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Dr. Jerald Kay, a psychiatry professor at Wright State University and chairman of the American Psychiatric Association's college mental health committee, said the assessment tool is considered valid and more rigorous than self-reports of mental illness. He was not involved in the study.
Personality disorders showed up in similar numbers among both students and non-students, including the most common one, obsessive compulsive personality disorder. About 8 percent of young adults in both groups had this illness, which can include an extreme preoccupation with details, rules, orderliness and perfectionism.
Kay said the prevalence of personality disorders was higher than he would expect and questioned whether the condition might be overdiagnosed.
All good students have a touch of "obsessional" personality that helps them work hard to achieve. But that's different from an obsessional disorder that makes people inflexible and controlling and interferes with their lives, he explained.
Obsessive compulsive personality disorder differs from the better known OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, which features repetitive actions such as hand-washing to avoid germs.
OCD is thought to affect about 2 percent of the general population. The study didn't examine OCD separately but grouped it with all anxiety disorders, seen in about 12 percent of college-aged people in the survey.
The overall rate of other disorders was also pretty similar among college students and non-students.
Substance abuse, including drug addiction, alcoholism and other drinking that interferes with school or work, affected nearly one-third of those in both groups.
Slightly more college students than non-students were problem drinkers -- 20 percent versus 17 percent. And slightly more non-students had drug problems -- nearly 7 percent versus 5 percent.
In both groups, about 8 percent had phobias and 7 percent had depression.
Bipolar disorder was slightly more common in non-students, affecting almost 5 percent versus about 3 percent of students.
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