A framework for an empirically based classification of personality disorder is proposed that has two components: (a) a definition of personality disorder, and (b) a scheme for describing individual differences in personality disorder traits. It is suggested that the diagnosis process should begin by establishing the presence of personality disorder and then proceed to a description of the personality on a set of trait dimensions. It is argued that a definition of personality disorder should reflect an understanding of the nature of the "harmful dysfunction" implied by a diagnosis of personality disorder. With this approach, personality disorder is defined as the failure to solve life tasks involving the development of integrated representations of self and others, and the capacity for adaptive kinship and societal relationships. The second component of a classification is a system to describe individual differences. It is suggested that these should be based on taxonomies of normal and disordered traits, and that the classification incorporates both higher-order patterns and more specific basic traits. Given that personality appears to be inherited as a large number of genetic dimensions, it is suggested that the primary level for describing individual differences is that of the basic or lower-level traits rather than broader or higher-level traits used in descriptions of normal personality.
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