Within the mental health community, personality disorders are defined as a set of mental illnesses involving long-term behaviours and thoughts that are rigid and unhealthy.
What is Personality Disorder?
Psychiatrists believe personality disorder (PD) to be an innate pattern of behaviour that is specified in the way it develops (comparable to other mental health disorders that often develop for a multitude of different reasons).
The type of behaviour observed in those suffering from PD often diverges from social norms and that which is deemed ‘socially acceptable’ and can cause severe impairment on a person’s interpersonal relationships and social standing.
Since many of the personality disorders are ego-syntonic (meaning that they are reflective of a person’s self-concept or ‘idea of self’), they often present many treatment challenges for mental health professionals.
Essentially, an individual’s desire to change a behaviour that causes upset to others is usually met with disdain.
Fortunately, since the development of applied therapeutic techniques, mental health professionals are noticing much more positive outcomes for those suffering from a personality disorder with research suggesting that positive change is possible.
Broadly, a personality disorder is a long-term series of inclinations in one’s thinking and behaviour that significantly impacts their social functioning. Depending on the type of PD, a person’s personality traits (including any extreme traits) are often reflected or heightened.
The different types of Personality Disorder
Personality disorders are grouped into three main clusters, with each having an individualised set of diagnostic criteria.
They include: emotional and impulsive, anxious, and suspicious.
The ten personality disorder types are:
- Avoidant Personality Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
- Dependent Personality Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Histrionic Personality Disorder
- Schizotypal Personality Disorder
- Schizoid Personality Disorder
- Antisocial Personality Disorder
- Paranoid Personality Disorder
Spotting the signs of personality disorder
Cluster type A
This group of disorders often feature bizarre or overly eccentric thinking styles and behaviour patterns which include: distrust, strange or unusual belief systems, and social unattachment.
- Schizotypal personality disorder: Includes strange and unusual thinking patterns and extreme difficulty in forming close bonds
- Schizoid personality disorder: This condition involves a person showing a lack of empathy or emotion in social situations. They also demonstrate a deep detachment from others
- Paranoid personality disorder: Includes deep suspicion and distrust toward others
Cluster type B
The behaviour for those belonging to this cluster often involves emotional dysregulation, impulsive behaviour, and hostility and/or manipulation towards other people.
- Histrionic personality disorder: People with this type of disorder are prone to exaggeration and extreme levels of attention-seeking. This mental health condition is characterised by overly dramatic behaviour and a strong desire to be noticed.
- Borderline personality disorder: Features more than 20,000 cases per year in the UK, borderline personality disorder (also referred to as emotional dysregulation disorder) often features a severe fluctuation in a person’s mood and behaviour
- Narcissistic personality disorder: This is when a person’s sense of self is monumentally exaggerated: when someone is high in narcissism they very often have an excessive desire to be admired, a strong sense of self-importance, and tend to display a severe lack of understanding or empathy towards others
- Antisocial personality disorder: This disorder type includes a complete disregard for other people’s rights and boundaries. The condition is known to be more common in males and is prevalent in those aged between 18-35
Cluster type C
Cluster C personality disorders include anxiety and fear-induced thinking styles.
- Dependent personality disorder: People with a dependent personality disorder often express submissive and clingy behaviour towards others, exhibit difficulty in taking care of themselves, and tend to tolerate abusive treatment and behaviour from others
- Avoidant personality disorder: Symptoms of this condition include: Feelings of unworthiness such as not being attractive/smart enough, high sensitivity and avoidance of activities that involve social contact with others
- Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder: People with this condition tend to be overly controlling, miserly, inflexible and stubborn and tend to have a deep preoccupation with orderliness, rules and details
How personality disorders develop
Studies show that personality disorders usually develop because of:
- A person’s genetics
- An individual that was neglected or abused as a child
- Trauma (usually experienced in childhood)
Other studies show that malfunctioning genes may also contribute to the development of personality disorders, particularly when it comes to Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder.
Personality disorders often develop as a way of coping with disturbing life experiences; if someone was neglected or abused in any way, for example, they might adopt a personality disorder to cope with the situation.
Essentially, one doesn’t just ‘develop’ a personality disorder; they emerge over long periods.
Those with a likelihood of developing a personality disorder include:
- Those with a family history of mental health issues/personality disorders
- Changes in brain function or brain chemistry
- Having an unstable childhood where there was abuse, chaos and instability
- Having a child conduct disorder
Due to the severe nature of personality disorders, it is often the case that complications can arise.
Personality disorders can lead to issues at work, home or school; they can also result in the development of poor relationships, social withdrawal, and addiction problems.
Treatment for Personality Disorders
As mentioned earlier, it can often be challenging for mental health professionals to treat patients who are diagnosed with a personality disorder – since the disorder affects those whose perception of ‘self’ can be somewhat distorted or obscure.
Most individuals with a personality disorder tend to be in denial and refuse to believe that they have a condition at all.
Although the disorder must be treated for the symptoms to be overcome. For those willing to accept treatment for personality disorder, there is a wide range of therapies available. They include:
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
- Family-focused therapy
Talk therapies, such as psychotherapy and counselling are also very effective in treating a wide range of personality disorders as it encourages an individual to talk through their feelings, thoughts, and behaviours in a safe and trusting environment.
Residential inpatient personality disorder programs are extremely effective, particularly in chronic cases. For instance, those with Borderline personality disorders, find residential treatment programs very effective as it allows them to receive the support they need when it comes to regulating any behaviours and emotions that might be unpleasant.
Medications often prescribed to those suffering from personality disorder include:
- Antipsychotic medication
- Anti-anxiety medication
- Mood-stabilising medication
According to statistics, around 10 per cent of outpatient rehabilitation admissions involve some form of Borderline personality disorder, and approximately 42.4 per cent of patients who have been diagnosed with a personality disorder are receiving treatment.
This suggests that inhouse rehabilitation programs are extremely effective when it comes to treating the various types of personality disorders.
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