There is an ongoing discussion regarding the causes of personality disorders (according to the Wikipedia article on personality disorders). Depth psychology emphasizes childhood as the key area, psychotherapy emphasizes adolescence and the identity buildup phase, learning models and behaviorists emphasize that personality disorders are something learned. Globally, they are rather complimentary and support each other well, so that the overall impression (without any detailed knowledge) is that personality disorders develop from a complex interdependency of genetic loading and the environment.
I thought about what (simple) illustration to use for such a complex situation, and perhaps the following might serve well for some aspects: there is a solution of a substance that can crystallize. It does not crystallize however unless crystallization seed is there (e.g. some dust particles). Now I compare the crystallization seed with the genetic loading, and the solved substance with problematic aspects of the environment. The environment has, so to speak, the potential to create personality disorders in a limited number of people, by unloading its problematic aspects unto them. The people that get “struck” by the crystallizing substance are those with some genetic qualities (for example less stress resistance, which would, in a healthy world, be just a harmless side-effect of appreciable qualities like high-degree empathy). In terms of system-theory, the different
kinds of personality disorders seem to me the different self-supporting, self-stabililizing programs that are possible to run on the human brain (within a specific social environment).
The interesting thing is now: to a higher or lesser degree, every (or nearly every) person seems to have a personality disorder. If you don’t yet believe that, go through the
list in the Wikipedia article on personality disorders and find out what symptoms fit for you. At least I found myself in this list … (ICD-10 F60.6) and also friends of mine. Now this does not mean that I or any of my readers needs a therapy … the degree might be far lower than what would need a therapy (note that a society assigns therapy only to those that cannot contribute to the society in a meaningful degree any more … society does not want to help you, it wants you as a tool for its own survival). It does however mean that most people don’t reach their highest personal and social potential because they’re in the grip of their rigid, dysfunctional behavior patterns.
Now it is also clear that healthy social relationships and groups have a curative effect on the personality disorders of their members (at least on mild degrees of those). And I count the relationship to God among the healthy relationships, and a healthy church among the healthy groups (which just means that their curative effect is supposedly a social effect, nothing supernatural). There are persons in my mind who indeed got (nearly) healed by long-term (~25 yrs., in one example) involvement with God and a healthy church!! Which does not mean that every relationship to God or every church is such a place. Most churches seem to be infected themselves by some kind of “group disorder”. Which is not the fault of any single person, but a fixed behavioral pattern that develops in a likewise complex interdependency (in this case, of group attributes and environment) as the personality orders do … .