- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

A new federal survey has found that nearly 15 percent of U.S. adults suffer from at least one personality disorder, conditions marked by a person’s inability to learn from their mistakes.

“The first-time availability of prevalence information on personality disorders at the national level is critically important,” said Dr. Ting-Kai Li, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an arm of the National Institutes of Health.

“Personality disorders consistently have been associated with substantial impairment and decreased psychological function among alcoholics and drug abusers.”

The findings were based on results of the 2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a poll of noninstitutionalized civilians and the first ever to assess the prevalence of personality disorders.

The conditions, which begin in adolescence or early adulthood, include schizoid personality disorder; anti-social personality disorder (once described as psychopathy); paranoid personality disorder; and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

The results of the survey of 43,000 Americans age 18 and older, reported in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, found that from 2001 to 2002 an estimated 30.8 million American adults meet the standard diagnostic criteria for at least one personality disorder:

• 16.4 million adults (7.9 percent) had obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. According to the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, this is a pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism and control in which a person repeatedly performs the same task, such as washing hands.

• 9.2 million (4.4 percent) had paranoid personality disorder. This illness is marked by a pattern of distrust and suspiciousness, such that other people’s motives are interpreted as malevolent.

• 7.6 million (3.6 percent) had anti-social personality disorder. This is a pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others.

“We call them personality disorders, but they are also mental disorders,” said Bridget F. Grant, lead author of the study and chief of NIAAA’s Laboratory of Epidemiology and Biometry.

She said those in the survey who qualified as having a personality disorder experienced either “distress or social or occupational dysfunction” as a result of their condition. The “majority of people who are in jail would qualify as having anti-social personality disorder,” she added.

NIAAA wanted to know the prevalence of personality disorders in the U.S. population, because these maladies often exist with other mental health disorders, such as substance abuse and anxiety and mood disorders.

In a separate report in Archives of General Psychiatry, some of the same researchers involved in the personality disorder study found that about 9 percent of Americans abuse alcohol. They also determined that more than 9 percent have a mood disorder, such as major depression or bipolar disorder (manic depression), and that more than 11 percent have an anxiety disorder.

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