Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to spot and cope with someone with a personality disorder

This article from the Bench & Bar of Minnesota magazine is directed at lawyers seeking strategies to better cope with difficult clients.  But as the author, who is both a lawyer and psychotherapist, points out, about 9% of the general population suffers from a personality disorder, which means the odds are excellent you will encounter several people with personality disorders over the course of your lifetime.  The article is a handy primer for developing strategies for successfully navigating around such people whether you encounter them at work, in the classroom or elsewhere.  An excerpt:

Are Your Clients Making You Crazy? How to Avoid Drama with Maddening Clients

Statistically, over 9 percent of American adults have a diagnosable personality disorder, so it’s likely that some clients you encounter are difficult, obnoxious, or just plain maddening. Given enough information about these disorders and how they may be presented by clients, lawyers can respond better and offer more effective representation.


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Narcissist Personality Disorder

The DSM-IV-TR describes people with Narcissist Personality Disorder as showing “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts … .” People with this disorder often believe that they are special or deserve particular treatment and have an exaggerated sense of entitlement.  They are exceedingly status conscious; they treat people differentially according to their status and seek to align themselves with high-status people.  Although they can be superficially charming, when it comes down to it, they habitually exploit others, taking advantage of them to achieve their own aims.  They are unable to take account of other people’s feelings or perspectives and can come across as arrogant and haughty.


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Antisocial Personality Disorder

People with Antisocial Personality Disorder or features of this disorder often come in contact with the legal system.  That’s because a key marker of this disorder is “failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.” That does not mean, however, that every person with this character type engages in criminal behavior.  What is most notable about these clients is their overriding motivation to pull something over on others and the pleasure they take in “consciously manipulating” them. And people like this can be found in boardrooms, office towers, and state houses from L.A. to Wall Street.  In addition to being manipulative and deceitful, they display a “reckless disregard for the safety of self or others”; they are consistently irresponsible, lack remorse, and are often highly impulsive. They are either indifferent to or are somehow able to rationalize having harmed someone else.


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Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by notable instability of mood, relationships, and self-image as well as “marked impulsivity.” This instability is highly disruptive, affecting work, family relationships, friendships, and long-term planning and goal achievement. There is usually a longstanding pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships, with dramatic shifts in attitudes toward others from admiration and love (idealization) to hate and anger (devaluation).  Often there is recurrent suicidal behavior in the form of threats, gestures, or self-mutilation as well as self-destructive behaviors in sexual activity, spending, substance use, dangerous driving, or disordered eating.


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Continue reading here.

Hat tip to the Lawyerist Blog.


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