chapter  6
15 Pages

Abnormalities of personality and psychosexual disorders

This is a group of disorders in which the basic personality is noticeably abnormal. There is some disagreement as to whether disorders of the personality can be regarded as mental illnesses as such, since in many instances they are so described only when they appear at the extreme end of a range of behaviour from ‘relatively normal’ at one end to ‘extremely deviant’ at the other. It is difficult, also, to be precise about what is normal (see Chapter 2), since such a decision is based largely on value judgements which vary according to historical time and social setting. There is a tendency for us to judge normality by people who differ markedly from the group to which we ourselves belong. For example, an exceedingly intelligent or an exceedingly dull person is often considered to be abnormal by average standards, although there are many people at both ends of this scale in the community. ‘The average man is a statistical myth, and in so far as we deviate psychologically in one way or another from the notional mean, we all suffer from personality abnormalities. In the great majority of instances, the deviation, whatever it is, is perfectly acceptable and neither the person nor society is any worse off for its existence.’ (Munro and McCulloch, 1969.)

We would emphasise that in this chapter we are dealing with personalities which are in the main very different from what can be accepted as normal by the majority of people. We would also emphasise that, though the cases we shall describe concern only disorders of personality, it must be remembered that, besides having an abnormal personality, it is possible also to suffer from any of the illnesses we have already described.