Each one of us has a unique personality. It is what defines us as the person we are. The way in which we think, how we perceive situations, and the way we react to them, all depend on our personality. While we are all different, most people’s personalities allow them to behave within certain accepted boundaries. However, some people may have a personality disorder that causes them to perceive, react, and relate to things in a way that is not within these boundaries. This is probably due to a combination of genetic factors and environmental influences.
What is a Personality Disorder?
A person may be diagnosed as having a personality disorder when the way that they perceive, relate to, and react to situations causes distress to themselves or to others. People with personality disorders usually exhibit fixed or bizarre traits which interfere with a normal lifestyle. They are unable to relate to people in a normal way, or to function in their day to day activities. However, most sufferers are unaware of their condition.
How Are They Different from Other Disorders?
Personality disorders are different from other disorders in that the person rarely seeks help for the direct discomfort caused to them by their thoughts or emotions. It is usually as a result of the negative consequences of their maladapted behavior that the person is forced to seek help. It is thought that about one in ten people suffers some kind of personality disorder, and people with this condition account for about half of the patients undergoing psychiatric treatment. Personality disorders are usually first noticed in the late teens or early adulthood, although some signs may be noticed earlier. Some kinds of personality disorders improve as the person gets older, while others do not. In this personality disorder guide, we will look at the diverse symptoms that are displayed in the different classifications. Diagnosis of personality disorders is not as clear-cut as with most other psychiatric disorders. It can often be a relative perspective as to what is normal or abnormal behavior, and, as to what extent the person’s condition “significantly impairs” their functioning.
The 10 Personality Disorders
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines ten distinct personality disorders. These definitions, however, are based more on historical observation than on scientific research. That means, that few people exactly fit into any one definition, and most sufferers exhibit behaviors from more than one of the types, although usually within the same cluster.
Personality disorders in this group are characterized by thoughts, behaviors, and actions which are eccentric, bizarre, or odd.
People suffering from a paranoid personality disorder are suspicious and mistrustful even of close family members. They believe that people are talking about them, or plotting against them, even when there is no evidence of such.
A person with a Schizoid personality disorder shows no interest in other people. They are loners and without friends, and even relate to their family in an offhand way. They are unaware of their effect on others and don’t care about or empathize with other people. They tend to be aloof and introspective and have fantastical thoughts. Despite their condition, these sufferers function quite well and are unbothered by their peculiarities.
A schizotypal personality disorder is characterized by the bizarre behavior and eccentric ideas of the sufferer. They tend to link unrelated events and to create some kind of mystical connection between them. They often feel that everything revolves around them and responds directly to them.
People with personality disorders within this group display very dramatic, over-emotional, erratic, and hysterical behaviors. Their behavior can lead to the development of other psychiatric conditions such as mood disorders, bipolar disorders, and depression. People in this group are also likely to develop substance abuse problems.
Sufferers may exhibit different kinds of antisocial behavior, and this type of personality disorder is more common in men than in women. They usually have no regard for other people and are frequently, impulsive, manipulative, and deceitful. They have no sense of social responsibility or concept of their place in society. They are self-centered and only relate to others when they have something to gain from the interaction. They do not appreciate the consequence of their actions and they have no respect for the rights or feelings of others. They often justify their behavior by expressing that the victim deserved it.
People who are defined as being borderline exhibit a lack of self-definition which can frequently cause them to self-harm. They are often people who prefer to have company and cannot tolerate being alone. They are emotionally unstable and can swing between different emotional states with little outside stimulation.
A person with a histrionic personality disorder uses exaggerated behavior to get themselves noticed. Sufferers frequently speak very loudly, are over-dramatic, and react in an excessive way to relatively normal stimuli. They like to be the center of attention because they have little self-worth.
People in this group often present themselves as grand and important, but they actually have a low self-esteem and are very unsure of themselves. They tend to critically analyze themselves to such an extent that they become totally self-absorbed yet unable to clearly define themselves. They are often selfish, intolerant, and controlling.
This group of personality disorders is characterized by anxiety and fear. Sufferers worry about everything in general or target in on certain aspects of their lives.
A person with an avoidant personality disorder keeps contact with other people to a minimum. They have no friends or close family ties, and they avoid any kind of social situation. They are unable to accept rejection on any level, and so simply avoid all contact with others. The often feel unworthy and inferior.
People with dependent traits need looking after. They are very submissive and like to be told what to do, and when to it. This relieves them of the responsibility of taking control of their own actions and can also make them open to exploitation and abuse.
A person in this category exhibits rigid, set behavioral routines which often make no sense to others. They feel compelled to complete certain routines in order to be able to perform normal tasks. They are often perfectionists who will not accept anything less than absolute perfection. They can be obstinate, and they are completely unable to see that their behavior is abnormal or unnecessary. Their lives are controlled by rules, regulations, lists, and order.
While it is commonly thought that personality disorders are the result of a maladjustment to environmental stimuli, figures reveal that about 50-percent of suffers have family members who also have a personality disorder. This figure indicates that that heredity plays a strong factor in the development of these disorders.
Signs and Symptoms
People who exhibit behaviors like those mentioned in this personality disorder guide normally have an unstable self-image along with problems in their interpersonal relationships. Because they are unsure of who they are they often react randomly to situations or fluctuate between two extremes. They commonly do not have a cohesive set of values, religious beliefs, or life goals. This all makes it difficult for them to relate to other people. Relationships are normally built on shared ideas or common goals and the unstable nature of a person with a personality disorder makes it impossible for them to build strong ties with others. They have little idea of their effect on the lives of others and are generally unconcerned about all aspects of anyone else. They can be detached, cruel, impulsive, and abusive, or overemotional, clinging and demanding. They are difficult people to get along with and can make the lives of their families very hard, especially as they are usually completely unaware of their problems.
Sufferers of personality disorders rarely seek treatment of their own volition, as they are not aware that their unusual behavior. Diagnosis usually comes about as the result of a crisis situation, which often involves law-breaking or self-harm. Sometimes, help for the sufferer can be sought by friends, workmates, or family members. Frequently a clinical evaluation is undertaken when the person has exhibited extreme behavior which has put his life or the lives of those around him at risk. Psychosocial therapies are normally used to treat personality disorders, however, progress can only be made when the person accepts that they have a problem that can be treated. Many sufferers entirely blame external influences for their comportment, and they are reluctant to admit that they may have a treatable medical condition. Drugs may be employed, particularly at the start of treatment, to control the person’s anger, anxiety, or depression. Frequently, the effects of these drugs can allow the person to acknowledge that their behavior may be due to a psychiatric condition and to participate in a treatment program.
Treatment is directed first at getting the person to accept that they have a problem and then getting them to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions. Different types of therapies can be used to set short-term goals and to help the person to make small gradual changes in the way they react and behave. They are encouraged to learn how to control their impulses and to replace them with more acceptable reactions. Improvement is usually slow and gradual. Family and peer support can play an important part in helping the person to realize the consequences of their behavior and to inspire them to make the necessary changes to live a more harmonious life together.
Many people live with some level of personality disorder that does not have a serious effect on their daily lives or relationships. Diagnosing personality disorders can be difficult as defining what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior is very relative. Sufferers rarely are aware of their condition and only receive medical attention as the result of a crisis. Treatment depends on the person recognizing their problem and is usually a long, on-going process.