Personality Disorder

What is personality disorder?

A personality disorder is a broad term for a collection of issues experienced by an individual in their everyday lives. They have a difficult time fitting in with society and accepting the norms of their own culture.

These issues are reflected in their personal and professional lives. This condition is quite common and can affect individuals in both the short term and the long term. A personality disorder receives a diagnosis by a mental health professional who uses a set of guidelines or criteria to make the determination. Personality disorders are the most common mental health issue diagnosed in the country today.

Overview of personality disorder

Many people experience personality disorder. In fact, 40-60% of psychiatric patients receive a diagnosis of personality disorder. The typical individual suffering from this type of disorder will have trouble adjusting to daily life and may face not only social troubles but may have professional challenges because of their condition.

Each person diagnosed with the disorder experiences the symptoms in a variety of ways, but most of the symptoms become caused by the person’s individual ego and is a conditioned response. This is not always the case but has shown to be pervasive and is worth mentioning.

There are many different personality disorders and each has its own hallmark symptoms. A personality disorder is a broad term to refer to individuals experiencing problems adapting and handling situations in their everyday lives.

Symptoms of personality disorder

Some of the many symptoms of personality disorder include issues adapting to situations, inhibited coping skills, anxiety, depression, and many other negative issues that can create the condition. Some people will withdraw from friends and family in an attempt to avoid a stressful or uncomfortable situation they are unsure how to handle. They avoid social interaction and prefer to stay at home, away from situations that could exacerbate their condition.

Many individuals with a personality disorder have a very short temper and can become very emotional at any point. They can experience their emotions in extremes rather than how the average person experiences emotions. They tend to explode and overreact to issues or obstacles in their life.

The symptoms of personality disorder tend to become more apparent in the late teen and early adult years. Once the disorder has firmly set in, it becomes more noticeable to friends and family, which is normally when the patient decides to seek treatment. If left untreated, the disorder can lead to unstable behavior that can seriously affect their quality of life and lead to bouts of rage and depression that can actually cause them to harm themselves or others.

Those with a personality disorder may also attempt to manipulate people to cause them to take action or feel a particular way. For instance, if the person with the personality disorder feels another individual is in the wrong, they will manipulate them through certain behaviors to make the other party feel guilty or remorseful. They can even act out in dangerous ways to attempt to elicit a specific reaction or try to control the situation.

A person exhibiting the symptoms of personality disorder will not behave in a manner which one would expect when placed in a stressful situation. They have a tendency to act out or behave bizarrely in order to make their presence known. These behaviors can be difficult for parents and family to handle when they appear in teens. The behaviors will also affect the lives of young adults trying to adjust to their independence or trying to work their way up in the professional world. Without the proper treatment, the problems can continue to compound and create a great amount of depression.

Causes of personality disorder

Some scientists and mental health experts have a theory that personality disorders are genetic in some instances. For example, some researchers have determined that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is the result of a malfunctioning gene. It has long been theorized that childhood trauma is one of the most prevalent causes of personality disorders.

Any situation or prolonged condition the child becomes exposed to early in life can cause the symptoms of a personality disorder to appear later in childhood or in the early teen years. Victims of an early childhood sexual assault are especially prone to bouts of personality disorder later in life. Some of the other instances of childhood trauma thought to create personality disorder include physical violence, verbal abuse, and bullying from peers.

Some children that are extremely reactive to the effects of light, sound, and other sensory stimulants tend to have higher rates of personality disorder that cause them to act with high degrees of anxiety. They may also become very timid and refrain from interacting with peers or participating in social situations in general.

Treatment of personality disorder

Treatments for personality disorders vary greatly depending on the type of personality disorder the person becomes diagnosed with. In many cases, the mental health professional, or a doctor will prescribe therapy and medications designed to alleviate depression. In some cases, they may prescribe a sedative to help the patient get through episodes of extreme stress, but this is not intended as a long-term solution to the issue.

Treatment will also consist of modified behavioral therapy in order to change the person’s negative habits and method of handling certain situations. Over the course of time, a person who possesses the determination to improve their situation will have a high degree of success if they practice coping skills and learn how to break bad habits that encourage a continuation of symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also quite effective with some types of personality disorder. The process of treatment is gradual but highly effective if the patient is receptive and is willing to get the maximum benefit from their time with the mental health professional. Mentalization-based treatment is also another effective tool in treating personality disorders and is also known as a psychodynamic treatment. This type of treatment requires a high level of trust between the patient and the therapist. The therapist will have the patient envision or mentalize the picture of how others are perceiving and reacting to their behavior and actions in order to give them a way to understand how their action is out of place or may seem unusual and unproductive.

Schema therapy is another method to challenge the patient to analyze their behaviors. The mental health professional will question their ideas and viewpoints in order to have the patient see things from another perspective. The treatment challenges learned behaviors from childhood and the therapist takes on the role of a parent to the patient. This type of therapy takes place over an extended period of time but is highly effective, although costly. Dialectic Behavioral therapy is another strategy that helps the patient moderate their emotions and reactions rather than have them go to extremes in a given situation. This therapy relies heavily upon mindfulness and coping skills to get the patient to a state where they can manage their symptoms more effectively. Usually, the therapist will have a one-on-one session weekly and may incorporate a group session with others suffering the same set of issues.

Some patients may require some social skill training as part of their therapy. Individuals who never learned appropriate social skills can learn how to react appropriately to the situation they may have had trouble with in the past as a result of personality disorder or a lack of parenting early in their childhood. Social skills therapy gives patients the skill they need to achieve greater satisfaction both in private and public settings they had trouble dealing with in the past. The specific treatment needs outlining by a mental health professional after a diagnosis is given to the patient. Once a course of treatment is determined, it can range anywhere from several months to a lifetime. Most people willing to get the maximum benefit from treatment tend to have the highest success rates when it comes to recovering from the effects of a personality disorder.

Prevention of personality disorder

The prevention of personality disorders is difficult, but if an individual wanted to ensure the best odds of not developing the disorders or preventing children from developing a personality disorder, they would ensure a happy, healthy, and safe childhood without exposure to traumatic situations, as mentioned earlier in the article.

Learning how to deal with children without verbally berating them and making an effort to avoid physical discipline is one of the most effective methods of avoiding children developing personality disorder later in life. Always ensure children are around primary caregivers and trusted authority figures such as teachers and mentors rather than acquaintances and strangers to reduce the chance of sexual assault.

Adults should avoid highly stressful situation without an outlet or some methods of coping effectively. Prolonged stress and abusive situations can take their toll and create a personality disorder if not addressed in the proper fashion. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga are also quite helpful for individuals trying to prevent a personality disorder from developing. Proper diet and exercise are effective stress reducers and can be of great help to anyone attempting to achieve a healthy outlook in their lives. Avoid drugs and alcohol because they take a heavy toll on the body and psychology of individuals, especially those exposed to trauma and stress. Healthy coping skills are the best way to avoid self-medicating.

A personality disorder is a broad term used to describe individuals who are experiencing difficulty adjusting and adapting to everyday situations such as social interaction. They may act in extremes and become aggressive or very withdrawn. There are many different types of personality disorders such as OCD and Borderline Personality Disorder. Each has their own particular set of symptoms, but the symptoms will vary from person to person.

Personality disorders tend to develop late in the teenage years or early adulthood. Some mental health experts have released data that supports the theory that some of the disorders can develop as a result of genetics, but most are attributed to some sort of stress or trauma which is experienced in early childhood. A personality disorder can develop later in life as a result of constant, extreme stress, which isn’t dealt with in the proper manner.

In order to manage stress and help prevent the development of a personality disorder, priority must be given so that these individuals learn healthy and effective coping mechanisms, as well as how to lead a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and regular exercise. Personality disorders are not necessarily preventable but it is possible they can be managed more effectively with healthy habits and the ability to handle stress effectively.

Last Reviewed:
September 16, 2017
Last Updated:
September 16, 2017
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