Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Emotional and Interpersonal Dyslexia: Thoughts toward a Neurological Theory of Personality Disorders

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Emotional and Interpersonal Dyslexia: Thoughts toward a Neurological Theory of Personality Disorders

Article excerpt

Despite the overwhelming number of client cases that involve personality disorders, therapeutic approaches have been relatively ineffective in producing lasting positive changes and theory development is at a relative standstill. This article attempts to combine the latest in neuroscience with a practice approach that has been effective in the field. Neurological research shows significant brain deficiency in structure and function particularly related to the limbic system of persons with personality disorders (PD) when compared to normal controls. The approach highlights helping clients and their families to view PD symptoms as emotional and interpersonal dyslexia involving possible brain-related deficiency impacting the ability to learn from past adverse emotional and interpersonal consequences. The approach promotes a strengthbased perspective that capitalizes on client strengths while simultaneously requiring clients with PD to distrust certain negative thinking and emotions. Through repetition and neuroplasticity authors theorize that like academic dyslexia, people with PD can develop new neuropathways that allow improved emotional and interpersonal functioning. Scriptural support is provided to show that the treatment fits biblical direction to hold every thought captive to the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:10) and to be transformed by the renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:2).

Mental health therapists constantly face difficult and challenging clients in the context of individual, couple and group psychotherapy. Certain clients consistently repeat the same mistakes making the standard focus of therapy crisis resolution. Often clinicians will diagnose a personality disorder and prepare for an arduous therapeutic encounter. About 10 to 20 percent of the general population have personality disorders (Lenzenweger, Lane, Loranger, & Kessler, 2007; Sadock & Sadock, 2007). However, personality disorders (henceforth PD) make up approximately 50% of clinical cases, and are frequently comorbid with other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, impulse-control disordrers, and substance-abuse disorders (Sadock & Sadock, 2007; Zimmerman, Rothschild, & Chelminski, 2005) . If we include the mild cases that go undetected, and include

Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Frederick A. DiBlasio, Ph.D., School of Social Work, University of Maryland, 525 W. Redwood St., Baltimore, MD 21201; FDIBLASIO@ssw.umaryland.edu people affected by the adverse behavior of family members with PD, such as the individual therapy of a depressed wife of a narcissistic husband, or the anxiety and security issues of an adult-child of a borderline parent, it is likely that the vast majority of clinical cases have connections to PD symptoms.

The more severe cases present symptoms such as on-going outbursts of rage, physical aggression, child abuse, suicide attempts, and a plethora of interpersonal crises, making the diagnosis readily obvious. However, when a personality disorder is mild to moderate, the diagnosis can often escape even the most seasoned clinician. For example, in marital therapy a spouse's symptoms may actually be more related to narcissistic and borderline characteristics than it is to the breakdown of communication and relationship.

When encountering PD in an interpersonal therapy, the focal-point is often on the symptoms that have brought excruciating hurt to family members. Wounds grow deeper as people with PD add insult to injury because they are not completely and consistently remorseful or culpable to the harm they have caused. In some cases, people with personality disorders do not stop hurtful and offensive behaviors.

Further complicating the confusing landscape is that a person can fully believe in and consider themselves dedicated Christians yet continue to hurt others through reprehensible negative behaviors. Such behaviors are in direct and constant opposition of biblical tenants that Christian believers hold to be true. …

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