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Personality disorders Where personality goes awry A multifaceted research approach is providing more clues to the origins of personality disorders BY CHARLOTTE HUFF Monitor staff Print version page 42 Over the years few large-scale prospective studies have targeted the causes of personality disorders PDs But recently a new body of research has begun to explore the potential influences of several factors from genetics and parenting to peer influences and even the randomness of life events Indeed says Patricia Hoffman Judd PhD clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego research into the origins of PDs is just beginning to take off I think for years people thought Its just personality--you cant do anything about it she explains Theres also been moralism that people with such disorders are evil that they are lazy adds Judd author of A Developmental Model of Borderline Personality Disorder American Psychiatric Publishing 2003 But research is helping to turn such misconceptions around Genetics researchers for example are closer to identifying some of the biological underpinnings that may influence PDs Last year for example a team located--and described in Molecular Psychiatry Vol 8 No 11--a malfunctioning gene they believe may be a factor in obsessive-compulsive disorder Other researchers are investigating genetic links to aggression anxiety and fear--traits that could be influential in the later development of a personality disorder However genetics dont work in a vacuum Studies continue to indicate that abuse even verbal abuse can amplify the risk of developing a personality disorder For some disorders such as antisocial PD the evidence suggests that genetic factors play a significant role while others such as dependent personality disorder appear to be more environmentally influenced says longtime PD researcher Theodore Millon PhD DSc editor of an ongoing book series Personality-guided Psychology APA But regardless of the specific disorder researchers increasingly observe a back-and-forth interplay between genetic and environmental influences We see a paradigm shift taking place in the field now
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