Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

The concept of the personality goes directly to essence of what we are as human beings. Questions such as, Who we are? How well we know ourselves? or, How well do others know us? are commonly asked but prove difficult to answer. Personality then is what makes us who we are, and makes us different from other people. In the clinical world of abnormal psychology it is common to meet people who have become depressed, are experiencing unusual sensory phenomena, or have experienced great trauma at some time. Despite these difficulties all these people have a personality. What then forms a disordered personality?

In order to answer this we must first agree on what constitutes a personality. Millon and Davis describe it as ‘a complex pattern of deeply embedded characteristics that are expressed automatically in almost every area of psychological functioning’. Although there is no universally accepted view of the personality, a common approach to the study of personality and personality disorder is the trait approach. This approach attempts to explain the whole sphere of human behaviour and subjective experience in terms of a small number of constructs. Among trait theorists the current leading model is known as the ‘Five Factor Model’.

The five factors described being openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. It is proposed within this model that these five dimensions alone can describe all human personalities. However, descriptions of abnormal personality in terms of these factors may have limited clinical relevance and as such so-called lower-order traits, sub-divisions of the five factors, have been identified that may be more representative of the scope of human personality.

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