That's the question I was asked to answer, and here's what I replied (click the blue for links):
Great question, thanks.
The 'Official' Causes of Personality Disorders
On the American Psychology Association (APA) website, you’ll find quite a lot of material discussing the ‘official’ causes of personality disorders (you’ll see why I’m sticking that in quote marks in a minute.)
The following articles all shed some light on the subject, and are recommended reading (I’ve pulled out some key quotes from each article under each link):
Personality disorders--Treatment for the 'untreatable'
Personality disorders may change over time
Very useful research resource, suggests the following things contribute to Personality Disorders:
· Childhood trauma
· Verbal abuse
· High reactivity (ie, very sensitive to stimuli in their environment – I believe this is linked to a PTSD-type learned response and is also connected to weak Spleen Meridan, see below).
Personality disorders--Can the clinically inflexible learn to be resilient?
“People with personality disorders tend to show little behavioral flexibility,” says Art Freedman PhD, psych at the National Training Lab Institute for Applied Behaviourial Science.
“Building resilience – the propensity to weather the slings and arrows of misfortune – in people with personality disorders can help them to [bounce back].”
“People with personality disorders have so little resilience, it makes it especially important to deal with this deficit.”
Personality disorders: Where personality goes awry
“Studies continue to indicate that abuse, even verbal abuse, can amplify the risk of developing a personality disorder’”
“There is a pretty high prevalence of maltreatment by caregivers across all personality disorders,’ notes Patricia Hoffman Judd PhD, clinical professor of psychology at University of California. “One of the key problems appears to be neglect. Probably more of an emotional neglect – more of a lack of attention to a child’s emotional needs.”
“Even a single strong positive relationship – say a close bond with a grandmother – can offset negative influences in a dysfunctional household. “The child with a predisposition toward developing a personality disorder doesn’t need the perfect teacher or the perfect friends to not develop the disorder,” says Judith Beck PhD…”If the child is in an extreme environment, such as abuse or neglect, that may make the difference in terms of developing a personality disorder.”
“Offspring who experienced maternal verbal abuseduring childhood were more than three times as likely as those who did not experience verbal abuse to have borderline, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive and paranoid PDs during adolescence or early adulthood.
“These findings suggest that childhood verbal abusemay contribute to the development of some types of PDs, independent of offspring temperament, childhood physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, physical punishment during childhood, parental education, parental psychopathology, and co-occurring psychiatric disorders.”
Reflecting on narcissism
“A lot of cultural forces – the internet and parenting in particular – are still pushing in the direction of narcissism,” – Jean Twenge PhD
A new American dream?
“Social psychology research shows that one way to reduce the negative behaviours that often stem from narcissism – such as hostility – is to promote connections and commonalities among people….promoting connections among people increases empathy and leads to more helping behavior.”
Golden rule redux
“From both psychology and physiology, it’s clearly the case that we’re set up to be compassionate beings,” says Paul Gilbert, PhD.
“People who score high on neuroticism tend to be less self-compassionate. And people who grew up in supportive homes with understanding parents are more likely to direct compassion towards themselves…’most people in our society are not that self-compassionate,’” Kristin Neff, PhD.
“Pilot data indicate that participation in self-compassion workshops decreases depression and anxiety and increases happiness and feelings of social connectedness.”
[As a side note, according to Chinese Medicine, the Spleen meridian is connected to an individual’s ability to feel compassion. More on this below.]
APA Search Results
Facebook: Friend or foe
“Children whose parents don’t ask them about their online activities and don’t monitor their use of Facebook are less healthy, more narcissistic and perform worse at school than children whose parents restrict their technology use,” Larry Rosen PhD, prof. of psych. California State University.
“His preliminary findings show that frequent Facebook use amongst teens correlates only with narcissism, but for young adults, it correlates with many disorders, including narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.”
Summing up the main points:
The latest ‘official’ research seems to suggest that the following things are causing and / or exacerbating personality disorders:
· Childhood abuse and trauma – particularly maternal verbal abuse, neglect and sexual abuse.
· Genes (more on this in a minute)
· Peers – particularly a lack of even one strong, stable, empathetic and supportive relationship
· Too much time online – especially Facebook and other ‘look at me’ forms of social media
· Lack of empathy and self compassion (more on this in a minute)
· Inability to bounce back or deal with life’s difficulties (more on this in a minute)
In the next post, we'll take a look at the alternative God-based holistic health view of what's causing personality disorders, because there's a huge amount of overlap between the two models. Stay tuned...