Personality Styles vs Disorders, part 1

Diagnosis of mental disorders can be helpful in providing a systematic way to better understand an individual and select treatment approaches specifically tailored to meet his or her needs. In the context of managed care, an accurate mental health diagnosis is necessary to justify the provision of services by insurance companies over the short or long term. A diagnosis creates uniformity among clinicians and medical providers working with a particular patient, ideally increasing the likelihood that treatment will occur on a continuum.

But diagnosing an individual is a complicated process–despite the continual revision and updating of the classification processes for diagnosis (DSM-5, ICD-10, etc), there exists room for error or misinterpretation of symptoms. As a clinician with diagnostic capabilities I encounter clients who have received a mental health diagnosis that they allow to define them. Not to mention, each person in the world was created uniquely and it’s impossible to utilize a carbon-copy/tailor-made treatment approach for one person that would be 100% appropriate for another.

From the beginning of my career I’ve enjoyed utilizing Personality Style inventories as a tool for understanding clients (as well as loved ones). Below is an image from New Personality Self-Portrait, Why You Think, Work, Love, and Act the Way You Do by John M. Oldham and Lois B. Morris. This text was used in a graduate course I took years back. The link I’ve included in this paragraph directs readers to a personality inventory that takes a few minutes to complete.

The Personality Style/Personality Disorder Continuum chart illustrates the notion that personality style exists on one end of a spectrum, and a corresponding personality disorder exists on the extreme end of the same spectrum. For example, an individual with a style of Vigilant may be watchful and aware of his or her surroundings; however, hyper-vigilance may indicate disordered functioning, in this case Paranoid Personality Disorder traits.

New Doc 12


Please stay tuned for additional information about each of the personality styles and how each can be used in treatment and to better understand how we function in relationships.


Oldham, J. M., Morris, L. B., & Oldham, J. M. (1995). The new personality self-portrait: Why you think, work, love, and act the way you do. New York: Bantam Books.

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