As we progress through life, we face a barrage of hurdles and obstacles that do their best to keep us from achieving our goals. Life can be quite challenging, even for someone with perfect physical and mental health. So you can imagine the additional challenges someone with a personality disorder will endure as they work to get what all of us want in life— happiness.
In our teenage years, we’re expected to study hard, get good grades, and prepare for college as we embark on the journey of a lifetime. Even if you’re diagnosed with a personality disorder, you’re still expected to fulfill these obligations, so what can you do? Well, personality disorder treatment might be your only hope.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the onset of most personality disorders occur in the teenage years. It might be a tough pill to swallow because, at this stage of our lives, we’re trying to make sense of it all and find out who we are. Our teenage years are a time of experimentation, trial and error, and judgment from our peers. When you add on something like a personality disorder, it only adds to the pressure, causing some of us to burst at the seams. Personality disorders can significantly disrupt our lives, as well as the lives of others around us. They will cause problems with relationships, issues at work or school, and lead to social isolation, resulting in drug or alcohol abuse
Personality disorders are not rare. They are among the most common severe mental disorders and occur alongside other mental illnesses, including mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder, substance abuse disorders (SUDs), and anxiety disorders. It’s estimated they affect 10 percent to 13 percent of the world’s population. As a person grows beyond their teenage years, personality disorders can worsen as the individual further develops and matures. Most diagnoses take place after a person turns 18 years old.
Despite the amount of research put into learning about personality disorders, they are still widely misunderstood. They represent an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates from the expectation of their culture. These patterns are fixed and consistent across situations that lead to distress and impairment.
If you’re diagnosed with a personality disorder, you likely experience challenges with relating to others and empathizing with everyday problems that society expects. Even worse, you’re likely unaware of this discrepancy between your thoughts, behaviors, and the expectations of society. Your worldview is likely different from others, resulting in difficulties participating in educational, social, and family activities.
Fortunately, personality disorders are treatable with a combination of talk therapy and medication. However, to receive treatment, you must get a formal diagnosis to determine what you’re experiencing is a personality disorder. Below, we’ll discuss the various types of personality disorders and what you can do to get on the path toward recovery.
Types of Personality Disorders
Personality disorders are a specific type of mental illness that interrupt thought patterns and behaviors, leading to distress. Those diagnosed with a personality disorder experience inflexible thoughts that impair their ability to solve problems, adapt to stress, or engage in conventional relationships with others. There are several types of personality disorders that we’ll discuss below.
Here are a few of the most common types of personality disorders:
- Antisocial personality disorder: Antisocial personality disorder is characterized as a pattern of disregarding or violating the rights of individuals. Someone with antisocial personality disorder has trouble conforming to social norms, will repeatedly lie and deceive others, or act impulsively.
- Avoidant personality disorder: Avoidant personality disorder is characterized by unusual shyness, extreme sensitivity to criticism, and feeling inadequate. Those with the condition are unwilling to get involved with others unless they know they’ll be liked. They have an unhealthy obsession with not being rejected or criticized and view themselves as socially inept.
- Borderline personality disorder: Borderline personality disorder causes instability and issues in personal relationships, impulsivity, and poor self-image. People with the condition will go to great lengths to avoid being abandoned, repeatedly attempt suicide, display intense anger, and have ongoing feelings of emptiness.
- Dependent personality disorder: Dependent personality disorder is when someone needs to be taken care of and exhibits submissive and clingy behavior. Those with the illness have challenges making everyday decisions without reassurance from others. They will feel uncomfortable or helpless when they’re alone because of a fear of inability to take care of themselves.
- Histrionic personality disorder: Histrionic personality disorder is characterized by excessive attention and emotion-seeking. Those diagnosed with this condition are uncomfortable when they’re not the center of attention and will use their physical appearance to draw attention to themselves.
- Narcissistic personality disorder: Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by the need to be admired and lacking empathy for others. Someone with this condition has a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement and will take advantage of others because they lack empathy.
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: Those with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder have an obsession with perfection, orderliness, and control. Those with the personality disorder are overly focused on schedules and details and will work excessively, not allowing time for friends or leisure. They’re also inflexible with their values and morality. It’s important to note this is not the same as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Causes of Personality Disorders
Despite the vast amount of research and time medical professionals have spent on the topic, the cause of personality disorders is largely unknown. However, it’s believed they’re triggered by genetic and environmental influences and tied to childhood trauma.
How Are Personality Disorders Diagnosed?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is a resource that physicians and mental health professionals use to diagnose specific mental health conditions. Each personality disorder has certain criteria a patient must meet for a doctor to provide a diagnosis.
Your primary care physician or a mental health professional will start by asking you questions based on the criteria to determine if you have a personality disorder and then what type of personality disorder you might have. For them to reach a conclusion, the feelings and behaviors you exhibit must be consistent across various life circumstances. They must also cause significant impairment and distress in two of the areas listed below:
- How well can you control your impulses?
- How do you perceive or interpret yourself and others?
- How do you act when dealing with others?
- Are your emotional responses appropriate?
In some cases, the physician will conduct blood tests to determine whether there is a medical reason you’re experiencing these symptoms. It’s important to exhaust all resources before coming to a conclusion. Before selecting a course of treatment, you must have the right diagnosis. Otherwise, treatment won’t work.
Personality Disorder Treatment
Fortunately, receiving a personality disorder diagnosis isn’t the end of the world. In many cases, the person receiving the diagnosis will feel relief knowing the end is in sight for their suffering. Going through life and not understanding why you think and act a certain way is challenging. As discussed above, going through life without any issues is hard enough, so learning you have a mental health condition will provide an answer to many questions you’ve had.
Treatment for personality disorders will depend on your diagnosis. However, the most common approach is a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Talk therapy, otherwise known as psychotherapy, will help manage your personality disorder. During a session, you and your therapist will discuss the condition and how you feel or think about it. It will provide insight on how to manage your symptoms and behaviors that cause interruptions in your daily life. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the best options when it comes to treating the condition.
While talking through your problems is beneficial, it’s not always enough. Many of these conditions stem from a chemical imbalance in your brain that can be treated only with medication. Therapy will be useful in learning how to act in social situations and how you react in some scenarios.
The use of prescription medication is vital in helping you feel better. Those with personality disorders may be prescribed antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotic drugs, or anti-anxiety medications. Only your doctor can determine which one is right for you. It may take some trial and error to determine which has the most positive effect. For that reason, you must be patient as relief will come soon.