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Chapter 18. Personality Disorders


John W. Barnhill, M.D.

Personality is the enduring pattern of behavior and inner experience. It underlies how we

think, feel, and act and frames how we view ourselves and the people around us. When we

think of who we are, we often think of personality as the central defining characteristic.

Psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners spend considerable time thinking about

personality and the ways in which dysfunctional personalities cause distress and

dysfunction in individuals and in the people around them. Disorders of personality are, in

some ways, as complex as humanity, itself full of idiosyncrasies, half-articulated conflicts,

and unknowable complexities.

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Like many other complex systems, however, personalities and personality disorders tend to

fall into patterns, and, for generations, clinicians and personality researchers from a variety

of fields have searched for a holy grail: a nosological system that is both simple to use and

sophisticated enough to capture the nuances and paradoxes of human personality.

Traditionally, the field of psychiatry has conceptualized personality disorders categorically,

as reflecting distinct clinical syndromes. In another paradigm, personality disorders are

conceptualized dimensionally, as dysfunctional variants of human personality traits that

exist on a gradient from maladaptive to normal. As part of the DSM-5 development

process, a team of personality researchers explored multiple ways to incorporate both

paradigms, and as a result created a new hybrid categorical-dimensional model.

After vigorous debate among team members, the DSM-5 text includes the traditional

categorical model of personality disorders as well as the new hybrid categorical-

dimensional model. It is the traditional categorical perspective that is included in the main

body of the text, while the alternative DSM-5 model for personality disorders is described

in Section III, “Emerging Measures and Models.” This decision means that the 10 DSM-IV

personality disorders—and their criteria—remain essentially unchanged. The primary

substantive change is that as part of the removal of the axial system, the personality

disorders are no longer listed separately from other DSM-5 diagnoses.

To better understand the similarities and differences of the two models, it may be useful to

explore how the two DSM-5 diagnostic systems recommend that a clinician assess a patient

with, for example, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). From a categorical

perspective, the individual would receive a diagnosis of OCPD when certain criteria were

met. First, the clinician should identify a persistent, dysfunctional pattern of, for instance,

perfectionism at the expense of flexibility. The clinician would then identify at least four of

seven specific symptomatic criteria (preoccupation with lists, inability to delegate tasks,

stubbornness, etc.) and search for disorders that might be responsible for the same

symptoms (and that could lead to either the coding of the other diagnosis only, such as

when schizophrenia causes symptoms akin to those found in OCPD, or the coding of both

diagnoses, such as when the person also meets criteria for another personality disorder).

The new DSM-5 hybrid model reshapes the 10 DSM-IV personality disorder categories into

a roster of six redefined categories (antisocial, avoidant, borderline, narcissistic, obsessive-

compulsive, and schizotypal). For each of the six, the hybrid model requires two

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assessments. The first involves a determination that the individual has significant

impairment in at least two of four personality functioning areas: identity, self-direction,

empathy, and intimacy. For each of the six personality disorders, these personality specifics

differ. For example, to qualify for OCPD, an individual might be found to have significant

impairment from a sense of self excessively derived from work (identity) and from rigidity

and stubbornness negatively affecting relationships (intimacy).

The new hybrid model then requires an assessment of personality traits that are organized

under five broad trait domains. As shown in 18-, these traits and trait domains exist on a

spectrum; for example, for one of the five trait domains, antagonism lies on one end of the

spectrum and agreeableness on the other. These five broad trait domains are new to many

psychiatrists, but they have been rigorously studied for several decades within academic

psychology under the rubric of the Five Factor Model, whose personality dimensions

include neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness. For

each of these personality dimensions, there are clusters of related personality traits.

Applied to a particular person, the Five Factor Model can assign a percentile score for each

trait. For example, the theoretical person with OCPD might score in the 95th percentile for

conscientiousness and in the 5th percentile for openness. DSM-5 adapted these personality

dimensions and traits in order to more specifically focus on psychiatric disorder.

Alternative DSM-5 model: pathological personality trait domains

Enlarge table

Twenty-five specific pathological personality traits are included under the umbrella of these

five negative trait domains. For each of the personality disorders, DSM-5 requires that the

individual demonstrate most of the typical personality traits. For example, the patient with

OCPD must demonstrate the trait of rigid perfectionism (an aspect of the trait domain of

conscientiousness) as well as at least two of the following three traits: perseveration (an

aspect of negative affectivity), intimacy avoidance (an aspect of detachment), and restricted

affectivity (also an aspect of detachment).

The DSM-5 hybrid model also specifies that specific traits can be recorded even if not

recognized as part of a diagnosed personality disorder (e.g., hostility, a trait associated with

the trait domain of negative affectivity, could be listed alongside any DSM-5 diagnosis and

not be considered just a trait associated with, for instance, antisocial personality disorder).

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Both of the DSM-5 models have advantages and disadvantages. The new DSM-5 hybrid

model might contribute to a more nuanced understanding of patients, and its approach

takes advantage of decades’ worth of personality research. Its current complexity is

daunting, however, even to seasoned clinicians, and the use of a new system would

potentially reduce the usefulness of existing research data within psychiatry.

The traditional categorical paradigm has been critiqued for excessive comorbidity and

intradisorder heterogeneity, as well as for the fact that one of the most common personality

disorder diagnoses in the past has been “personality disorder not otherwise specified,”

which is clarified only marginally by the DSM-5 use of “other specified” and “unspecified”

personality disorders. On the other hand, the categorical approach is relatively

straightforward to use, is familiar from DSM-IV, and follows the categorical structure used

throughout the rest of DSM-5. It is also the personality model included in the main body of

the DSM-5 text and, as such, remains the American Psychiatric Association’s official

perspective on personality disorders.

Suggested Readings

MacKinnon RA, Michels R, Buckley PJ: The Psychiatric Interview in Clinical Practice, 2nd

Edition. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Publishing, 2006

Michels R: Diagnosing personality disorders. Am J Psychiatry 169(3):241–243, 2012

PubMed ID: 22407109

Shedler J, Beck A, Fonagy P, et al: Personality disorders in DSM-5. Am J Psychiatry

167(9):1026–1028, 2010 PubMed ID: 20826853

Skodol AE, Bender DS, Oldham JM, et al: Proposed changes in personality and

personality disorder assessment and diagnosis for DSM-5, part II: clinical application.

Personal Disord 2(1):23–30, 2011 PubMed ID: 22448688

Skodol AE, Clark LA, Bender DS, et al: Proposed changes in personality and personality

disorder assessment and diagnosis for DSM-5, part I: description and rationale. Personal

Disord 2(1):4–22, 2011 PubMed ID: 22448687

Westen D, Shedler J, Bradley B, DeFife JA: An empirically derived taxonomy for

personality diagnosis: bridging science and practice in conceptualizing personality. Am J

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Psychiatry 169(3):273–284, 2012 PubMed ID: 22193534

Case 18.1 Personality Con�icts

Larry J. Siever, M.D.

Lauren C. Zaluda, B.A.

Frazier Archer was a 34-year-old single white man who called a mood and personality

disorders research program because an ex-friend had once said he was “borderline,” and

Mr. Archer wanted to learn more about his personality conflicts.

During his diagnostic research interviews, Mr. Archer reported regular, almost daily

situations in which he was sure he was being lied to or deceived. He was particularly wary

of people in leadership positions and people who had studied psychology and, therefore,

had “training to understand the human mind,” which they used to manipulate people.

Unlike those around him, Mr. Archer believed he did not “drink the Kool-Aid” and was able

to detect manipulation and deceit.

Mr. Archer was extremely detail oriented at work, and had trouble delegating and

completing tasks. Numerous employers had told him that he focused excessively on rules,

lists, and small details, and that he needed to be more friendly. He had held numerous jobs

over the years, but he was quick to add, “I’ve quit as often as I’ve been fired.” During the

interview, he defended his behavior, asserting that unlike many people, he understood the

value of quality over productivity. Mr. Archer’s wariness had contributed to his “bad

temper” and emotional “ups and downs.” He socialized only “superficially” with a handful

of acquaintances and could recall the exact moments when previous “so-called friends and

lovers” had betrayed him. He spent most of his time alone.

Mr. Archer denied any significant history of trauma, any current or past problems with

substance use, and any history of head trauma or loss of consciousness. He also denied any

history of mental health diagnosis or treatment, but reported that he felt he might have a

mental health condition that had not yet been diagnosed.

On mental status examination, Mr. Archer appeared well groomed, cooperative, and

oriented. His speech varied; at times he would pause thoughtfully prior to answering

questions, causing his rate of speech to be somewhat slow. His tone also changed

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significantly when he discussed situations that had made him angry, and many of his

responses were lengthy, digressive, and vague. However, he seemed generally coherent and

did not evidence perceptual disorder. His affect was occasionally inappropriate (e.g.,

smiling while crying) but generally constricted. He reported apathy as to whether he lived

or died but did not report any active suicidal ideation or homicidal ideation.

Notably, Mr. Archer became irritated and argumentative with research staff when he was

told that although he could receive verbal feedback on his interviews, he could not receive a

copy of completed questionnaires and diagnostic tools. He commented that he would

document in his personal records that research staff were refusing him the forms.


Paranoid personality disorder

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder


Mr. Archer describes a long-standing, inflexible, dysfunctional pattern of dealing with the

world. He demonstrates an enduring pattern of distrust and suspiciousness. He believes

that others are exploiting or deceiving him; doubts the loyalty of friends; bears grudges;

and recurrently mistrusts the fidelity of sexual partners. This cluster of symptoms qualifies

him for DSM-5 paranoid personality disorder (PPD).

A second cluster of personality traits relates to Mr. Archer’s preoccupation with

perfectionism and control. He is excessively focused on rules, lists, and details. He is

inflexible and unable to delegate. In addition to PPD, he has DSM-5 obsessive-compulsive

personality disorder (OCPD).

For any of the personality disorders, it is important to exclude the physiological effects of a

substance or another medical condition; neither of these appears likely in Mr. Archer, who

denied all substance abuse, medical illness, and head injury. Furthermore, his patterns of

behavior appear to be enduring and not related to either a major change in life

circumstance or another psychiatric disorder.

It is unsurprising that in addition to the PPD and OCPD diagnoses, Mr. Archer meets

partial criteria for other personality disorders, including schizotypal, borderline,

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narcissistic, and avoidant personality disorders. Personality disorders are frequently

comorbid, and if a patient meets criteria for more than one disorder, each should be

recorded. PPD is especially unlikely to be an isolated diagnosis, in either clinical or

research populations. PPD is often comorbid with schizotypal personality disorder and/or

other schizophrenia spectrum disorders, a finding attributable to overlapping paranoia-

related criteria. In Mr. Archer’s case, his emotional instability, anxiety, anger, and

arrogance are symptoms often found in a personality cluster that includes borderline

personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. Because of the relative

infrequency of PPD as an “isolated” disorder, current research is pointing toward the

possibility that some personality disorders, including PPD, could be consolidated to create

more inclusive diagnoses. Paranoia would then be viewed as a specifier or modifier for

other disorders. That is not the situation with DSM-5, however, and PPD should continue

to be listed as a comorbid condition when criteria are met.

A second interesting diagnostic issue related to PPD is the concern among some clinicians

that diagnosing PPD is tantamount to trying to identify an early stage of schizophrenia.

There is genetic, neurobiological, epidemiological, and symptomatic evidence that PPD,

like schizotypal personality disorder, is related to schizophrenia and lies on the

schizophrenia spectrum. However, PPD is not a precursor to schizophrenia, and its

symptoms are not indicative of the prodromal phase of schizophrenia. Prodromal

schizophrenia is best characterized by early psychotic symptoms, including disorganized

thoughts and behavior, whereas the thought patterns in PPD are generally more similar to

those of delusional disorder and related thought disorders.

Suggested Readings

Berman ME, Fallon AE, Coccaro EF: The relationship between personality

psychopathology and aggressive behavior in research volunteers. J Abnorm Psychol

107(4):651–658, 1998 PubMed ID: 9830252

Bernstein D, Useda D, Siever L: Paranoid personality disorder, in The DSM-IV

Personality Disorders. Edited by Livesley WJ. New York, Guilford, 1995, pp 45–57

Kendler KS: Diagnostic approaches to schizotypal personality disorder: a historical

perspective. Schizophr Bull 11(4):538–553, 1985 PubMed ID: 3909377

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Kendler KS, Neale MC, Walsh D: Evaluating the spectrum concept of schizophrenia in the

Roscommon Family Study. Am J Psychiatry 152(5):749–754, 1995 PubMed ID: 7726315

Siever LJ, Davis KL: The pathophysiology of schizophrenia disorders: perspectives from

the spectrum. Am J Psychiatry 161(3):398–413, 2004 PubMed ID: 14992962

Siever LJ, Koenigsberg HW, Harvey P, et al: Cognitive and brain function in schizotypal

personality disorder. Schizophr Res 54(1–2):157–167, 2002 PubMed ID: 11853990

Thaker GK, Ross DE, Cassady SL, et al: Saccadic eye movement abnormalities in relatives

of patients with schizophrenia. Schizophr Res 45(3):235–244, 2000 PubMed ID:


Triebwasser J, Chemerinski E, Roussos P, Siever L: Paranoid personality disorder. J Pers

Disord August 28, 2012 [Epub ahead of print] PubMed ID: 22928850

Zimmerman M, Chelminski I, Young D: The frequency of personality disorders in

psychiatric patients. Psychiatr Clin North Am 31(3):405–420, 2008 PubMed ID:


Case 18.2 Oddly Isolated

Salman Akhtar, M.D.

Grzegorz Buchalski was an 87-year-old white man who was brought to the psychiatric

emergency room (ER) by paramedics after they had been called to his apartment by

neighbors when they noticed an odd smell. Apparently, his 90-year-old sister had died

some days earlier after a lengthy illness. Mr. Buchalski had delayed reporting her death for

several reasons. He had become increasingly disorganized as his sister’s health had

worsened, and he was worried that his landlord would use the apartment’s condition as a

pretext for eviction. He had tried to clean up, but his attempts consisted mainly of moving

items from one place to another. He said he was about to call for help when the police and

paramedics showed up.

In the ER, Mr. Buchalski recognized that his actions were odd and that he should have

called for help sooner. At times, he became tearful when discussing the situation and his

sister’s death; at other times, he seemed aloof, speaking about these in a calm, factual way.

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He also wanted to clarify that his apartment had indeed been a mess but that much of the

apparent mess was actually his large collection of articles on bioluminescence, a topic he

had been researching for decades.

A licensed plumber, electrician, and locksmith, Mr. Buchalski had worked until age 65. He

described his late sister as having been always “a little strange.” She had never worked and

had been married once, briefly. Aside from the several-month marriage, she and Mr.

Buchalski had lived in the family’s two-bedroom Manhattan apartment their entire lives.

Neither of them had ever seen a psychiatrist.

When questioned, Mr. Buchalski stated that he had never had a romantic or sexual

relationship and had never had many friends or social contacts outside his family. He

explained that he had been poor and Polish and had had to work all the time. He had taken

night classes to better understand “the strange world we live in,” and he said his intellectual

interests were what he found most gratifying. He said he had been upset as he realized that

his sister was dying, but he would call it “numb” rather than depressed. He also denied any

history of manic or psychotic symptoms. After an hour with the psychiatric trainee, Mr.

Buchalski confided that he hoped the medical school might be interested in some of his

papers after his death. He said he believed that bioluminescent and genetic technologies

were on the verge of a breakthrough that might allow the skin of animals and then humans

to glow in subtle colors that would allow people to more directly recognize emotions. He

had written the notes for such technology, but they had grown into a “way-too-long science

fiction novel with lots of footnotes.”

On examination, Mr. Buchalski was a thin, elderly man dressed neatly in khakis and

button-down shirt. He was meticulous and much preferred to discuss his interests in

science than his own story. He made appropriate eye contact and had a polite, pleasant

demeanor. His speech was coherent and goal directed. His mood was “fine,” and his affect

was appropriate though perhaps unusually cheerful under the circumstances. He denied all

symptoms of psychosis, depression, and mania. Aside from his comments about

bioluminescence, he said nothing that sounded delusional. He was cognitively intact, and

his insight and judgment were considered generally good, although historically impaired in

regard to his delay in calling the police about his sister.


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Schizoid personality disorder


Mr. Buchalski’s aloof, taciturn, and asexual lifestyle certainly fit the diagnostic criteria for

schizoid personality disorder; his explanation that he has been friendless because he is

Polish and poor is a weak rationalization for his psychosocial deficits. The eccentricity of

his interest in bioluminescence, the exaggerated estimation of the value of his “papers,” and

the fact that he has lived pretty much all his life in the family’s residence with his sister give

further evidence of his inward preoccupation and lack of social engagement. The striking

poverty of his emotional response at his sister’s passing away and his failure to make any

sort of funeral arrangements are confirmatory of a flattened affective life and weak ego

skills. The fact that he is cognitively intact rules out a gradually occurring, dementing

etiology for his withdrawal and “confirms” the diagnosis of schizoid personality disorder.

Such a diagnosis has a long history in psychiatry and psychoanalysis. In psychiatry, its

origins go back to Eugen Bleuler, who coined the term schizoid in 1908 to describe a natural component of personality that pulled one’s attention toward one’s inner life and

away from the external world. He labeled a morbid exaggeration of this tendency as

“schizoid personality.” Such individuals were described as quiet, suspicious, and

“comfortably dull.” Bleuler’s description was elaborated upon over the next century, and

many features were added to it. These included solitary lifestyle, love of books, lack of

athleticism, tendency toward autistic thinking, poorly developed sexuality, and covert but

intense sensitivity to others’ emotional responses. This last feature, however, got dropped

from the more recent portrayals of schizoid personality, including the ones in DSM-III and

DSM-IV. Despite the reservations of many investigators (e.g., Otto Kernberg, John

Livesley, and myself), “lacking desire for close relationships” became a prime criterion for

the schizoid diagnosis. Among other factors that were emphasized were asexuality,

indifference to praise or criticism, anhedonia, and emotional coldness. The hypersensitivity

criterion and the ostensible link to schizophrenia were assigned, respectively, to the

categories of “avoidant” and “schizotypal” personality disorders.

Within psychoanalysis, the schizoid condition was best described by W. R. D. Fairbairn and

Harry Guntrip. According to them, intense sensitivity to both love and rejection and a

propensity to readily withdraw from interpersonal relatedness lay at the core of schizoid

pathology. The individual thus afflicted oscillated between wanting closeness and dreading

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it; feared the vigor of his or her own needs and their impact on others; and was attracted to

literary and artistic activities because these were avenues of self-expression without direct

human contact. Schizoid personality evolved from one or more of the following scenarios:

1) tantalizing refusal by early caretakers that aroused frightening amounts of emotional

hunger; 2) chronic parental rejection, which resulted in compliant apathy and lifelessness;

and 3) sustained neglect by parents, which led to retreat into the fantasy world.

The absence of developmental history and of any data about Mr. Buchalski’s childhood

weakens a psychodynamic understanding of Mr. Buchalski’s schizoid personality. However,

developmental history is not a required criterion for a descriptive diagnosis; this criterion

is primarily utilized by psychodynamically oriented psychiatrists. All in all, the diagnosis of

schizoid personality disorder seems reasonable for Mr. Buchalski, although some might

argue in favor of a schizotypal personality disorder diagnosis given the oddity of his

interests. If further exploration yields information that qualifies this patient for both

personality disorders, then both should be recorded.

In regard to other comorbidities, the most likely appears to be hoarding disorder, a

diagnosis new to DSM-5. Mr. Buchalski indicates that he delayed calling the police after his

sister died because he was worried that his landlord would use the condition of the

apartment as a pretext for eviction. He describes a large collection of bioluminescence

papers, for example, a statement that could mean a 2-foot-tall stack of manuscripts or an

apartment crammed to the ceilings with decades’ worth of newspapers, magazines, and

scribbled notes, saved because of their potential usefulness. Clarifying the presence of this

(or any other) comorbid condition would be crucial to the development of a treatment plan

that tries to maximize the likelihood of independent happiness for this patient.

Suggested Readings

Akhtar S: Schizoid personality disorder: a synthesis of developmental, dynamic, and

descriptive features. Am J Psychother 41(4):499–518, 1987 PubMed ID: 3324773

Livesley WJ, West M, Tanney A: A historical comment on DSM-III schizoid and avoidant

personality disorders. Am J Psychiatry 142(11):1344–1347, 1985 PubMed ID: 3904489

Triebwasser J, Chemerinski E, Roussos P, Siever LJ: Schizoid personality disorder. J Pers

Disord 26(6):919–926, 2012 PubMed ID: 23281676

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Case 18.3 Worried and Oddly Preoccupied

Kristin Cadenhead, M.D.

Henry, a 19-year-old college sophomore, was referred to the student health center by a

teaching assistant who noticed that he appeared odd, worried, and preoccupied and that

his lab notebook was filled with bizarrely threatening drawings.

Henry appeared on time for the psychiatric consultation. Although suspicious about the

reason for the referral, he explained that he generally “followed orders” and would do what

he was asked. He agreed that he had been suspicious of some of his classmates, believing

they were undermining his abilities. He said they were telling his instructors that he was “a

weird guy” and that they did not want him as a lab partner. The referral to the psychiatrist

was, he said, confirmation of his perception.

Henry described how he had seen two students “flip a coin” over whether he was gay or

straight. Coins, he asserted, could often predict the future. He had once flipped a coin and

“heads” had predicted his mother’s illness. He believed his thoughts often came true.

Henry had transferred to this out-of-town university after an initial year at his local

community college. The transfer was his parents’ idea, he said, and was part of their agenda

to get him to be like everyone else and go to parties and hang out with girls. He said all such

behavior was a waste of time. Although they had tried to push him into moving into the

dorms, he had refused, and instead lived by himself in an off-campus apartment.

With Henry’s permission, his mother was called for collateral information. She said Henry

had been quiet, shy, and reserved since childhood. He had never had close friends, had

never dated, and had denied wanting to have friends. He acknowledged feeling depressed

and anxious at times, but these feelings did not improve when he was around other people.

He was teased by other kids and would come home upset. His mother cried while

explaining that she always felt bad for him because he never really “fit in,” and that she and

her husband had tried to coach him for years without success. She wondered how a person

could function without any social life.

She added that ghosts, telepathy, and witchcraft had fascinated Henry since junior high

school. He had long thought that he could change the outcome of events like earthquakes

and hurricanes by thinking about them. He had consistently denied substance abuse, and

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two drug screens had been negative in the prior 2 years. She mentioned that her

grandfather had died in an “insane asylum” many years before Henry was born, but she did

not know his diagnosis.

On examination, Henry was tall, thin, and dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. He was alert and

wary and, although nonspontaneous, he answered questions directly. He denied feeling

depressed or confused. Henry denied having any suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts. He

denied having any auditory or visual hallucinations, panic attacks, obsessions,

compulsions, or phobias. His intellectual skills seemed above average, and his Mini-Mental

State Examination score was 30 out of 30.


Schizotypal personality disorder

Paranoid personality disorder


Henry presents with a pattern of social and interpersonal deficits accompanied by

eccentricities and cognitive distortions. These include delusional-like symptoms (magical

thinking, suspiciousness, ideas of reference, grandiosity), eccentric interests, evidence of

withdrawal (few friends, avoidance of social contact), and restricted affect (emotional

coldness). Therefore, Henry appears to meet criteria for DSM-5 schizotypal personality


Henry also suspects that others are undermining him, reads hidden meaning into benign

activities, bears grudges, and is overly sensitive to perceived attacks on his character. In

addition to schizotypal personality disorder, he meets criteria for paranoid personality

disorder. If an individual meets criteria for two personality disorders—as is often the case—

both should be recorded.

Henry, however, is only 19 years old, and a personality disorder diagnosis should be made

only after exploring other diagnoses that could produce similar symptoms. For example,

Henry’s deficits in social communication and interaction could be consistent with a

diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) without intellectual impairment. It is possible

that he had unreported symptoms beyond “shyness” in the early developmental period,

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and, as was reported about Henry, children with ASD commonly undergo schoolyard

teasing. He and his mother do not, however, report the sorts of restricted, repetitive

patterns of behavior, interests, or activities that are also a hallmark of ASD. Without these,

Henry would not be diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

Henry also may have a psychiatric disorder that develops in young adulthood, and he is at

the peak age for the onset of depressive, bipolar, and anxiety disorders. Any of these can

exacerbate baseline personality traits and make them appear to be disorders, but Henry

does not appear to have significant depressive, manic, or anxiety symptoms.

More likely in this case would be a diagnosis on the schizophrenia spectrum. For Henry to

have an actual schizophrenia diagnosis, however, he would need to have two or more of the

following five criteria: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized

or catatonic behavior, and negative symptoms. Because he denies hallucinations and

appears to be logical and not to have either odd behavior or negative symptoms, he does

not have schizophrenia. Instead, he may have delusions—and it would be useful to clarify

the extent to which he has fixed, false beliefs about predicting and affecting the future—but

his beliefs seem more bizarre than those typically seen in delusional disorder.

Although Henry currently may best fit the two personality disorder diagnoses listed above,

he may go on to develop a more explicitly psychotic disorder. Psychiatric clinicians and

researchers are particularly interested in distinguishing individuals who present as unusual

as teenagers and are likely to go on to develop a more disabling schizophrenia from those

who present similarly but will not go on to develop a major psychiatric disorder. Although

the current ability to predict schizophrenia is not robust, early intervention could

substantially reduce the psychological suffering and the long-term functional

consequences. To that end, DSM-5 Section III includes attenuated psychosis syndrome as

one of the conditions for further study. Attenuated psychosis syndrome focuses on

subsyndromal symptoms, including impaired insight and functionality, in an effort to

clarify which patients are in the process of a decline into schizophrenia and which patients

are demonstrating the beginnings of a more crystallized personality disorder.

Suggested Readings

Addington J, Cornblatt BA, Cadenhead KS, et al: At clinical high risk for psychosis:

outcome for nonconverters. Am J Psychiatry 168(8):800–805, 2011 PubMed ID:

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Ahmed AO, Green BA, Goodrum NM, et al: Does a latent class underlie schizotypal

personality disorder? Implications for schizophrenia. J Abnorm Psychol 122(2):475–491,

2013 PubMed ID: 23713503

Fisher JE, Heller W, Miller GA: Neuropsychological differentiation of adaptive creativity

and schizotypal cognition. Pers Individ Dif 54(1):70–75, 2013 PubMed ID: 23109749

Case 18.4 Unfairness

Charles L. Scott, M.D.

Ike Crocker was a 32-year-old man referred for a mental health evaluation by the human

resources department of a large construction business that had been his employer for 2

weeks. At his initial job interview, Mr. Crocker presented as very motivated and provided

two carpentry school certifications that indicated a high level of skill and training. Since his

employment began, his supervisors had noted frequent arguments, absenteeism, poor

workmanship, and multiple errors that might have been dangerous. When confronted, he

was reportedly dismissive, indicating that the problem was “cheap wood” and “bad

management” and added that if someone got hurt, “it’s because of their own stupidity.”

When the head of human resources met with him to discuss termination, Mr. Crocker

quickly pointed out that he had both attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and

bipolar disorder. He said that if not granted an accommodation under the Americans with

Disabilities Act, he would sue. He demanded a psychiatric evaluation.

During the mental health evaluation, Mr. Crocker focused on unfairness at the company

and on how he was “a hell of a better carpenter than anyone there could ever be.” He

claimed that his two marriages had ended because of jealousy. He said that his wives were

“always thinking I was with other women,” which is why “they both lied to judges and got

restraining orders saying I’d hit them.” As “payback for the jail time,” he refused to pay

child support for his two children. He had no interest in seeing either of his two boys

because they were “little liars” like their mothers.

Mr. Crocker said he “must have been smart” because he had been able to make Cs in school

despite showing up only half the time. He spent time in juvenile hall at age 14 for stealing

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“kid stuff, like tennis shoes and wallets that were practically empty.” He left school at age 15

after being “framed for stealing a car” by his principal. Mr. Crocker pointed out these

historical facts as evidence that he was able to overcome injustice and adversity.

In regard to substance use, Mr. Crocker said he smoked marijuana as a teenager and

started drinking alcohol on a “regular basis” after he first got married at age 22. He denied

that use of either substance was a problem.

Mr. Crocker concluded the interview by demanding a note from the examiner that he had

“bipolar” and “ADHD.” He said that he was “bipolar” because he had “ups and downs” and

got “mad real fast.” Mr. Crocker denied other symptoms of mania. He said he got down

when disappointed, but he had “a short memory” and “could get out of a funk pretty quick.”

Mr. Crocker reported no difficulties in his sleep, mood, or appetite. He learned about

ADHD because “both of my boys got it.” He concluded the interview with a request for

medications, adding that the only ones that worked were stimulants (“any of them”) and a

specific short-acting benzodiazepine.

On mental status examination, Mr. Crocker was a casually dressed white man who made

reasonable eye contact and was without abnormal movements. His speech was coherent,

goal directed, and of normal rate. There was no evidence of any thought disorder or

hallucinations. He was preoccupied with blaming others, but these comments appeared to

represent overvalued ideas rather than delusions. He was cognitively intact. His insight

into his situation was poor.

The head of human resources did a background check during the course of the psychiatric

evaluation. Phone calls revealed that Mr. Crocker had been expelled from two carpentry

training programs and that both his graduation certificates had been falsified. He had been

fired from his job at one local construction company after a fistfight with his supervisor and

from another job after abruptly leaving a job site. A quick review of their records indicated

that he had provided them with the same false documentation.


Antisocial personality disorder


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Mr. Crocker has a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, as

indicated by many different actions. He has been arrested twice for domestic violence—

once each from two separate marriages—and has spent time in jail. Mr. Crocker has

falsified his carpentry credentials and provides ample evidence of repeated fights and

irritability, both at work and within his relationships. He demonstrates little or no regard

for how his actions affect the safety of his coworkers. He refuses to see his young sons or

pay child support, because they are “little liars.” He exhibits no remorse for how his actions

negatively affect his family, coworkers, or employers. He routinely quits jobs and fails to

plan ahead for his next employment. He meets all seven of the symptomatic criteria for

DSM-5 antisocial personality disorder (APD).

The diagnosis of APD cannot be made until age 18, but it does require evidence for conduct

disorder before age 15. Mr. Crocker’s history indicates a history of truancy, adjudication for

theft at age 14, and expulsion from school at age 15 for car theft.

At the end of the evaluation, Mr. Crocker requests two potentially addictive medications.

He smoked marijuana in high school and may have begun to drink alcohol heavily in his

20s. Although it might be difficult to elicit an honest account of his substance use, Mr.

Crocker may indeed have a comorbid substance use disorder. Such a diagnosis would not

affect his diagnosis of APD, however, because his antisocial behavior predates his reported

use of substances. In addition, his antisocial attitudes and behaviors are manifest in

multiple settings and are not simply a result of his substance abuse (e.g., stealing to pay for

his drugs).

Mr. Crocker’s claim that he has ADHD would require evidence that he had some

hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms that caused impairment before age 12

years. Although ADHD could be a comorbid condition and could account for some of his

impulsivity, it would not account for his wide-ranging antisocial behavior.

The APD diagnosis also requires that the behavior not occur only during the course of

bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Although Mr. Crocker states that he has bipolar

disorder, he provides no evidence that he has ever been manic (or schizophrenic).

Mr. Crocker’s interpersonal style is marked by callous disregard for the feelings of others

and an arrogant self-appraisal. Such qualities can be found in other personality disorders,

such as narcissistic personality disorder, but they are also common in APD. Although

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comorbidity is not uncommon, individuals with narcissistic personality disorder do not

exhibit the same levels of impulsivity, aggression, and deceit as are present in APD.

Individuals with histrionic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder may be

manipulative or impulsive, but their behaviors are not characteristically antisocial.

Individuals with paranoid personality disorder may demonstrate antisocial behaviors, but

their actions tend to stem from a paranoid desire for revenge rather than a desire for

personal gain. Finally, people with intermittent explosive disorder also get into fights, but

they lack the many exploitive traits that are a pervasive part of APD.

Suggested Readings

Edwards DW, Scott CL, Yarvis RM, et al: Impulsiveness, impulsive aggression, personality

disorder, and spousal violence. Violence Vict 18(1):3–14, 2003 PubMed ID: 12733616

Wygant DB, Sellbom M: Viewing psychopathy from the perspective of the Personality

Psychopathology Five model: implications for DSM-5. J Pers Disord 26(5):717–726, 2012

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