Bill Eddy

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Approximately 10% of adults worldwide have a personality disorder, according to the diagnostic manual of mental health professionals currently known as the DSM-5-TR. Unlike other mental health diagnoses, personality disorders are primarily interpersonal disorders leading to frequent conflicts with those around the person due to enduring patterns of rigid behavior, exaggerated interpretation of events, difficulty managing emotions, and impulse control problems. Yet dispute resolution professionals and other professionals generally have little knowledge of personality disorders and the role they play in their work, especially with “difficult” clients or “high conflict” disputes. Indications suggest personality disorders are increasing in family disputes, workplace conflicts, and legal disputes, leading to a great deal of stress and frustration for professionals and society-wide impacts. This article posits that it is time for all professionals to understand personality disorders, talk openly about them without judgment, and learn how to work more effectively with them. The author proposes widespread education similar to the expanded cultural awareness of the past fifty years about alcoholism (approximately 7% of the adult population), which was previously considered a taboo subject for discussion as the unaddressed “elephant in the room.” Ways to assist those with personality disorders and those in conflicts with them are briefly addressed, with an emphasis on out-of-court dispute resolution, as well as efforts to avoid stigmatizing or discriminating against those with these disorders in providing professional services.