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Friends Meetings and Personality Disorders - Friends Journal

Friends Meetings and Personality Disorders

People who have been hurt in a certain kind of way develop similar ways of coping with or approaching the world. They have enough similar and common sets of behaviors to be described as having a personality disorder. These sets of behaviors can be thought of as a constellation of personality traits. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes nine such personality clusters. Many people react with discomfort (as did I during graduate school while becoming a psychotherapist) to this sort of...

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Lynn Fitz-Hugh is a lifelong Friend, a therapist of 20 years, a mother, and a climate activist. She is a member of Eastside Meeting in Bellevue, Wash. She blogs at

Posted in: May 2014

2 Responses to Friends Meetings and Personality Disorders

  1. Eric Evans May 12, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    City & State
    Excellent article, Lynn. Thank you so much for this piece – I can imagine it will be very helpful for meetings and Friends serving on Ministry & Counsel/Pastoral Care Committees everywhere.

    I am delighted to see that you have shared illustrations from both small and large meetings, and lifted up the necessity for appropriate and clear boundaries in our meetings.

    A very helpful resource for Friends!

  2. Paul Sheldon May 29, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    City & State
    Media, PA
    I appreciate Friend Lynn’s advices for Friends and Friends Meetings when engaging with those with mental health issues, particularly personality disorders. Much good can come of a better understanding of these conditions, and of learning what is likely possible and what is likely not possible.

    However there was one part of Lynn’s writing that I found not helpful, and in fact might be harmful to others in some instances. She wrote “People who have been diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder (BPD) have had extremely toxic childhoods. Generally, they have been abused, either sexually, physically, or emotionally…”

    The current consensus is that borderline personality disorder relates to some sort of interaction between genetic and environmental conditions. But to so readily assign blame to the family and those who love the individual simply adds to the pain of blameless family members who have already suffered in dealing with the highly disruptive behavior that is characteristic of personality disorder. Testimony of those with personality disorders needs to be considered in the context of the nature of the disorder, and unreliable testimony is one of its characteristics. As pointed out elsewhere in this issue of Friends Journal, dealing with the mental illness of a family member can disrupt the well-being of an entire family, and we should not add to the challenges they face without clearly established evidence.

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