Mind matters because life itself is felt in the mind. Birth to death, life ticks through the activities of the mind. Interestingly, in the continuum of birth-life-death, the last one (death) is often overlooked as if we were here forever. In fact, constant consciousness of death would have crippled the way we lived our lives. The fact that it does not happen so is proof enough of nature’s designs of its own progression through “normal” life for its living beings. This design also has in it some common behaviours, perceptions, beliefs etc. among its thinking and feeling beings. The commonality falls into a range. For human beings in social living, this common range is accepted as “normal”. Beyond and below this, the trend is to consider it as “abnormal”. Personality disorders get identified in society with this yardstick. In an aware society (awareness being directly proportional to education, freedom of thought, social development etc.), personality disorders are handled more objectively. Elsewhere, they are badly handled resulting in agonies for the affected ones and the people close to them creating disturbances in families and societies.
The personality disorders that are being discussed here are not the typical “madness” which usually gets classified into psychosis, but are the ones mostly falling into the category of neurosis (mental distresses affecting behaviour). Broadly speaking, personality disorders can be considered as such when someone’s behaviour, perception, belief etc. start affecting the “normalcy” of the person’s life or of the people who are closely connected with him / her.
In most societies (developed, aware or otherwise), personality disorders have been getting a raw deal. The manifestations of the disorders often get overlooked as “personal” matters. The insensitive society and the social system as they exist today in most parts of the world usually leave it at that.
If we had a system to understand and care for disordered minds, it would have ensured that we did not need armies and weapons, families did not break up, children did not live their lives in fear and despair, behavioural problems did not get passed on from one generation to the next and so on. At the heart of most conflicts of personal, familial, social, national or global nature are the varying types of disorders of human minds. If that was not so, before getting into any mutually damaging and destructive positions, the people involved would have remembered the birth-life-death continuum and managed conflicts into win-win outcomes. If we spend a fraction of what we spend on armies, weaponry, legal battles etc. in generating awareness of the way people behave and the need to accept disorders of the minds of affected people as such, the world would have been a much better place to live in. Many dictators and rulers who spread human misery across the world had disordered minds. Hardly any serious efforts seem to have been put in by any one towards correcting the situation through collective actions. The missing awareness generation activity deprives many unfortunate victims (both direct and indirect) of their opportunity to lead normal lives.
Personality disorders are well classified under the academic streams of psychology and psychiatry. Some of the disorders that wreck human lives are as under:
1. Paranoid personality disorder involving irrational suspicion and mistrust of others
2. Antisocial personality disorder characterised by disregard for the rights of others and lack of empathy (ability to think and feel from the others’ positions)
3. Borderline personality disorder signified by instability in relationships and self-image often leading to self-harm, harm to others and impulsiveness
4. Histrionic personality disorder with attention-seeking behavior and disproportionate emotions
5. Narcissistic personality disorder in which the affected person feels grandiosity with constant need for admiration from others and a lack of empathy
6. Dependent personality disorder with a psychological familj och samhälle need to be constantly cared for by other people.
7. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (different from obsessive compulsive disorder which is also known as OCD) involving rigidity in following rules, perfectionism and a desire to control people and situations
8. Bipolar disorder involving episodes of extreme mood swings between mania and depression.
9. ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, adversely affecting children’s as well as adults’ lives and development
The key to tackling personality disorders and even in ending the vicious cycle of their transmission from one generation to the other is awareness. It may be some time before societies world over devised methods for the same which could begin with including it in school curriculum. Once the core point of acknowledging the existence of personality disorders is driven into the minds of people, the process of dealing with them effectively will follow in tandem. But the worry still remains to be the indifference of socially empowered people towards the problem and also a relatively ineffective grooming of psychologists and psychiatrists many of whom are unable to grasp the larger picture.