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Book Forum: Personality Disorders   |    
Personality Disorders in Modern Life
GIOVANNI B. CASSANO, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2001;158:834-834. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.158.5.834
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By Theodore Millon and Roger Davis. New York, John Wiley & Sons, 2000, 581 pp., $95.55.

Drawn from Millon’s classic text in the field, Disorders of Personality—DSM-IV and Beyond(1), this outstanding volume fills the need for a comprehensive volume on personality and personality disorders "intended for advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students."

The text is woven around two leading concepts. First, personality is an intrinsic totality of interacting domains. Second, the clinical presentation and the treatment of mental disorders are deeply intertwined with the understanding of personality as "a picture that reflects the functioning of the whole person." As Millon states, "Personalities are like impressionistic paintings. At a distance, each person is ‘all of a piece’; up close, each is a bewildering complexity of moods, cognitions, and motives."

Written in a most appealing style and in a language easily understandable for students early in their academic career, this volume offers to the reader not only an exhaustive review of the major models of personality but also an integrated view of personality by highlighting the continuity between normality and pathology as well as between axis II disorders and axis I disorders such as depression and anxiety.

The first three chapters provide the basic concepts on personality and personality disorders. The major approaches to the field (psychodynamic, cognitive, interpersonal, and biological) are broadly reviewed, along with the process of assessment and therapy of personality disorders. The clinical chapters are devoted to the accurate description of the various personality disorders. Each description begins with an illustrative case example that is discussed in terms of DSM-IV criteria. Then, unlike most books in psychopathology, each chapter provides a section on the comparison and contrast between normal and pathological variants of each personality. Next, personality patterns are thoroughly discussed according to the psychodynamic, cognitive, and interpersonal perspectives, often with references back to the cases. The overall result is a comprehensive and entertaining description of each personality disorder that "brings the rather dry diagnostic criteria [and the complex psychological theories] to life for the student and provides a concrete anchoring point to which student and instructor can refer again and again as the discussion of the personality moves forward."

In addition, the text focuses on the continuity between the personality pathology of axis II and the axis I disorders. As the authors state in the preface,

While some sources present only comorbidity statistics for axis II and axis I, our contention is that the next generation of clinical scientists will be best prepared if it is understood why certain personalities experience the disorder they do.

Finally, the last section of clinical chapters is devoted to a short but comprehensive overview of the psychotherapy of personality disorders.

Although it has been written for undergraduate and beginning graduate students, I recommend this volume to all mental health professionals interested in having a clear, concise, and up-to-date idea of personality disorders. Overall, Personality Disorders in Modern Life is a superb work, an orienting compendium for students and instructors, who "will find the text well-organized and easy to teach."

Millon T: Disorders of Personality—DSM-IV and Beyond, 2nd ed. New York, John Wiley & Sons, 1995
 
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References

Millon T: Disorders of Personality—DSM-IV and Beyond, 2nd ed. New York, John Wiley & Sons, 1995
 
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