symptoms rather than any one specific test our understanding continues to change. Some authors have suggested that there are several levels or types of Borderline Personality Disorder. People with milder BPD symptoms can be described as having Borderline traits. It is possible that various levels of BPD symptoms may have different causes.

Like most other mental illnesses, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) appears to have both a genetic risk factor and an environmental risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you are going to develop the disorder but the more the risk factors the more the risk.

Genetics is a risk factor for mental illness.

NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health reported some time back (2008,) that there appears to be a genetic risk factor for BPD. This study found that a particular mutation on chromosome nine created an increased risk for BPD. At some point in the human past, the characteristics we think of as Borderline traits may have been helpful in certain situations.

Experience has made any one research report linking a particular chromosome and a disorder highly suspect. It would be nice if this study were correct and we could do a simple test for BPD, but with other disorders, we find that it is not one gene or chromosome that creates mental illness. It is the influences of several or a combination of large numbers of the many possible genes that result in an increased risk.

In this study, the contribution of genetics was 40%. Meaning that the environment contributed the other 60% or put another way, your relationships and experiences increase the risk of developing BPD 150% as much as your genetics.

The environment can increase the risk for Borderline Personality Disorder.

One factor seems to contribute a huge amount of this environmental risk.

Growing up in a non-affirming place with people who did not validate you, is a hugely important cause of many of the symptoms that make up BPD and Borderline Personality traits.

Many people with borderline traits report that their family was not supportive. Their caregivers were either absent or constantly frustrating.

Many people with BPD grew up in homes that did not create the feeling of being valued as a human being. People with BPD may have been neglected, abused, or simply did not have their emotional needs met. They may have found that direct requests for things did not work and that the only way to get their needs met was to engage in behaviors that forced the family to notice them. In adult life, their behaviors will be described as manipulative.

A borderline can be both clingy and distant, wanting a close intimate relationship but also fearful that to let someone get in close to them invites another abandonment.

People with BPD may associate any accomplishment with an increased risk of abandonment. They often quit school a week before finals or fail to show up for a job on the first day.

People with Borderline characteristics may end up slipping into a relationship with someone who has difficulty being close. Just like the co-dependent person who keeps marrying the alcoholic trying to get it right, someone with BPD may continue to enter a relationship with a partner who is unable to provide any warmth and closeness.

The classic expression of this feeling becomes “If I become fully me, will you stop loving me?” The recurring fear is that the significant person in their life will abandon them and they will fall apart without someone to support them.

One issue people with BPD may need to tackle is the inability to have and enjoy happiness or other positive feelings. If you came from an environment that said it was not OK to have or display feelings, it can be terrifying to allow yourself to feel happiness of any sort.

The person with PBD may feel empty, numb, or bored without someone else in their life that provides for their needs. The theory here is that the more the person was let down by their support system, the less able they have been at becoming an independent person, the more likely they will be to develop borderline traits.

Learning to act Borderline.

Those with BPD often come from homes where the caregivers themselves had poorly regulated emotional lives. Parents can and do frequently provide genetic risk factors, environmental factors, and learned behavior that support the continuation of BPD.

Is seems likely that living with or around a caregiver with BPD is likely to alter the way in which someone handles emotion.

The takeaway from all this is that whatever the reason someone has BPD there are treatments available that can help manage, reduce, or eliminate the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorders.

Other posts on Borderline Personality Disorder include:

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

What causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

Levels or types of Borderline Personality Disorder

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Is everyone Bipolar?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Person with masks

Bipolar.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Just how common is Bipolar Disorder?

There are people out there with Bipolar Disorder as we currently understand Bipolar. Some people who really have this issue never get diagnosed and miss out on the treatment they need. From some of the things on the web today it is hard to see how anyone could escape getting this diagnosis. For more on this dilemma see the post, Bipolar – Misdiagnosed or missing diagnosis?

If professionals give out a diagnosis too freely then it stops having any meaning. So just how common is Bipolar Disorder and what should we think about people who sort of have it?

Some perspective

Humans are not the only creatures on earth who act “bipolar.”

Think about some of the symptoms. Elevated expansive mood, reduced need for sleep, increased impulsivity and heightened sexuality. Hum—

It is hot here now, but only a few weeks ago it was spring. From the window in my office, I watch the birds in the trees and on the lawn. There are a lot of native doves in my immediate area. For a while, just after Valentine’s Day, those doves woke me up in the morning. They were cooing constantly and then mating – can’t describe that and stay P. G. rated. When pursuing and being pursued by mates their temperament can best be described as irritable. Are doves Bipolar? Are they only Bipolar in the spring time?

Every spring the days start getting longer, the creatures on planet earth respond by becoming more active, they and we humans with them, think about reproduction. If birds breed in February they have babies by Easter. Humans seem to breed just as fast but we take longer to get the babies done.

Then in the fall time, the doves seem to disappear. So do the humans on my block. All those exercise freaks stay indoors. As the days get shorter the mood among humans gets gloomier. This may be one reason we have so many holidays in the fall and winter, Halloween, American Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years all in a couple of months. We do this to cheer ourselves up. We also see extra depression during those months of less light.

If birds are affected by the changes in weather, humans are affected, and other animals also, it is difficult to go on describing these mood fluctuations as a mental illness.

We know that some people are affected by the seasons more than others. The degree and magnitude of mania and depression vary from one person to another. When have we crossed the line and turned normal human emotions and feeling into a pathological disorder?

There are also milder variations in human behavior we call “personality.” Talking about personality types, wondering why we are the way we are, is an interesting study. One needs to be careful in learning about personality to not make the first year student mistake and start seeing pathology where none exists. Not everyone who is moody, sleepless, irritable, or extra sexual needs to be diagnosed and put on medication.

As a therapist, I know there are lots of folks who would benefit from talking to a counselor about their problems. We also know that insurance wants us to be sure they are mentally ill and meet the criteria for “medical necessity” before insurance pays for the treatment. The challenge is to stick to the criteria and make sure only people with a real mental illness get treated using insurance money, while still trying to help all the people we can. Professionals continue to debate exactly where the lines of a disorder should be drawn.

At this point, we have three for sure reasons why someone’s symptoms get severe enough that they get the diagnosis.

1. Your issue interferes with “occupational functioning,” which includes school, for children and volunteer work if you are disabled.

2. It interferes with “social functioning” which mainly means you have poor or no relationship with family and friends.

3. Your issue causes you “subjective distress,” meaning a whole lot of emotional pain.

Having a personality that is not as you would like it may be painful but I hesitate to throw that in with mental illness. So if you are too introverted, impulsive or have some such personality trait, you can work on that, but you are not likely to be severely enough impaired to be diagnosed with a mental illness.

Some people may have “bipolar trait” or a “bipolar temperament” these are things you may or may not choose to work on in yourself improvement projects. “Hyperthymic Temperament” and Hyperthymic Personality Disorder” is just such a condition. Hyperthymic Personality Disorder is a common name NOT a specific diagnosis. DSM Personality Disorders are far more severe than Hyperthymia.

My thinking is that if you have characteristics like this you may want to consider being screened by a profession and keep an eye out for the possible development of Bipolar Disorder.

One thing we professionals should avoid doing is turning everyone who is different, into a pathological condition.

So is everyone Bipolar? The DSM-4 reports that the prevalence of Bipolar I and Bipolar II combined is more or less 2%.  Irritable, moody, impulsive and sexual people – that is just about all of us.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Morning Question # 8 – Which personality Disorders can’t read other people?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

personality disorder

Personality Disorder?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Which Personality Disorders can’t read other people?

None really. The closest would be Schizoid Personality Disorder, they can read people they just don’t care for people, any people. They are the classic hermits and loners.

I think you are asking about the Autism Spectrum. Autism, Asperger’s, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder NOS. Next year with the DSM-5 these will all become part of a new label Autism Spectrum Disorders. People with these disorders or varying degrees of this disorder have difficulty reading other people.

When shown pictures of people’s faces they can’t tell the angry person from the calm person. They also have difficulty reading lots of non-verbal clues. So they don’t understand when someone likes them and wants to talk or is bored and wishes they would go away. This creates all sorts of social problems.

One new treatment approach consists of teaching them all about nonverbal clues to behavior. More on this treatment coming up in a future post.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

What are Personality Disorders?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What is

What are personality disorders?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Update.

In the new DSM-5, the five-axis system was eliminated. Personality disorders are now included in the full list of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, just like any other mental health issue. I have left this post here, as originally posted because much of this information remains relevant. Not all of the changes we expected in the DSM-5 took place. For the current status take a look at some of the newer posts.

How many Personality Disorders are there?

Personality Disorders are a special class of mental illnesses that are considered different in kind and nature from other mental health problems. Mental illnesses in all their shades are recorded on Axis I. There are currently over 300 recognized Mental illnesses. Most mental illnesses have several standard treatments and if severe enough are likely to be covered by insurance or public funding. Not so with personality disorders.

Personality Disorders are kept separate. They are recorded on Axis II in a separate and small class of problems that just don’t seem to ever change or get better. They have long been considered like mental retardation, something we need to help with, but something that just won’t change. Personality Disorders are a short list, rarely over a dozen labels, though the list changes over time.

Personality Disorders are conditions in which the person to be diagnosed “deviates from expectations of their culture.” There are different. But that is not enough for the diagnosis to be imposed.

This pattern of “differentness” is “Pervasive and inflexible.” They stick to their irritating pattern no matter what. This pattern starts in adolescence or early adulthood and they just don’t change, “grow up” or “grow out of it.” So this pattern of differentness is “stable over time.” It is as if people with a personality disorder get stuck in one way of behaving and then can’t change their approach when they are in a different time or place.

This differentness needs to also cause them problems getting along with other people, holding a job or make them unhappy to get the diagnosis. They are not just a little different some of the time but a lot different all the time.

Some people could care less if they have a personality disorder or not. But most people who have a Personality Disorder are suffering, want, and need help, no matter how we label or understand their problem.

Currently, there are ten recognized Personality Disorders in three groups or “clusters.” The DSM-5 due out next year probably will reduce that list to six personality disorders and a new “Personality Disorder Trait Specified.” Not sure what will happen to the people who have a disorder now when their diagnosis is abolished. Will they be declared cured? Or maybe we just give them a new mental illness to compensate them for their loss.

When I was in Grad School I though these personality disorders were interesting, did extra research, and even wrote some papers on the topic. I considered specializing in treating these disorders. But what I discovered is that most people with a personality disorder come to the therapist for Depression, Anxiety, and relationship problems just like anyone else. Also since these are “inflexible” patterns, only two of these disorders end up in treatment with any regularity.

Here are the clusters as they stand now with the included diagnosis. The descriptors are mine with my apologies to the APA. Clusters A and C first as Cluster B is the biggie.

Cluster A: These are the “Weird” people.

Paranoid Personality Disorder – They are scared all the time. Most are NOT Schizophrenic. We don’t see many of these people unless family or police call us as they are so afraid they never leave home. This diagnosis disappears with the DSM-5. Lots of luck on that one.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

Loners. They do not like being around other people even family. They don’t have or want friends. They would make great hermits. When the DSM-5 arrives they are all cured and free to head for a cave in the hills. Just watch out for the zoning enforcement people as those dudes like to talk.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

Odd, superstitious, and believe in signs, spirits, and the supernatural. They may not have friends outside the family or only one close partner. If they think about something that needs to be done, say doing the laundry and then you go do it, they will believe that their thought caused you to do it. They often dress in odd ways. This description has been applied to people who look like “witches” etc. The DSM has an exemption here if they belong to a group that agrees with their beliefs. For the record Modern “Witches” who call themselves Wiccan do not wear funny clothes all the time and do not qualify for the diagnosis of Schizotypal. This is more common than the last two Personality Disorders and stays in the new DSM-5.

Group C Scared People

Avoidant Personality Disorder – they would like friends they are just sure no one will like them and so they avoid people. They are also sure people will criticize them or put them down so they don’t try. This one stays.

Dependent Personality Disorder.

Needy, clingy afraid they will be abandoned. They always need help and what to be told and what to do. This diagnosis goes. Find yourself a dominant partner before your diagnosis is repealed or get help and become less needy.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

This goes beyond everyday OCD. They want everyone else to do things just so. They are often stingy with money, needs to control everything and they have the rule book to do it. Often they cannot get anything done because their rules are so complex they can’t follow them. This one stays.

Cluster B personality disorders.

The people who cause others problems. Cluster B diagnoses are the most common diagnosis in prisons.

Antisocial Personality Disorder.

They disregard the rights of others and violate those rights. This is the number one diagnosis of men in prison. This one needs a whole post all by itself.

Borderline Personality Disorder – The main ingredient here is lots of pain. Unstable interpersonal relationships, poor self-image, unstable mood, often impulsive with a chaotic life. Most people who are diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder are women. This traditionally is the number one diagnosis of women in prison. Many women with this diagnosis have been victims of one kind or another at an early age. They did what they had to do to cope in a bad situation but now the way they cope is not working. There are some really good treatments for this, especially DBT, but it takes a time to heal.

Histrionic Personality Disorder.

Excessive emotionality and attention-seeking sometimes referred to uncomplimentary as “Drama Queens.” Not common in practices and we are doing away with this diagnosis when the DSM-5 comes out. Most of these folks have their own T. V. shows by now so they can pay for therapy even without a diagnosis.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

We’re keeping this one. Not sure why. First, we treat you for low self-esteem and then we tell you that you are Narcissistic. Most people who come for marriage counseling tell me their partner is Narcissistic.

This should be on a continuum. Is this a political season? How can we tell the Narcissists from the candidates? Don’t you need to be a lot Narcissistic to think you should be running the show? Does the top Narcissist get to run a Bank or Wall Street?

Running out of time and this post is going long. More on Personality Disorders to come. Do any of you have any thoughts on the topic?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Are you Hyperthymic?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Hyperthymia person

Are you Hyperthymic? Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Recently I read an article in a peer journal about Hyperthymia. Here is an interesting point of view on the question of whether the mentally ill are really different from “normal” people. Maybe people with a diagnosed illness are on a continuum and just have more or less of the characteristics the rest of us take for granted.

I am inclined towards the idea of continuums, not discreet illnesses despite the fact that I need to give people a diagnosis to get insurance to pay for treatment. That says to me, some people’s problems keep them from having jobs, friends, or being happy and they need help. Other people get along fine as they are and don’t need help. For example, 70% of people report having at least once in their life heard a voice calling their name but when they looked there was no one there. Does this say that hearing “voices” is normal or that the other 30% are lying?

Bipolar disorder is especially troublesome. There are degrees of symptoms and as we have talked about in past blogs lots of people get another diagnosis first and then it gets changed later on, often when the antidepressants make it worse, not better. What if parts of Bipolar disorder are just normal personality characteristics? Could there be milder forms of bipolar disorder that are not getting recognized or does that start to pathologize everyone?  Some authors have suggested we need a Bipolar 3 and Bipolar 4 to capture milder forms of the disorder.

Hyperthymic temperament is a description given to people with 7 specific characteristics.  Sometimes the list is longer or shorter. It is currently seen as a personality characteristic which means it is not generally recognized as an illness. Most mental health professions avoid working with and diagnosing personality disorders as these are often seen as just the way a person is and not likely to change or as needing lots of treatment to change. Dialectic Behavioral Therapy is used to treat some personality disorders and long-term psychotherapy is used for treating aspects of personality that might be considered neurotic or psychotic personality features. Most of the time professionals leave this one alone.

People with this personality style do develop problems of living everyday life that result in them coming to counselors for treatment. Maybe it should be a disorder?

Here are the 7 characteristics of Hyperthymic Personality described by Glick. With MY explanations of how they might be recognized.

1. Cheerfulness

Hyperthymic people are annoyingly cheerful, cheerful to a fault. Hard to understand how someone could be too cheerful but I have learned to be suspicious of overly cheerful people. What are they up too?

2. Exuberance

This is clearly pathological, especially before I have had my coffee in the morning. These people are often described as needing a “chill pill.”

3. Meddlesomeness

To my detractors, I will say I am not meddlesome. I am just helpful even when you don’t realize you need my help. If this does not explain things try the “chill pill” described in 2 above.

4. Lack of inhibitions

Why can’t people just let last year’s New Year’s Eve party go? Occasionally letting your hair down is a good thing. However if this has resulted in more than one arrest, we are thinking you are beyond uninhibited.

5. Overconfidence

What I shouldn’t run for president? Have you seen who else is running? Now that is overconfidence.

6. Grandiosity

Genius is never recognized in its own time.

7. High energy levels.

Not sure about this one. I can be as energetic as almost anyone right after my nap. So there are people with high energy all morning?

So are there people who meet most or all of these characteristics? Sure. Do they sometimes get in trouble and have problems, yes again. Should this be another condition we diagnose and treat? The jury is still out on that one.

What do you think? Is Hyperthymia a legitimate issue? Does it need treatment? Are we making too many things disorders and trying to treat people just for being who they are?

This post was featured in “Best of Blog – May 2012

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel