Study Summary | To help students who self-injure, focus on helping them manage emotions

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Research from the University of Washington Medical School suggests how to improve treatments for college students struggling with non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Treatments which develop people’s practical skill in managing emotions may be more effective than current therapies, which instead increase people’s confidence in their ability to cope with events.

The study involved 187 students with a history of self-injury. The students provided information about their experiences with NSSI, including the age at which they first self-injured, and the reasons behind their self-injury.

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Personality Disorders 101: Obsessive-Compulsive PD

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Today we’ve reached the final personality disorder in the current diagnostic system, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). The first port of call here is to explain why OCPD exists alongside Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD.

For someone with OCD, obsessions and compulsions are entirely personal. The person knows their obsessions and fears are irrational, but they feel forced to listen to those obsessions otherwise something bad will happen to them or people they care about. Their compulsions are carried out to prevent those bad things happening and to reduce the person’s overwhelming fear that they are guilty of letting them happen.

As a stereotypical example, consider a person with OCD whose particular obsession and compulsion centers on locking doors. The person may need to spend an hour checking that every door in their house is locked before leaving, to prevent the overwhelming consequences of leaving one unlocked. However, they will not think differently of their family members for being able to go out after only checking once. They may be envious of their family for being free from that worry, and may feel guilty over how the time spent checking intrudes upon other family members.

For someone with OCPD, rules and beliefs are not irrational and personal. Instead, their way of doing things is the correct way regardless of how complex, rigid or time consuming it may appear to others. If someone with OCPD had specific rules over the correct location of everything in their house, they would require everyone else in the house to abide by those rules exactly. If a housemate tried to do things differently, the person with OCPD would interpret it as a functional or even moral deficit.

The DSM-V describes OCPD as a pervasive preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, which comes at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.In the ICD, it is instead known as anankastic PD. To be diagnosed with OCPD, a person must have at least 4 of these criteria:

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Personality Disorders 101: Dependent PD

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Dependent Personality Disorder was first recorded in the initial DSM in 1952. Originally, it was seen as a subtype of an now-unused condition named “Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder”, but it was quickly changed to being a separate condition.

The core of DPD is a person’s belief that they are unable to function independently. A person with DPD compulsively relies excessively on either one person (such a significant other) or a multiple people (such as close group of friends) to help them navigate most or all aspects of life. This reliance is not out of laziness, nor a wish to delegate responsibility. Instead, it is to escape a primal fear of inability. A person with DPD sees the world as a cold, dangerous place, and usually believes that they are deficient and unable to survive on their own. Therefore, they will seek out others who they view as stronger and more capable to help them navigate through life. They will strongly fear losing that support or angering their support network, due to their belief that they cannot function alone.

The DSM-5 describes DPD as a pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of, which leads to submissive and clinging behaviour and fears of separation. To be diagnosed with DPD, someone needs to have at least 5 of these criteria:

  • They have difficulty making everyday decisions without excessive advice and reassurance from others
  • They needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life
  • They struggle to disagree with others, because they fear a loss of support or approval.
  • They have difficulty initiating projects or doing things on their own. because they lack self-confidence in their own judgment or abilities (Not because of lacking motivation/energy etc)
  • They go to extremes to get nurture and support from others, even to the point of volunteering for uncomfortable or dangerous situations
  • They feel uncomfortable or helpless when alone, as they are convinced they cannot care for themselves
  • They must urgent seek out new relationship to provide care and support when a relationship ends
  • They are unrealistically preoccupied with fears about being left to take care of himself or herself alone

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Personality Disorders 101: Avoidant PD

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Today we move on to the Cluster C personality disorders, which are known as the “anxious” or “fearful” disorders. The first of these is Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD).

People who shied away from most social contact and activities were first discussed by Swiss psychiatrist Bleuler in 1911. Bleuler is better-known for coining the words schizophrenia and schizoid, and he interpreted people’s avoidance through that lens; he assumed severe social avoidance reflected an unnoticed type of schizophrenia. However, this opinion was not widely accepted, and by ten years later others viewed severe social avoidance as its own condition.

AvPD is leagues beyond being shy and introverted; instead, it is a deep-rooted and severe fear of rejection and criticism which affects almost every aspect of a person’s life. While someone with AvPD will want to connect with and develop friendships with others, their fear of being criticised and disapproved of can be so painful that they are unable to take part in social activities. Their self-loathing and feelings of inferiority may be so strong that they assume others would not want to interact with them. As a result they may interpret neutral statements as containing hidden rejections or reminders of their percieved social inability, which would reinforce their view of themselves being socially inadequate.

The DSM-5 describes AvPD as a widespread pattern of being inhibited around people, feeling inadequate and being very sensitive to being judged negatively. To be diagnosed with AvPD, someone must meet 4 of these criteria:

  • They avoid occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because they fear  criticism, disapproval, or rejection
  • They are unwilling to get involved with people unless they can be certain of being liked
  • They show restraint within close relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
  • They are preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations.
  • They are inhibited in new social situations because they feel inadequate
  • They seem themselves as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
  • They are unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in new activities in case they are embarrassing

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Personality Disorders 101: Borderline PD/ Emotionally Unstable PD

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Today’s topic, Borderline Personality Disorder, is perhaps the third most argued-about psychiatric disorder (with first and second place going to Dissociative Identity Disorder and ADHD/ADD).

One of the many contentious points is its name. When the DSM was first developed during the 1950s, psychiatrists divided mental health issues into “neurotic” and “psychotic”. People with “neurotic” illnesses were in distress but still aware of reality and that they were ill, while people with “psychotic” illnesses were detached from reality and often unaware that they were ill. Borderline personality disorder received its name because psychiatrists saw the symptoms as being on the border of both categories. However, that method of categorising mental health conditions is no longer used, so “borderline” now doesn’t mean anything. It can also be actively unhelpful, because people can assume it means that someone is on the border of having a mental health condition and not having one. The ICD-10 instead uses the name “Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder”, which better reflects the condition’s core symptom.

A person with EUPD experiences much more intense and changeable emotions than a typical person, and the overwhelming nature of those emotions underpins the other EUPD symptoms. To be diagnosed with EUPD in the DSM-5, someone must meet 5 of the 9 criteria:

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Personality Disorders 101: Narcissistic PD

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The term “Narcissism” comes from the Greek myth of Narkissos, a demigod with renowned beauty. Although everybody noticed Narkissos’ beauty, he scorned and rejected everyone who loved him. Eventually Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, led Narkissos to a pool of water, where he fell in love with the image in the water. When Narkissos realised the image was himself, and understood that he could never love anyone else in the same way, he died.

Psychologists first used the word narcissism to mean vanity and admiration of the self. Now, people often call an arrogant or over-confident person a narcissist. But the disorder covers far more areas than vanity or confidence. The DSM-5 describes Narcissistic PD as a pattern of having an unrealistic sense of greatness or uniqueness (grandiosity),a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. The person needs to have at least 5 of the following criteria:

  • They have a grandiose sense of self-importance. They exaggerate their achievements and talents, and expect to be recognized as superior without reason.
  • They are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, or beauty, or ideal love
  • They believe they are “special” and unique, and can only be understood by other special or high-status people
  • They require excessive admiration
  • They have a sense of entitlement. They expect especially favourable treatment or automatic obedience to their expectations
  • They take advantage of others to achieve his or her own goals
  • They lack empathy, and are unwilling to recognize or identify others’ feelings and needs.
  • They are envious of others, and believing others are envious of them
  • They are arrogant and haughty to others.

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Personality Disorders 101: Histrionic PD

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The word histrionic comes from the Latin word “histrio”, which means both “actor” and “excessively dramatic or emotional”. People with HPD struggle to be genuinely intimate in relationships, so often maintain relationships through acting out a role. Yet they are skilled at setting up situations which force specific emotions from others, often by using their appearance to attract others. Their reliance on seduction can generate many shallow friendships but spark distrust from longer-term friends or partners.

In the DSM-5 Histrionic Personality Disorder is a long-term pattern of being excessively emotional, dramatic, and attention-seeking, which is true across multiple areas of life. To be diagnosed with HPD, a person must meet 5 or more of these criteria:

  • They are uncomfortable whenever they are not the center of attention
  • They use inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior to interact with others
  • They express rapidly shifting and shallow emotions
  • They consistently use their physical appearance to draw attention
  • They speak in an excessively impressionistic way which lacks detail
  • They are dramatic and theatrical, showing exaggerated expressions of emotion
  • They are suggestible – easily influenced by others or circumstances
  • considers relationships to be more intimate than they actually are Continue reading