The class of 77%

A study just published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has found that only 23% of the population are without symptoms of personality disorder.

If you’re not familiar with it, personality disorder is a somewhat controversial diagnosis which essentially classifies people who we might otherwise called ‘extremely difficult’ but to the point where they cause themselves significant life problems.

This new survey used the standard diagnostic criteria, but instead of giving people a “you’ve got it or you haven’t” all-or-nothing diagnosis (given when a certain threshold of symptoms are reached) the researchers totalled up the symptoms to make a sliding scale.

The study found that even those who wouldn’t qualify for a diagnosis but still had some symptoms were more likely to have had a history of running away from home, police contacts, homelessness and sexual abuse and were less likely to be employed.

Of course, what the study could be describing is simply that people who have had a rough time come out the worst for wear.

The question is not so much whether this is a high or low figure, but at what point psychiatry and mental health services should offer assistance.

For many years psychiatry has been suffering from ‘mission creep’ where things previously thought to be unhelpful but normal (e.g. low mood after a divorce, shyness) have become classified and promoted as mental illnesses with the accompanying pharmacological treatment.

At what point we decide that something is a mental illness has become one of the central psychological and cultural questions of the 21st century.

Link to summary of study at the British Journal of Psychiatry.

10 thoughts on “The class of 77%”

  1. A humble starting point would be that no human being is normal or sane or falls into some Nazi-type stereotype.

    Let us all try to banish our expectations and perhaps we’ll begin to accept and tolerat social variety.

    Medicalisation is going to kill your profession, long live your profession.

    John Forde, Galway, Ireland

  2. This doesn’t really make sense. Summary says the 77% figure supports their hypothesis, but how can a number that high have any significance? Why would they want to abandon the current DSM criteria in favor of an alternative system that finds personality pathology in a majority of the population?

    1. Unfortunately, the answer to that would be simple and creepy. Money. If more people are found to have personalty pathology more drugs will be bought and more money will be made.

  3. The science of minds are really “Extrospection” the outside mission to know the unknowable. However, that is now obsolete, since discovery and a heuristic means of knowing the unknowable by True Introspection is at hand.

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