What is a Personality Disorder?
The term Personality Disorder is a deeply ingrained and maladaptive pattern of behaviour of a specific kind, typically apparent by the time of adolescence, causing long-term difficulties in personal relationships or in functioning in society.
People with a Personality disorder differ significantly from an average person, in terms of how they think, perceive, feel or relate to others.
If you have a Personality Disorder, you may find that your beliefs and attitudes are different from most other peoples. Other people may find it difficult to spent time with you due to your behaviour. This can make you feel very hurt and insecure; you may end up avoiding the company of other.
What Causes a Personality Disorder?
Personality disorders are incredibly complex mental health conditions and the cause is still not fully known. It is thought that they relate to incidents or traumas in childhood such as sexual or physical abuse, accidents, sudden bereavement or difficulties in parenting including neglect. 80% of people diagnosed with a personality disorder have had a childhood trauma.
Some of our personalities are inherited, some people are born with different temperaments for example, babies vary in how sociable they are, in the intensity of their reactions, and in the length of their attention span. Some experts believe that inheritance may play a relatively big part in the development of personality disorders.
People with personality disorders often experience other mental health problems, especially depression and substance abuse.
Types of Personality Disorders and Symptoms
There are 10 different disorders psychiatrics have grouped them into 3 clusters, these are:
Cluster A - Features odd or eccentric behaviour
Paranoid Personality Disorder - you may:
be very distant and detached
difficulty forming relationships
find it difficult to trust other people
watch others closely looking for signs of betrayal
Schizoid Personality Disorder - you may:
cold, distant and reclusive
caught up in your own thoughts
be uninterested in forming relationships even with family members
not get any pleasure from life
have no sex drive
Schizotypal Personality Disorder - (symptoms are very similar to schizoid personality disorder) you may:
believe you have special powers
feel anxious with people who don't share your beliefs
anxious and paranoid in social situations
Cluster B - includes dramatic emotional or erratic behaviour
Borderline Personality Disorder - you may:
moody and see things in black and white
be very needy as an adult and stay in a relationship because you don't want to be alone.
feel empty , angry and abandoned
suffer from self harm and may have suicidal thoughts
have brief psychotic episodes, hearing voices or seeing things that others don't
Antisocial Personality Disorder- you may:
disregard the feelings, property and authority of others
show violent and aggressive behaviour
show lack of remorse
behave in a way that is unpleasant for others and sometimes illegal
have a criminal record
put your own needs first and often hurt people
very easily bored
be irritated very easily and get into fights
Narcissistic Personality Disorder - you may:
show a very high opinion of yourself
oversensitive to criticism
resent other peoples success
put your own needs above others
take advantage of other people
feel upset if others ignore you
Histrionic Personality Disorder - you may be:
obsessive about your appearance
feel you have to make people happy
enjoy being the life and soul of the party
gain a reputation for being dramatic and over the top
Cluster C - represents anxiety or fearful behaviour
Dependant Personality Disorder - you may be:
unable to make decisions
be afraid to look after yourself
depend on other people's opinions and judgments
have low confidence and low self esteem
see yourself not as capable as others
Avoidance Personality Disorder - you may be:
avoid forming relationships
worry constantly about being rejected
avoid social situations where you have to talk to others
lonely and isolated
unable to try new activities through fear of embarrassing yourself
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder - you may be:
very ridged in your approach to things
anxious and indecisive
like to have everything in order and be in control
have very high standards of yourself and others
hang on to items that have no obvious value
difficulty in sustaining a relationship
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder is separate from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which describes a form of behaviour rather than a type of personality.
Many people learn to cope in their own way and just get on with things. There are some things you can do that can help these are:
enable yourself to do things that make you feel good
reading about other people's experience may also help
look after yourself i.e. eat healthy, drink alcohol in moderation and be active
learn new skills (this can also help you to feel good)
join clubs and make new friends
GP's are not experts in personality disorders after an assessment by your GP there are a few specialists you could be referred to such as a psychologist, counselling or Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN). This form of treatment can take up to 6 months or more depending on the severity of the condition and other existing problems.
A type of cognitive behavioural therapy called dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) has proved successful in helping people reduce impulsive self harming behaviours, especially in Borderline personality disorder. DBT is designed to help you cope better with emotional instability, while at the same time encouraging you to behave in a more positive way.
No medication is currently licensed for the treatment of any personality disorders. However, medications maybe prescribed to teat associated problems such as depression, anxiety or psychotic symptoms. Some people with Borderline personality disorder have found mood-stabilising medication helpful.
Social workers can also help by advising on benefits, employment and also supported living if needed.
For long time it was thought that there was no treatment for personality disorders however there have been advances made over the last few years. A combination of psychological, biological and theory based treatments offer hope for many people with personality disorders.
When a suitable treatment is found that suits you and your needs a good recovery can be made and you can live a healthy happy life.