Personality Disorder Traits: Perceptions of Likability, Impairment, and Ability to Change as Correlates and Moderators of Desired Level

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Historical conceptualizations have framed personality disorders (PDs) as unchanging and ego-syntonic. However, recent evidence suggests that individuals with PD traits may have some insight into their personality and consider those traits to be somewhat ego-dystonic. To replicate and extend previous findings, participants (N = 328) self-reported their PD trait levels, likability of those traits, impairment, capability for change, and desired trait levels. The results demonstrated that individuals with PD traits tolerate but still dislike those traits, believe that they cause them problems, and are interested in reducing them. Level of PD trait did not relate to perception of capability for change. Likability and impairment moderated most of the relations between actual PD trait and desired level. That is, there was a stronger correlation between actual and desired levels among individuals who liked the trait more; there was also greater agreement between actual and desired levels among individuals who found the traits less impairing. For 2 of the traits—Negative Affectivity and Detachment—individuals who felt more capable of changing these traits demonstrated greater agreement between their actual and desired levels. These data suggest that individuals with PD traits do not generally see them as particularly likable and see them as impairing; such impressions may have important implications for where individuals ultimately prefer to reside on these PD trait domains.

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