Personality Disorders- Genetic?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by WSM, Mar 20, 2009.

  1. WSM

    WSM New Member

    I know the conventional wisdom that personality disorders are caused by trauma in the first couple years of life. And that may be true.

    But there's also a substrata of very respected doctors who believe that they are genetic or biological in origin--exacerbated by trauma, but not caused by them.

    For years ausbergers was considered to be caused by 'refrigerator moms', cold and aloof, frightening their children into themselves as a defense. We know that's hogwash now, but how many women suffered years of self doubt and anguishing guilt because of that?

    It's possible that personality disorders are created by brain physical structure or electrical functioning rather than some other mental illnesses by chemical imbalances.

    My ex husband was narcisstic personality disordered, and an alcoholic. He had a non traumatic early childhood (altho his father fell apart after his own mother died when X was about 12 and started beating his wife and kids every weekend). His older sister by 14 years told me once that X didn't smile until after his second birthday.

    This was a baby that had an adoring, mother, grandmother, and old sister in the house and a proud father. The dad didn't start his violent rages for another dozen years (sister knew the exact date). They were so excited with X first smiled. So why wouldn't X smile as a baby when he had loving people trying for two years to coax one out of him? What is biologic?

    The only other person I know for sure who has personality disorder is our difficult child. He did have a traumatic beginning--altho not horribly traumatic, just a few very bad days among mostly calm ones. He also likely has a strong family background in genetically based mental illnesses.

    I think in many cases the mental illness and the personality disorder feed off one another. In such cases does the mental illness produce the personality disorder or the other way around or do they just sort of exist aside and independently of one another?

    difficult child's mother is a bipolar II, sometimes diagnosis'd as schizophrenic, with major chronic psychosis. She can however be helped amazingly with drugs. When she takes her drugs--and she won't--she's as normal as anyone. Except for what seems to be mild personality disorder. She's just plain selfish and unempathetic to others. And never able to take responsibility for herself. But not mean and able to have friends and a social life and work. She's likeable.

    But when my husband was her husband he once cut off the top of his finger; not only would she not take him to the hospital, she wouldn't pick him up afterwards (and she was an ER nurse). Why? Because she had to work the next day. Personality disorder.

    She didn't get the mental illness and psychosis until she was 32, which is really late for the initial presentation of schizophrenia and bipolar. (Her two brothers were the same: initial presentation of schizophrenia at 28 and 32). The finger incident was before she ever got sick with the mental illness. So it seems a mild personality disorder existed before the mental illness.

    I have no conclusions: just random thoughts. I think a lot of people here have a lot of experience with personality disorders and mental illness and the conjunction of the two problems, and wonder if you all had any thoughts or observations on the subject.

    A lot of times lay people know more than the 'experts'.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    They're starting to think they are inherited and NOT due to trauma. Adopted kids with parents in prison are far more apt to do drugs and have anti-social personality problems than kids with parents who follow the rules. And that's even when their biological kids and other adopted kids, who were raised EXACTLY the same, don't have antisocial tendencies. Scary, I know!
    There IS no conflict about whether bipolar and schizophrenia are inherited. THEY ARE. Not everyone at risk gets them, and that is up to discussion as to why, but they are definitely in the genes. Autism is starting to be accepted also as genetic. If you have a child with autism. You have a 1 in 20 chance that your next child will also be on the spectrum.
  3. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    I have always thought it was genetic and possibly environmental. But basically really it is hard to know for sure, much like most Mental Illnesses. Because there is no true test... for some of us it is clearly genetic and for others, who knows?
    here is a great article that breaks it down in simple terms.,9171,1870491-1,00.html

    My psychiatrist says I have a lot of Borderline (BPD) symptoms but not enough to diagnosis which is fine with me!!!
    She feels medication and Therapy do help.

    Both my Father and Brother have Personality Disorders. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Plus my Father is a Socio-Path. Both had horrible childhood.. but obviously environment could be at play.

    I don't think they are untreatable, it is whether or not they want treatment.
    There is hope for all Disorders...

    I have been
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2009
  4. eekysign

    eekysign New Member

    I would absolutely say something genetic as a factor in our situation. My sis is my half-sister. My stepfather's other kids, in birth order:

    1.) Old dude, adopted out to another family as a baby (stepdad had him REALLY young). Contacted us when he was about 30, was fine for a year---then started asking for money, favors, help, etc. Drug problems. We cut off contact again. Secret difficult child, apparently.

    2&3.) Schizo stepbro and Felon stepbro - lived with us off and on, as they bounced from our family to their mom's house, because of their behavior. Schizo and Felon both started GFGing VERY young---I can remember Felon running away from home when he was....8 or 9, maybe. When they were 10 and 12, they'd get expelled from school, steal from my piggy bank, fought ALL the time, and they threw me across a room into the metal frame of my bed. By 13-14, they were both major potheads, failing school, getting in fights, stealing, etc. By 20, Schizo had already started his bounce between jail and the state psychiatric hospital. By 20, Felon already had a heroin problem and was an ex-con. Sadly, Felon's already had a kid, but his baby momma took her away from the situation, down to Florida.(thank god, I think?)

    4.) Sis. Never quite "right" as a baby, never colicky, but ALWAYS unhappy. Didn't like to be touched, hugged, held. Rarely just a normal happy kid. Tantrums started loooong before the "terrible twos" and continued loooong after. Serious anxiety issues. Very violent, even at 3-4 years old. Talked about killing us and going to live with her friends, etc. At 14, she's maybe-hopefully-kinda-fingers-crossed starting to learn how to control it. My worst fear is that she'll become schizophrenic/BiPolar (BP) like her half-bro.

    None of these people shared the same living conditions. Oldest kid was adopted out (which has its own problems). Middle two were typical children of divorce, with serious mental health/drug issues. Youngest I was present for the entire raising of---they didn't do a thing differently with her than they did with me, but she still turned out EXACTLY like her half-bros.

    It's very scary, and sad.
  5. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    32 isn't really late for Mental Illness to be diagnosis'd. She may have actually had signs that no-one saw or wanted to admit that they saw.
    Did she use alcohol or drugs, (self medicate) this will mask the Mental Illness from most.
    I did not officially get diagnosis'd with Mental Illness until in my 30's.
    But I showed signs since I was a little kid. Even being admitted to a psychiatric ward in my teens did not get me a diagnosis!
  6. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I suspect a late diagnosis maybe have something to do with the fact that a person refuses to seek help. My oldest brother has an undiagnosed personality disorder, we only assume that is his diagnosis because of his behavior and symtoms.. but he has never seen a psychiatrist. He is 55. I'm not aware of any trauma in his youth, but then I wouldn't remember.

    My Oldest, whose former psychiatrist feels she has Borderline (BPD), also refuses treatment, so she is 25 and undiagnosed,"officially." But when I read the books and the DSM, she's got all but ONE symptom on the list. Once when she was in a pshosp at 18 or 19, a therapist there told me she was "too young" to be diagnosed as Borderline (BPD). Pffft right. Anyway.. while her dad and I had a very rocky relationship from the time she was born (and before), I wouldn't call that traumatic. The trauma came when she was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at age 9... however, she showed signs of trouble and being "different" from age 3.

    I'm no psychiatrist.. but I think that it's a combination of genetics and environment. Otherwise, kids in the same family would tend have the same issues, right?
  7. WSM

    WSM New Member

    She never did anything but chain smoked. No drugs at all (had her babies without a drop of medication), never drank, never drugged, never. At the time of divorce, after her first psychotic episode, she did do cocaine for about 6 months (boyfriend influenced), but then got baker acted and never went back to it. She was a golden child: nursing school completed in half the time, good grades, friends, clubs, sports--but in moderation, busy but not manic.

    Her one brother is a catatonic schizophrenic; he was always withdrawn since childhood. He's the one who manages his illness the best, always takes his medications, but his whole life is sitting infront of the tv and going to the ALF dining room to eat. But he has a masters in mathematics from a prestigious university.

    Her other brother is a paranoid schizophrenic. He was a golden child too. Great grades, lots of friends, basketball star. Now he spends his life racing between Michigan and Florida, on the run, paranoid, schizoid and refusing all medication. Gets arrested occasionally. Committed once in a while, but homeless and obsessed with a girlfriend who disappeared from his life 20 years ago.

    Her other brother is 'okay', he's fine and works and is very successful in his field, but he's off. He's got a lot of anxiety and obsessive compulsion disorder and will take hours and hours in a shoe store trying to decide what to buy. But is very kind and has never been hospitalized.

    Her half sister is/was an alcoholic. She's very successful in business, but has a hyper nervous disposition.

    Bipolar by itself can be managed well. I have a friend who is completely compliant medically. Once her BiPolar (BP) is controlled she's such a wonderful person there are no comorbid problems like personality disorders. But my heart bleeds for her, it's such a burden to monitor herself all the time, to always adjust her medications, her environment, to be aware of her moods and little signals. She does it tho, she's extremely special.

    So I know they personality disorders and mental illness don't have to go together.

    Does anyone know of a case where someone is personality disordered without mental illness (maybe my X, but he was severely alcoholic. I figure it was a coping mechanism to deal with the PD--or would the PD be because of the severe alcoholism?) Hmmm...
  8. eekysign

    eekysign New Member

    I always figured Felon stepbro was. But his choice of self-medication was drugs, not alcohol.
  9. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    Well Personality Disorders are considered Mental Illnesses.
    If you mean without a Co-morbid condition? I believe so, my brother has addiction. But his Doctor thinks that is it? Who knows though?
  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Seems perfectly logical to me that personality disorders WOULD be genetically based, at least partly. Much of our behavior is based on our brain structure and chemistry. Change one small thing in the structure or chemistry of the brain and you can have wildly different behavior than the person previously had.

    Why WOULDN"T personality disorders be genetically or at least physically based? Based in the physical structure of the brain, I mean.

    Not totally sure I am articulating this correctly, the fibrofog is very heavy today, but it seems far more likely that much mental illness is based in the genetics and brain structure - at least as much as is based in "nurture" and how we treat our children.

    Just in my opinion.
  11. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Personality disorders are a form of mental illness they are just an Axis 2 diagnosis instead of an Axis 1. I am Bipolar 1, mixed states and Borderline PD. I think I had the genetic predisposition to have both things and because of my environment, I developed these disorders.
  12. Stef

    Stef Dazed and Confused

    I've thought about this as well. My father (aka Charlie) was diagnosed as being Paranoid BiPolar (Manic Depressive back in the day), and was committed to a state mental health Institution. This occurred back in the 50's into the early 60's. In addition he had a problem with alcohol which exacerbated everything 10 fold. On my spouse's side, her mother and father both had problems with the bottle. Her father kept it under control during the week, but weekends were pretty full tilt. Neither of her parent's as far as I know was abusive, they just liked to live it up. It was actually pretty typical of their generation in the area they lived in- blue collar City of Chicago Mayor Daley patronage. Most were Korean War vets who loved the VFW Post come Friday. I'm off topic a bit, but, I do think that the disorder is hereditary. I myself growing up had a somewhat short fuse, got into altercations now and then, had a nice mouth on me, and of course I knew everything. But even though I did some marginal things, I never turned on my Mom and called her filthy names as does difficult child. I did care about my grades, and for the most part did respect my elders and those in authority. I'm sure I have some of Charlie in me, but I think my Mom's side won out. She was totaly straight- a teatotaler. The kind who wouldn't want to take so much as an aspirin for a headache. So how did difficult child come to be so much like Charlie? I wish I knew.