Personality disorder: a disease in disguise
Personality disorders (PDs) can be described as the manifestation of extreme personality traits that interfere with everyday life and contribute to significant suffering, functional limitations, or both. They are common and are frequently encountered in virtually all forms of health care. PDs are associated with an inferior quality of life (QoL), poor health, and premature mortality. The aetiology of PDs is complex and is influenced by genetic and environmental factors. The clinical expression varies between different PD types; the most common and core aspect is related to an inability to build and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. This aspect has a negative impact on the interaction between health-care professionals and patients with a PD. From being discrete and categorical disease entities in previous classification systems, the current concept of PD, reflected in the newly proposed ICD-11, is a dimensional description based on the severity of the disturbed functioning rather than on the type of clinical presentation. Insight about the characteristics of PDs among medical practitioners is limited, which is partly because persons do not seek health care for their PD, but instead for other medical issues which are obscured by their underlying personality problems. What needs to be emphasized is that PDs affect both the clinical presentation of other medical problems, and the outcome of these, in a negative manner and that the integrated effects of having a PD are a shortened life expectancy. Accordingly, PDs need to be recognized in clinical practice to a greater extent than previously.
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