Understanding Personality Disorder

An individual’s personality is the collection of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that makes each of us the individuals we are, unique. People do not think, feel and behave in exactly the same way – it depends on the situation we are in, the experiences we have had, the people with us and many other external factors. If a person experiences significant difficulties in how they relate to themselves and others and can have problems coping from day to day, then that person may receive a diagnosis of personality disorder. A personality disorder can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional.

Why is it controversial diagnosis?

Our understanding and knowledge of mental health problems is constantly evolving. As well as this, the language we use when talking about them is also changing. The diagnosis of 'personality disorder' can be a controversial one due to the following:

Some individuals with this diagnosis hold the view that their, thoughts, feelings and behaviours are a reasonable, human reaction to going through difficult life experiences. So it's unhelpful and upsetting to individuals with this diagnosis to call it an illness or 'disorder' in their personality. The argument is that mental health professionals should consider what in a person’s life may have contributed to their difficulties, and help with these. Not focus on finding problems in them and their personality.

The other side of the argument is that, some people find that getting the diagnosis helps them to name and to understand their experiences, in order to explain themselves to other people, which may hopefully result in getting treatment and support they otherwise might not.

Unfortunately Individuals diagnosed with Personality Disorder can also experience discrimination directed towards them. This could be in the form of abusive language used by others, and all this does is further negatively enforce the stigma which can already surround the condition. We can all play our part in reducing stigma, raising awareness and promoting good mental health – so Mind your language.

Common signs of a Personality Disorder:

• Trust issues; the way a person think’s, feel’s & behaves can cause significant problems in daily life. An individual may feel unable to trust others or may often feel abandoned, causing distress in day-to-day relationships.

• People can experience problems across different aspects of their life. An individual may struggle to start or keep friendships, to control feelings and behaviour, or get on with people.

• There may be an intensity with emotions that makes someone feel frightening and overwhelmed. These issues continue for a long time period. They may of start in childhood or teenage years and can carry on into a person’s adult years.

Types of Personality Disorder:

There are many different types of Personality Disorder, which are based on the most prevalent emotional state:

• Paranoid personality disorder
• Schizoid personality disorder
• Schizotypal personality disorder

Emotional and impulsive:
• Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)
• Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
• Histrionic personality disorder
• Narcissistic personality disorder

• Avoidant personality disorder
• Dependent personality disorder
• Obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)

Possible causes of Personality Disorder:

Just as everybody's experience of a personality disorder is unique to them, the causes are unique as well. They could be caused or made worse by a substance or a medical condition. For example, using drugs or medication can cause changes in people and their personality, as can the physical effects of experiences like head trauma.

There may be no clear reason why some people develop the feelings and behaviours associated with personality disorders, and others don't. Most research shows that a complex mix of factors seems to increase the risk of developing or triggering these experiences:

• environment and social circumstances, such as: an unstable or chaotic family life, trauma, bad experiences such as bullying and discrimination
• early life experiences including possible neglect or abuse
• genetic factors past through generations of families, nature or nurture or a mixture of both

Treatments and self-care:

There are a range of treatments that can help someone who is experiencing a personality disorder, including:

• Talking therapies, such as counselling or CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to help work through issues
• Medication, prescribed by mental health professionals or GP to help with symptoms of anxiety, depression or psychosis
• Accessing therapeutic communities and groups for social interaction and activities
• Keeping a mood diary
• Trying mindfulness and relaxation exercises
• Look after physical health, including exercise, eating well, and practicing good sleep routines
• Reduce or stop alcohol intake and drug use
• Make a self-care box with things your find helpful, when times are hard
• Access some peer support groups
• Talk to someone
• Investigate local advocate services

For Further Support:

For further mental wellbeing support including various, therapeutic activities and emotional resilience classes, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Darlington Mind also has a variety of other services which may be of interest to you and to assist with your needs, please contact us via the following options: Email: contactus@darlingtonmind.com or Tel: 01325 283169 Mobile: 07572 888084

Article Information based on information from Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/personality-disorders/self-care/

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