Personality Style vs Personality Disorder

A personality style is the lifelong habitual way that a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Styles are determined by genetics and are often called temperament. Temperamental aspects, such as the ability to filter external stimuli or shyness, are often observable at birth. Other personality traits are determined by upbringing from early parent-child interactions, such as mentalization, which is the ability to empathize with another's emotions or perspective and utilize this to read the intentions of others. Each personality has unique, enduring, and slowly evolving characteristics, including the organization of perception, a set of core beliefs, thinking style, fantasy life, hierarchy of emotional needs, value system, ideals, characteristic ways of relating to self and others, and adaptation to external reality.

The distinction between personality style and a personality disorder is a matter of degree. Personality styles tend to be relatively stable over a lifetime but can be modified by psychotherapy or needs to adapt to the environment. Personality disorders are also stable, but are more difficult to modify, if at all, and then by long-term or special forms of psychotherapy or by life events. Personality styles that become rigid, extreme, maladaptive, or damaging to self or others, or that lead to social or occupational impairment, are called "personality disorders." Although everyone is unique, there seems to be a set of personality styles and disorders that are commonly encountered. Some personality disorders can be recognized in the movies (schizotypal personality disorder, Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver; narcissistic personality disorder, Tom Cruise in Top Gun; dependent-borderline personality disorder, Bill Murray in What About Bob?).

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