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Personality Disorders And The Human Soul

Recently, C.R. and I wrote a piece for a magazine about personality disorders. I got more phone calls and emails about that article than any we’ve ever written.

Every single call or email was from a family member of someone whom they believe has a possible undiagnosed personality disorder. Not one was from someone who recognized themselves as having a p.d.

Personality disorders play havoc with one’s sense of self. *Most are generally characterized by at least a few of the following: frequent mood swings, angry outbursts and rage, distrust of others, serious problems making friends and sustaining relationships, lack of empathy, poor impulse control, and even alcohol or substance abuse. Depending on the disorder, there are a host of other possible thought patterns, feelings, and behaviors. Obviously, personality disorders are associated with considerable disruption in a person’s personal, social, and professional life.

I have my own take on them, based on the research as well as my clinical and personal observations :

First, I believe that one thing all people who have a personality disorder have in common is that they have persistent, distorted views of the self, others, and one’s place and purpose in the world.

Second, I believe that the self-centered behaviors often associated with personality disorders aren’t necessarily the result of strong egos. The self is quite weak—the second the self feels threatened or confused, unhelpful, hurtful, or self-defeating coping behaviors arise. The phrase “you’re your own worst enemy” must have been first said by someone who lived with (and cared about) someone with a p.d.

Third, I believe these disorders are rooted in fundamental inability to cope with truthpeople with personality disorders have a real challenge accepting or relating to the way things are. Instead of the kind of noble, romantic view of working hard to make the world a better place, a person with (some types of) p.d. is flailing angrily or otherwise behaving in an impulsive and/or ineffective way in order to manipulate or corral life into being what he/she desires. This is done in order to relieve psychic discomfort, which might manifest itself as feelings of rage, fear, anxiety, humiliation, grief and so on.

Now for the soul-related observations: rom my personal perspective as a religiously/spiritually-observant psychotherapist, personality disorders can be a psycho-spiritual issue.  My sense is that people with these disorders also appear to have spiritual barriers—they feel that they are responsible for punishing themselves or others; or they feel God is punishing them and therefore resent God for not complying with or granting their desires/wishes; or they have a hard time understanding that all life is precious; or they just don’t get that other people count.

Ultimately, behind all this, is the fact that many people with personality disorders a hard time really understanding that they count, that their life is precious, that life may not be about fulfilling one’s desires, and other psychospiritual issues.

These can be profoundly lonely people.

More thoughts, soon…

*There are ten specific types (and a catchall unspecified type) of personality disorders, but the news is that the DSMV is going to change that. Still, we’ll talk briefly about them as they are categorized, now.

(Photo: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration; Acknowledgment: M. Crockett and S. Kaviraj (Oxford University, UK), R. O’Connell (University of Virginia), B. Whitmore (STScI), and the WFC3 Scientific Oversight Committee)

Personality Disorders And The Human Soul

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2011). Personality Disorders And The Human Soul. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 13, 2019, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2011
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