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Assessment of personality 

Assessment of personality
Chapter:
Assessment of personality
Author(s):

C. Robert Cloninger

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199696758.003.0011
Page of

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date: 25 August 2019

The assessment of personality provides the context needed to understand someone as a whole person with particular goals and values that they pursue with a unique emotional style. A person's way of adapting to life experience can tell an experienced clinician much about his level of well-being and his vulnerability to various forms of psychopathology. Knowing a person's personality well can allow a psychiatrist to predict what other mental and physical disorders are likely to occur in the same person or in the same family. For example, individuals with antisocial personality are more likely to have substance abuse and less likely to have Parkinson's disease than others. On the other hand, if you learn someone has substance abuse, then you can reasonably suspect that they may be impulsive or novelty seeking. Recognition of the many associations between personality and psychopathology can greatly enhance clinical assessment and differential diagnosis in general. Understanding personality also helps in treatment planning because people differ markedly in the types of treatments to which they respond and with which they will comply. For example, personality traits predict much of the variability in response to antidepressants, whereas the symptoms of depression or other psychopathology do not. Personality develops over time in response to a changing internal and external environment. As a result, the longitudinal course of a person's development of personality and psychopathology is a key element in the clinical assessment of personality. Specifically, it is highly informative to know what a patient's personality was like as a child when assessing him in the presence of additional psycho-pathology, like a depression or anxiety state that modifies his emotions, thoughts, and behaviour. However, personality traits are not fixed and completely stable. Rather, each of us has a range of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours at any given point in time. As a result, our personality traits frequently vary within that range and occasionally change by moving beyond the previous range in response to particular internal and external events. Understanding the course of a person's development during his life is what allows the psychiatrist to understand him as a unique person.

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