I am reprinting this here because it is so true, and because it cannot be located elsewhere on the net, at least not via Google…The author was brilliant but, alas, I can find no name for attribution. A BIG Thank you to Anonymous!
Criteria for Staff Personality Disorder
Staff Personality Disorder 601.83
A pervasive pattern of condescension, degradation of others, and controlling behavior beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. Condescending or degrading use of body language, vocal inflection, and behavior.
2. Presentation of two or more markedly different personality styles based entirely on context.
3. Persistent protection of people in positions of power even if such people have done something unethical or illegal.
4. Employment in one of the “helping professions”, or other situations in which a person has or can secure power over others.
5. Rigidity in application of rules and explanations to other people
6. Persistent or stereotyped use of euphemisms, jargon, deceptive language, and double standards in language
7. Persistent use of degradation, ridicule, and violence, either gratuitously or grossly out of proportion to the situation
The essential feature of Staff Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of condescension, degradation of others, and controlling behavior that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts.
Individuals with Staff Personality Disorder display condescending or degrading body language, vocal inflection, and behavior (Criterion 1). They may use a patronizing “contaminated” smile, a sing-song voice, or the forms of language use described in Criterion 6. This behavior would be considered patronizing when directed at the average individual.
Individuals with Staff Personality Disorder present two or more markedly different personality styles based entirely on context (Criterion 2). For instance, while dealing with “clients”, while alone, they may be vicious, punitive, and controlling. When dealing with the general public, they may adopt a saintlike persona. It is not at all uncommon for the antisocial behavior of people with Staff Personality Disorder to go unnoticed, even when that behavior extends to torture or murder.
Individuals with Staff Personality Disorder will persistently protect people in positions of power, even if those people have done something unethical or illegal (Criterion 3). This may consist of putting up a “united front” to clients or to the public. People with this disorder will hide or excuse antisocial behavior in others with the disorder. Hiding may take the form of altering logs and failing to report abuse. Excusing may involve character assassination directed toward victims of mistreatment or abuse, or diminishing their credibility in some other way, while making it seem as if the behavior is the only logical response to certain sorts of people. They will also use these techniques of hiding and making excuses, to justify and rationalize their own behavior.
Individuals with Staff Personality Disorder are often employed in one of the “helping professions”, or other situations in which a person has or can secure power over others (Criterion 4). People with this disorder are disproportionately represented among psychiatric technicians, group home workers, home health care aides, social workers, special education teachers, counselors, nurses (especially psychiatric nurses), direct care staff, and institution staff. People with this disorder may also be grammar-school teachers, prison guards, and other professionals in positions of direct power over others. These positions may be either the cause or the result of the disorder.
Individuals with Staff Personality Disorder are rigid when applying rules and explanations to other people (Criterion 5). This, curiously but characteristically, may not extend to others with this disorder. Individuals with this disorder are likely to use a narrow set of rules to understand the behavior of others, particularly clients. They will see most ordinary behavior as manipulative, attention-seeking, or non-compliant. When confronted with something like violence on the part of clients, they will fail to differentiate between malice, self-defense, and frustration at being trapped. This may result in across-the-board application of punishments such as are described in Criterion 7.
Individuals with Staff Personality Disorder may display persistent or stereotyped use of euphemisms, jargon, deceptive language, and double standards in language (Criterion 6). They euphemistically refer to others as special needs, challenged, or consumers. They prefer jargon to ordinary language, and describe the behavior of others using clinical and psychiatric jargon, often loosely adding such jargon into everyday conversation, e.g. saying that someone they dislike has a Borderline Personality Disorder. They use deceptive language, for instance referring to prisons as hospitals and violence as treatment. They use double standards in language, e.g. referring to themselves as getting bored but to clients as going off task. They may apply certain words in a stereotyped fashion, repeating over and over that others are non-compliant, attention-seeking, manipulative, or playing games, without apparent regard to context or motivation.
Individuals with Staff Personality Disorder display persistent use of degradation, ridicule, and violence, either gratuitously or out of proportion to the situation (Criterion 7). Degradation may take the form of degrading language such as “retard” or “psycho”, denial or pathologization of the existing identity or roles of others (for instance telling someone that thinking he is a writer is a delusion of grandeur), treating people like children, or assigning humiliating tasks. More advanced forms of degradation involve using elaborate methods to thoroughly confuse a person’s sense of reality or self on all levels. Ridicule might include laughing at the aspirations or humiliation of clients, or laughingly dismissing their communication or behavior. Violence includes physical or sexual assault, mechanical restraints, chemical restraints, and solitary confinement. These things may be undertaken gratuitously, on a whim, as a result of boredom or frustration. They may be out of proportion to the situation, such as restraining someone for making eye contact with staff. These things are often justified using the means described in Criterion 3.
Associated Features and Disorders
Individuals with Staff Personality Disorder may have a tendency to take care of people who don’t need taking care of, or imposing their idea of care onto other people regardless of context or other people’s wishes. They may have a tendency to rationalize their own behavior in terms of helping others and be apparently unable to see their victims as fully human. They can be highly manipulative, especially to those they regard as inferior. Staff Personality Disorder may be associated with Stockholm syndrome and complex post-traumatic stress disorder in individuals who have been subjected to abuse by people with the disorder. Thus, a significant minority of people who are in institutional situations may develop features of this disorder or the full-blown disorder. Staff Personality Disorder is sometimes seen in the prodromal stages of developing full-fledged Psychiatry Disorder. Non-disabled children who participate in “Circle of Friends” and other helping-based friendship programs are more likely than other children to develop Staff Personality Disorder by adulthood, as are children who have been raised to be caretakers to disabled siblings or parents. People who go into the “helping professions” or who work in institutions are at high risk of developing Staff Personality Disorder, even if they have shown no signs of it in the past.
Specific Culture, Age, and Gender Features
The pattern of behavior seen in Staff Personality Disorder has been identified in many settings around the world, but is especially common on the top end of unequal power situations. Children imitating adults may transiently show signs that seem to point to Staff Personality Disorder where none is present. In the past, it seemed that Staff Personality Disorder was more prevalent in females, but it is now accepted that due to cultural pressures, it can present differently in males and females.
The prevalence of Staff Personality Disorder is estimated to be about 5% of the general population, about 80% among individuals who work in outpatient settings, about 95% among individuals who work in inpatient settings and other total institutions, and about 20% among inpatients and other people who experience prolonged abuse at the hands of people with Staff Personality Disorder.
While there is considerable variability in the onset of Staff Personality Disorder, there is almost no variability once it becomes entrenched in a person’s identity. The most common pattern is that a person seeks a job in any of a number of “helping professions” and is gradually molded into the behavior patterns that typify Staff Personality Disorder. There is a window of opportunity in acclimation to these behavior patterns, in which a person may still have the insight to quit their job or resist further indoctrination. Once these behaviors become entrenched, they are self-justifying and rarely respond to reason or therapy. This is enhanced by the fact that many people with Staff Personality Disorder spend a lot of time socializing with other people with Staff Personality Disorder. A minority of individuals, when presented with the evidence of the harm they have caused to others with their behavior, truly become cured of Staff Personality Disorder, although literature indicates this requires constant vigilance to avoid falling into their old behavior patterns. Some people with Staff Personality Disorder acquire a disabling condition or another mental disorder and recover after learning what it is like to be subjected to the behavior of people with Staff Personality Disorder, but others will maintain their staff identity even within the inmate role.
Staff Personality Disorder is about five times more common among first-degree biological relatives of those with the disorder than in the general population. There is also an increased familial risk for Psychiatry Disorder.
Staff Personality Disorder often co-occurs with Psychiatry Disorder, and when criteria for both are met, both should be diagnosed. In instances where it is related to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder or other trauma-related disorders, it should be diagnosed in addition to those disorders with a notation that they are connected.
Other Personality Disorders may be confused with Staff Personality Disorder because they have certain features in common. It is, therefore, important to distinguish among these disorders based on differences in their characteristic features. However, if an individual has personality features that meet criteria for one or more Personality Disorders in addition to Staff Personality Disorder, all can be diagnosed. Although Histrionic Personality Disorder can also be characterized by manipulative behavior, Staff Personality Disorder is distinguished by condescension. Paranoid ideas or illusions may be present in both Staff Personality Disorder and Schizotypal Personality Disorder, but in Staff Personality Disorder these ideas are limited to concerns about the behavior of those under the person’s control (often inmates). Although Paranoid Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder may also be characterized by an angry reaction to minor stimuli, the reactions in Staff Personality Disorder have to do with specific situations related to the staff role and distinguish these disorders from Staff Personality Disorder. Although Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Staff Personality Disorder are all characterized by manipulative behavior, individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder are manipulative to gain profit, power, or some other material gratification, the goal in Borderline Personality Disorder is directed more toward gaining the concern of caretakers, and the goal in Staff Personality Disorder is to maintain control over a specific person or group of people. Also, while individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder rarely show remorse for their antisocial behavior, individuals with Staff Personality Disorder make heavy use of specific rationalizations to justify their behavior to their conscience. However, some people with Antisocial Personality Disorder may have co-morbid Staff Personality Disorder and both should be diagnosed in that case. Personality Disorder can further be distinguished from other personality disorders by the typical pattern of protecting others with the disorder and persistent use of euphemisms and jargon to describe one’s actions.
Staff Personality Disorder must be distinguished from Personality Change Due to a General Institutionalized Condition, in which traits emerge solely in the institutional environment due to the direct effects of people with Staff Personality Disorder on an inmate’s behavior.
It also must be distinguished from Factitious Staff Syndrome, in which a person without Staff Personality Disorder masquerades as a person with Staff Personality Disorder in order to assume the staff role and effect change for the better for those under the power of people with Staff Personality Disorder. Factitious Staff Syndrome does not qualify as a mental disorder, but individuals practising it unwarily may develop Staff Personality Disorder.
5 thoughts on “Staff Personality Disorder”
Hi Marie, wow! I just realized that you did something here that only adds to the brilliance of these “diagnostic criteria”! You shortened them appropriately to SPD, which is terrific. I think I will begin referring to SPD when dealing with or talking about the behavior of such individuals, should it ever be my misfortune to be under their control or even in their presence. This spoof was so amazingly spot-on that I no longer believe it is and only is intended as a spoof of the DSM, directed at belligerent or desparaging staff. Indeed, only someone intimately connected to such people, either as an inmate or much less probable, as an observant staff member could have invented those trenchant criteria. SPD, indeed! Brilliant!
Yes. I am not sure just why these and other (apparently facetious but with an obvious concern that is terribly serious) diagnostic criteria were removed from the site I bookmarked, but I still think they are fantastic. I could only post this one because I saved it off line. I wish I had thought to save others but I was not worried at the time that such brilliant writing and thinking would disappear. Wonder why…! Hope it is not offensive to the author that I did so, but I would definitely give credit if I knew she or he wanted it! Thank you!
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Hi Phoebe, I possibly saw this first via the closed FB group of Recovery In The Bin? If you are still unsure of the author credits, I could check, if that would be helpful…
Hi Marie, this disorder is “tongue in cheek” — meant to be a joke at least in part.
Wow, a real eye opener. I defiy saw some with SPD in Vermont when visiting you at the ‘retreat’. I have worked with some here too and a psychotherapist I lived with in Brussels definitely suffered from that. I think she displayed symptoms of multiple personalities disorder but what can I tell you…I am happy to be leari all of this as I journey on in my psychotherapy mission. Thanks so much for sharing Phoebe
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