U.S. Poll Measures Personality Ailments; 15 Percent of Adults Seen Suffering

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Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

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. …