Personality disorders cause emotional reactions in staff

Apr 10, 2008

A study published today in the open access journal BMC Psychiatry suggests that the way in which professional care workers respond emotionally to substance abuse patients with personality disorders depends on the type of disorder.

Birgitte Thylstrup and Morten Hesse of Aarhus University, Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research, in Copenhagen, Denmark, explain that while previous research has shown that antisocial and aggressive behavior in patients can affect how professionals manage them, no previous studies have investigated the distinction between the full range of different personality disorders and their effects on professional health care workers.

The idea that the emotional reactions of a professional to his or her patient may play an important part in psychotherapeutic treatment dates back to the work of Sigmund Freud. He coined the term ‘countertransferance’ to describe the observation that a patient’s influence on the analyst’s unconscious feelings may interfere with the patient’s treatment.

In order to test whether this hypothesis holds for the interaction between health professionals and substance abuse patients, the researchers asked staff members to complete an inventory of emotional reactions to their patients. Concomitantly, the patients, most commonly men in their thirties, were asked to complete a personality disorder questionnaire.

The researchers then sought to determine if there were any correlations between the emotional reactions reported by staff and the type of personality disorder in the patient.

Not unexpectedly, they found that patients with features of antisocial personality disorder induced feelings of distance in their carers. Interestingly, feelings of helpfulness were induced by those with features of avoidant personality disorder.

“The patient with antisocial personality disorder tends to be manipulative and aggressive. It is natural for staff members to react to such behavior with some negative reactions, and this is not a sign of unprofessional conduct”, says Morten Hesse. “On the other hand, the patient with avoidant personality disorder is often cautious and appears vulnerable and needy. In that context, many clinicians feel that they can be useful to the patient, and feel secure in their role as treatment providers.”

The researchers point out that by using self-reporting, rather than disorders assessed by the staff, they have, for the first time, avoided the problem of a confounding diagnosis. "Staff reactions should be considered in supervision of staff, and in treatment models for substance abuse patients with personality disorders," the researchers conclude.

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: Research on guilt-prone individuals has implications for workplace

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Testing the "safety alarm 2.0"

Nov 06, 2014

If scientists get their way, we will soon be able to measure grandma's acceleration. If she has a fall, that is.

New ZEBRA bracelet strengthens computer security

Sep 22, 2014

In a big step for securing critical information systems, such as medical records in clinical settings, Dartmouth College researchers have created a new approach to computer security that authenticates users ...

New technologies are improving the lives of seniors

Aug 14, 2014

If Betty Lewis falls at the Edgemere senior living community, a pendant she wears around her neck will alert the staff. The device picks up the motion of the fall and notifies staff members at the North Dallas facility so ...

Scientists reveal how deadly Ebola virus assembles

Aug 15, 2013

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered the molecular mechanism by which the deadly Ebola virus assembles, providing potential new drug targets. Surprisingly, the study showed ...

Recommended for you

Mindfulness helps teens cope with stress, anxiety

7 hours ago

As the morning school bell rings and students rush through crowded corridors, teenagers in one Portland classroom settle onto mats and meditation pillows. They fall silent after the teacher taps a Tibetan ...

Study links suicide risk with insomnia, alcohol use

10 hours ago

A new study is the first to show that insomnia symptoms mediate the relationship between alcohol use and suicide risk, and that this mediation is moderated by gender. The study suggests that the targeted ...

Echolocation acts as substitute sense for blind people

16 hours ago

Recent research carried out by scientists at Heriot-Watt University has demonstrated that human echolocation operates as a viable 'sense', working in tandem with other senses to deliver information to people with visual impairment.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.