It’s always nerve-wracking picking up a book that’s clouded in controversy when you’re usually outspoken. Especially as a non-professional who has no lived experience when it comes to the subject matter (personality disorder diagnoses) but I’d be a bit of a wuss if I didn’t share my views – for what they’re worth…

Although I’m not quite sure where to start. Other than saying I am more opposed to the ‘personality disorder’ diagnosis for anyone who is experiencing distress and trauma than I was before. However, this book has left me with more questions than answers. Maybe I wasn’t the target audience?

I feel guilty for being me after reading this book. Lord knows how somebody with a personality disorder diagnosis feels.

I can see moments where I think – yes! Nice one Professor Tyrer. For example, the chapter on BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) where the author suggests that it shouldn’t be described as a PD at all. But given this is one of the most talked about diagnoses, and given the stigma that definitely surrounds it (I’ve heard people talk of it as the ‘dustbin’ diagnosis) it’s a shame that it doesn’t come up until over half way through the book.

So, you read half the book, if you can get that far, and you hear talk of people having ‘control’ of their behaviour if they have a PD diagnosis, how they are lucky in that it’s not like a ‘mental illness’ where you don’t have as much control, and how people with PD have a negative impact on society, and of course you’re going to assume that all your distress is all your own fault.

However, perhaps the message is quite simple. There are some not very pleasant people out there. And there are people who struggle and experience distress. Why are they put together in this shared category when they couldn’t be more different?

In the book, there’s talk about anxious and obsessional type personality disorders/traits. Even without insight (which the book suggests those with PD are lacking) this does not necessarily make somebody a bad or harmful person. But you can surely experience these traits severely, in which case do you have an ‘extreme’ or ‘severe’ type of PD? And if so, take a look at the author’s example of a severe PD – not a very nice person by all accounts. So how can you compare?

It may be that I am just not experienced enough or knowledgeable enough to really understand the argument, but it just feels like the book is creating a huge divide between, perhaps, those who do have insight and have periods of relative wellness, and those who don’t have insight and who face persistent / chronic challenges in their lives? Mental illness vs PD? It feels so very wrong.

Maybe the divide is more for the benefit of professionals? The individuals whose symptoms may be more difficult or challenging to treat end up in the PD category? If this is the case, it seems incredibly unfair to the individual – as its less about them as a human being and more about types or levels of treatment. I just don’t see how so many vulnerable people are thrown into the ‘difficult’ category with ‘dangerous’ people.

If personality is such a personal thing, maybe we need to treat people with personality ‘difficulties’ as individuals?

A Series Of Unfortunate Stereotypes, my book about mental health stereotypes and self-stigma, published by charitable mental health publisher Trigger Press, is available now.




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