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Salud mental

versión impresa ISSN 0185-3325


BENITEZ CAMACHO, Erika et al. The levels of psychological functioning of personality and the mechanisms of defense. Salud Ment [online]. 2010, vol.33, n.6, pp.517-526. ISSN 0185-3325.

Otto Kernberg states three types of personality organizations, also named psychological functional levels. They reflect the patient's predominant psychological characteristics: identity integration grade, defense mechanisms, and reality test. In mental disorders, the predominant defensive influences significantly in the severity and evolution of the suffering. Objectives The objective of the actual study was to determine the usage of defense mechanisms by patients with some mental disorder, grouping them according to personality organization levels or psychological functioning and the DSM-IV-TR Axis II diagnostic. Sample The sample included two groups: a) 1 02 hospitalized patients in the Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría, 20 males and 82 females. b) A control group formed by 125 individuals, 48 males and 77 females; in all cases, they lived in Distrito Federal or Estado de México. Method The sample of this study was evaluated with the Defensive Questionnaire (DSQ-40) and the Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire (PDQ-4 + ); both instruments were applied as soon as patients were admitted to the hospital. The concepts of borderline psychological functioning and borderline personality disorder make reference to: The levels of personality organization or borderline psychological functioning characterized by an identity integration failure named identity diffusion, habitually reality judgment conserving and low level defenses supported on the splitting. b) The patients that were diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in agreement with the DSM-IV-TR. According to the personality organization, the psychotic disorders were grouped in the psychotic functioning level; the rest of the patients that suffered some anxiety or mood disorders were included in the borderline functioning level when they had also a diagnosis of borderline, narcissistic, antisocial, paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, avoidant, dependent or histrionic personality disorder; in the neurotic functioning level those patients without personality disorder. The members of the control group were included in different academic level, labor and social scopes during the same period. Results The patients with a low level of personality organization (psychotic or borderline personality organization) used predominantly the immature or primitive defense mechanisms; patients with a high level of personality organization (neurotic level of psychological functioning) and members of the control group used predominantly mature or advanced defense mechanisms. Derived from the factorial analysis, three levels of defensive were determined: mature/advanced, neurotic and immature/primitive. In the mature/advanced defensive, the members of the control group were those that scored higher, followed by the psychotic patients and borderline. The scores of the neurotic defensive were higher in the borderline and psychotic groups than the control group. In the immature/primitive defensive, the borderline patients had higher scores than the psychotic and control group. The patients that were diagnosed through the PDQ-4+ with borderline personality disorder in agreement with the DSM-IV-TR had lower scores in the mature/advance defensive and higher than the control group in neurotic and immature/primitive defensive . The characteristics of personality of clusters A and B correlated positively with the following defensive s: immature/ primitive and neurotic and negatively with the mature/advanced defensive . The relation between the defensive s and the characteristics of personality of cluster C was negative in the defensive mature/advanced and positive in the neurotic and immature/ primitive. Conclusions: Through these findings a hierarchy between the levels of psychological functioning can be established, so that the lower the level of psychological functioning (borderline or psychotic), the higher is the use of immature mechanisms of defense and vice versa. The level of high psychological functioning (neurotic) used mature mechanisms of defense mainly; the borderline and psychotic levels of psychological functioning had major use of immature defenses, such as projection and autistic fantasy.

Palabras llave : Personality disorders; levels of personality organization; mechanisms of defense; borderline personality disorder; splitting.

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