A new study is playing a key role in the effort to change the way mental health clinicians classify personality disorders.
The study, led by Michigan State University psychologist Christopher Hopwood, calls for a more scientific and practical method of categorizing personality disorders - a proposal that ultimately could improve treatment.
"We're proposing a different way of thinking about personality and personality disorders. There's widespread agreement among personality disorder researchers that the current way to conceptualize personality disorders is not working," said Hopwood.
The study is being cited by the team of experts that currently is developing criteria for the manual used to diagnose personality disorders - the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, slated to come out in 2013.
The study is being considered for inclusion in the DSM-5. The DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is considered the bible of the U.S. mental health industry and is used by insurance companies as the basis for treatment approval and payment.
The current method of classifying personality disorders, as spelled out in the fourth edition of the DSM, or DSM-IV, breaks personality disorders into 10 categories, Hopwood said. That system is flawed, he said, because it does not take into account severity of personality disorders in an efficient manner and often leads to overlapping diagnoses.
"It's just not true that there are 10 types of personalities disorders, and that they're all categorical - that you either have this personality disorder or you don't," Hopwood said. "Scientifically, it's just not true."
The study also will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Personality Disorders.