Walden University Personality Disorders Discussion

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Discussion: Personality Disorders

Personality disorders can arise through trauma, and they often carry added stigma. In this Discussion, you analyze a case study focused on a personality disorder while also reflecting on how power, privilege, and stigma affect such diagnoses.

To prepare: Review the case provided by your instructor for this week’s Discussion and consider your differential diagnostic process for them. Be sure to consider any past diagnoses and what influence those might have on their current diagnosis and needs. Finally, return to the Week 1 resources on stigma and reflect on stigma related to personality disorders.

By Day 4

Post a 300- to 500-word response in which you address the following:

  • Provide the full DSM-5 diagnosis. Remember, a full diagnosis should include the name of the disorder, ICD-10-CM code, specifiers, severity, and the Z codes (other conditions that may need clinical attention). Keep in mind a diagnosis covers the most recent 12 months.
  • Explain the diagnosis by matching the symptoms identified in the case to the specific criteria for the diagnosis.
  • Support your decision by identifying the symptoms which meet specific criteria for each diagnosis.
  • Identify any close differentials and why they were eliminated. Concisely support your decisions with the case materials and readings.
  • Explain how diagnosing a client with a personality disorder may affect their treatment.
  • Analyze how power and privilege may influence who is labeled with a personality disorder and which types of personality disorders.
  • Identify how trauma affects the case, either precipitating the diagnosis and/or resulting from related symptoms or treatment of diagnosis.


Intake Date: August 2019

IDENTIFYING/DEMOGRAPHIC DATA: Chuck (31) and Helen (28) are a married Caucasian couple who live with their sons, Mark (10) and Louis (8), in a two-bedroom condominium in a middle-class neighborhood. Chuck is an Afghan War veteran and employed as a human resources assistant for the military and Helen is a special education teacher in a local elementary school. Chuck is physically fit, but an injury he sustained in combat sometimes limits his ability to use his left hand. Helen is in good physical condition and has recently found out that she is pregnant with their third child.

CHIEF COMPLAINT/PRESENTING PROBLEM: Chuck stated that he came for services only because his wife had threatened to leave him if he did not get help. Helen was particularly concerned about his drinking and lack of involvement in his sons’ lives. She told him his drinking had gotten out of control and was making him mean and distant. Chuck’s expressed fear of losing his job and his family if he did not get help.

HISTORY OF PRESENT ILLNESS: Chuck said that since his return to civilian life 10 months ago he had experienced difficulty sleeping, heart palpitations, and moodiness. He described being proud to join the army and deployed and described himself as upbeat and happy prior to his deployments. He felt that he had to “change” to stay alive there. Chuck works in an office with civilians and military personnel and mostly gets along with people in the office. Chuck tended to keep to himself and said he sometimes felt pressured to be more communicative and social. He is very worried that Helen would leave him. He said he had never seen her so angry before and saw she was at her limit with him and his behaviors. Chuck said he thinks he is “going crazy”. He expressed concern that he would never feel “normal” again and said that when he drank alcohol, his symptoms and the intensity of his emotions eased. He talked about always feeling “ready to go.” He said he was exhausted from being always alert and looking for potential problems around him, always feeling on edge and every sound seemed to startle him when he was not drinking. Chuck stated he often thinks about what happened “over there” but tries to push it out of his mind. The night is the worst time for Chuck, as he has terrible recurring nightmares of one particular event. He said he wakes up shaking and sweating most nights. He then said drinking was the one thing that seemed to give him a little relief.

PAST PSYCHIATRIC HISTORY: Chuck admits to cycles of hyperarousal and avoidance, including his lack of sleep and irritability and the isolation.

SUBSTANCE USE HISTORY: As teenagers, Chuck and Helen used marijuana and drank. Neither uses marijuana now but they still drink. Helen drinks socially and has one or two drinks over the weekend. Chuck reported he has four to five drinks in the evenings during the week and eight to ten drinks on Saturdays and Sundays. Chuck admitted to drinking heavily nearly every day. Chuck spends his evenings on the couch drinking beer and watching TV or playing video games.

PAST MEDICAL HISTORY: Chuck had previously visited his primary care physician, Dr. Zoe, where he was given a prescription of Paxil to help reduce his symptoms of anxiety and depression. Dr. Zoe recommended that he get ongoing treatment.

FAMILY HISTORY INCLUDING MEDICAL AND PSYCHIATRIC: Chuck’s parents are deceased, and he has a sister who lives outside London. He and his sister are not very close but do talk twice a year. Helen is an only child, and her mother lives in the area but offers little support. Her mother never approved of Helen marrying Chuck and thinks Helen needs to deal with their problems on her own.

CURRENT FAMILY ISSUES AND DYNAMICS: There is no criminal history reported. The couple has some friends, but due to Chuck’s recent behaviors, they have slowly isolated themselves. Chuck stated he and his wife had been fighting a lot and that he drank to take the edge off and to help him sleep, saying, “Nights are the hardest.” Chuck admits he is not engaged with his sons at all and he keeps to himself when he is at home. He gave some examples of having a “hair-trigger temper” with his sons, especially if they surprised him inadvertently.

With Chuck’s permission, a collateral contact was made by phone with Helen to elicit her concerns and perspective. Helen talked about wanting to be able to communicate with Chuck without feeling that she was “nagging him” or fearful that she was making him withdraw and that she would “trigger his anger.” She said that she avoided asking him things or talking to him for fear it would “set him off” and make him retreat to the basement on his own. As it stood, she did not think she could talk with Chuck about her concerns. She told him she missed socializing with friends and having family outings and felt isolated during their confrontation. She reported that during the fight it came out that Chuck told her that just keeping his intrusive thoughts at bay took all the energy he could muster. Seeing friends and making small talk was not something he felt he could do right now. Helen admitted that she did not know that socializing affected him that way nor that loud noises, open spaces, and green lights triggered intrusive memories

MENTAL STATUS EXAM: Chuck was well-groomed but appeared somewhat guarded and anxious. He was coherent and articulate. Speech was at a normal rate, although the pace was noted to accelerate when he approached or discussed disturbing content. He denied depression but admitted anxiety and hyperarousal in situations, such as when strangers stand close to him in check-out lines. His affect was somewhat constricted but appropriate to content. His thought process was coherent and linear. He denied all suicidal and homicidal ideations but admitted that if startled “not much thought happens” between the event and his aggression responses. He had no psychotic symptoms, delusions, or hallucinations. He had reasonable insight, was well oriented, and seemed to have average intelligence.


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