What is a Personality Disorder?

A common improper categorization of personality disorder is that anyone who struggles with an unpleasant personality has a personality disorder. However, personality disorders refers to a series of mental illnesses that relate to an inability to perceive and relate accurately to people and situations. This disorder can impact an individual’s ability to interact with others and the world.

While personality disorders include a range of issues some of the most common symptoms include frequent mood swings, social isolation, raging outbursts, general paranoia, difficulty in making friends, poor impulse control, and addiction. It is not uncommon for a personality disorder to co-exist with other illnesses like depression and impulse control.

Personality Disorder
What is Personality Disorder?

Currently the DSM-IV lists ten personality disorders, grouped within three different “clusters.” Each cluster group contains a unique set of personality disorders:

  1. Cluster A (odd or eccentric disorders and fears social relation)
    • Paranoid Personality Disorder (irrational suspicions and mistrust)
    • Schizoid Personality Disorder (lack of interest in social relationships)
    • Schizotypal Personality Disorder (odd behavior or thinking)
  2. Cluster B (dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders)
    • Antisocial Personality Disorder (lack of empathy and a pattern of criminal activity)
    • Borderline Personality Disorder (“black and white” thinking, impulsivity, behaviors that lead to self-harm)
    • Histrionic Personality Disorder (inappropriately seductive behavior, exaggerated emotions)
    • Narcissistic Personality Disorder (grandiose behavior, extreme levels of jealousy and arrogance)
  3. Cluster C (anxious or fearful disorders)
    • Avoidant Personality Disorder (feelings of social inadequacy, avoidance of social interaction)
    • Dependent Personality Disorder (psychological dependence on other people)
    • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (rigid conformity to rules, moral codes and orderliness)

It is important to note that, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder, not a personality disorder. Click here to read more about OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

Additionally, the DSM contains a category for behaviors that do not match the above criteria, but still exhibit characteristics of a personality disorder. This category also includes additional criteria sets for further study.

Methods Typically Used in Therapy for Personality Disorder

Personality disorders generally involve a number of individuals including a family doctor, therapist, psychotherapist if the situation is severe, and support network. Psychotherapy is typically combined with abnormal behavioral and cognitive behavioral therapy to provide a dual approach that will result in more efficient treatment. However, the precise method will depend on the severity of the disorder. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary.

Within initial treatments, it’s not uncommon for medication to be prescribed. There are no specific medications prepared for individuals suffering from personality disorder symptoms but antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anti anxiety medications are common.

Treatments almost always involve psychotherapy or talk therapy. From there, the therapist will diagnose the actual issue and personality disorder and treatment can progress.

Reasons for Hiring a Therapist

Personality disorders can result in a significantly diminished lifestyle and a host of other problems. They can interfere with your ability to develop friendships, advance in your career, and may even lead to decisions detrimental to your health and well-being. An individual who starts experience chronic symptoms of any of the disorders should seek out assistance as soon as possible. If this is not sufficient to persuade an individual to visit a therapist, then it will generally occur after an intervention or when the personality disorder so interferes with his life that he cannot function.

Some of the symptoms that cause the most concern are pairings such as general paranoia and difficulty in making friends. It is not uncommon for individuals to actually go to a therapist for something such as an addiction or poor impulse control and then later discover the larger issues involved. Individuals struggling with these issues are generally loath to seek aid from a therapist. Friends and family cannot force them to seek help unless the harm is so great it results in hospitalization or the like.

What to Look for in a Therapist

When dealing with personality disorders, you will generally work with an abnormal behavioral therapist or a cognitive behavioral therapist. Due to an inability to perceive accurately, you will not generally be able to rely on how you feel about the therapist. To find one, it is best to take the advice and recommendations of others whom you trust. The process of addressing the inabilities to perceive may be uncomfortable, but they are necessary. The specialization is key, and if you are able to find someone who specializes in say schizotypal Personality disorder, then it is best to go with the specialist rather than a general therapist.

Search TherapyTribe, therapist directory for a therapist specializing in personality disorders.