Your personality is your unique way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It is influenced by a combination of genetics, experiences, and environment and it typically remains the same over time. Some people have what are known as personality disorders.
A personality disorder is a way of thinking, feeling, and behaving that’s not only different from what is expected by society but also the source of distress or problems with everyday functioning. If you think you or someone you know could have a personality disorder, you need to see a professional for diagnosis and treatment. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at what personality disorders are and how they can be treated.
What Are Personality Disorders?
Personality disorders are long-term patterns of internal experiences and behavior that differ vastly from what is expected. The pattern usually begins by late adolescence or early adulthood. In order to be classified as a personality disorder, an inner experience needs to impact two or more of the following areas:
- How a person thinks about themselves and others
- How they respond emotionally
- How they relate to other people
- How they control their behavior
Types of Personality Disorders
There are ten types of personality disorders and they are divided into three clusters.
Cluster A Personality Disorders
People with Cluster A disorders generally have odd or eccentric thoughts or behaviors.
Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of suspicion of others and viewing them as mean or spiteful. People with this personality disorder often believe people will harm or deceive them and as a result, they don’t confide in others or get close to them.
Meanwhile, individuals with schizoid personality disorder are detached from social relationships and don’t express much emotion. They typically don’t seek out close relationships and instead opt to be alone. These individuals also seem not to care about whether they receive praise or criticism.
Schizotypal personality disorder refers to a pattern of being highly uncomfortable in close relationships while showing signs of distorted thinking and eccentric behavior. A person with schizotypal personality disorder may have excessive social anxiety or odd beliefs, behavior, or speech.
Cluster B Personality Disorders
Disorders in Cluster B are broadly characterized by unstable emotions and impulsive or dramatic behaviors.
A person with antisocial personality disorder displays a pattern of disregarding or violating the rights of other people. They may not conform to social norms and they lie and deceive others repeatedly or act impulsively.
Borderline personality disorder is characterized by intense emotions, impulsivity, instability in personal relationships, and poor self-image. A person with borderline personality disorder may display inappropriate, intense anger; go to extreme lengths to avoid abandonment, and attempt suicide repeatedly. The individual may also have continual feelings of emptiness.
Meanwhile, individuals with histrionic personality disorder show a pattern of excessive emotion and attention-seeking. They are often uncomfortable when they are not the center of attention and they may draw attention to themselves with their physical appearance or have rapidly changing or exaggerated emotions.
The fourth Cluster B personality disorder is narcissistic personality disorder. A person with this diagnosis consistently displays the need for admiration while showing a lack of empathy for others. They may have a sense of entitlement and a grandiose sense of self-importance. They may also take advantage of other people.
Cluster C Personality Disorders
Cluster C disorders are generally characterized by anxious and fearful thoughts and behavior.
Avoidant personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of feelings of inadequacy and extreme shyness and sensitivity to criticism. People who have avoidant personality disorder may be preoccupied with being rejected or criticized and they may see themselves as socially inept or not good enough. They may also be reluctant to get involved with people unless they know they will be liked.
People who have dependent personality disorder habitually need to be taken care of and they display submissive and clingy behavior. These individuals may find it hard to make everyday decisions without reassurance from other people. They also feel uncomfortable when alone because they’re afraid that they can’t take care of themselves.
Meanwhile, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder reflects a pattern of preoccupation with perfection, orderliness, and control. A person with this disorder may be hyper-focused on schedules or details. They may be inflexible when it comes to values or morality and they may work excessively without allowing time for social interactions or leisure.
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder vs OCD
Many people confuse obsessive-compulsive personality disorder with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, the latter is when a person has a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts and/or behaviors that they feel the urge to repeat time and time again.
How Common Are Personality Disorders?
It is estimated that nine percent of adults in the United States have at least one personality disorder. This compares to a global estimate of 10 to 13 percent of the population. Between 40 and 60 percent of psychiatric patients are diagnosed with personality disorders and approximately 65 to 90 percent of people diagnosed with a substance use disorder also have at least one personality disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Personality Disorders
The symptoms individuals display will depend on the type of personality disorder they have. However, many of the symptoms overlap. They may include:
- Erratic or otherwise strange behavior
- Suspicion of others
- Angry outbursts
- Relationship difficulties
- A need for instant gratification
- Problems at work or school
Treatment Methods for Personality Disorders
While people with personality disorders can experience very different problems, they are all unlikely to get better without professional help. Unfortunately, many don’t get the care they need partly because of the disorders’ reputation for difficulty of treatment and ongoing debate as to exactly how they should be treated. At first, there was little scientific research into personality disorder treatment but that has changed over the years.
Treatment varies according to the particular disorder, how severe it is, and what the individual’s life situation is like. However, treatment may take months or even years. People with personality disorders typically need to be cared for by a team of professionals who can assist them with their medical, mental, and social needs. Your treatment team may include your primary care physician along with a psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, psychologist, pharmacist, and social worker. However, if your symptoms are mild and under control, you may only need to be treated by one professional.
The Role of Psychotherapy
Personality disorders are typically treated primarily with psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. This may take place in individual, group, or family sessions. During these sessions, patients learn about their condition and talk about their thoughts, feelings, moods, and behaviors. They also learn how to handle stress and manage their disorder. Meanwhile, family therapy offers support and education to relatives of people who have personality disorders.
Therapy sessions can also include social skills training. This helps individuals to develop healthy ways of managing their symptoms while also reducing the behaviors that interfere with daily functioning and forming and maintaining relationships.
There are many types of talk therapy and different facilities and therapist will offer various options. However, there are some forms of treatment that are commonly used.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a component of many mental health treatment programs. It is designed to help patients to solve problems by understanding how their thoughts and beliefs affect their feelings and behavior. Changing core beliefs can make a big difference.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Meanwhile, dialectical behavior therapy was created specifically to treat borderline personality disorder. DBT is a modified form of CBT aimed at teaching people how to regulate their emotions, cope with stress in healthy ways, and improve their relationships.
Cognitive Analytic Therapy
Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) combines the practical components of CBT with an emphasis on building a trusting relationship between the patient and the therapist. The therapist helps the patient to make sense of their situation and identify healthy ways to cope with their problems.
This is a long-term form of psychotherapy that seeks to improve the patient’s ability to identify and understand their mental state and that of other people. MBT also helps individuals to understand their thoughts about themselves and others to determine if they’re valid.
The Role of Medications
The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any medications specifically to treat personality disorders. However, some psychiatric medications can help to relieve the symptoms. These include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications, and anti-anxiety medications.
Achieving Long Term Personality Disorder Recovery is Possible
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a personality disorder, you need to know that recovery is possible with the right help. Some people only need to see a therapist regularly but others need inpatient care.
When is residential treatment needed for mental health issues such as personality disorders? It’s usually only when the individual is in immediate danger of harming themselves or others or they can’t care for themselves. Once their condition stabilizes, the treatment team usually recommends that they step down to a less intensive form of treatment.
Circle of Hope offers treatment for personality disorders as well as co-occurring substance use disorders. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options and how we can help you to get better.