Personality Disorders

How can you tell if you suffer from a personality disorder?

Chances are, you may find that much of your life is affected by unchanging and unhelpful behavioural and emotional characteristics. These make it hard for you to feel well, or have a “normal life.

If your difficulties have lasted as long as you can remember – and resisted all your past attempts to overcome them – you may have a personality disorder.

Since personality disorders were first identified, a wide range of specific personality disorders have been named. These personality disorders break down into three groups or clusters: odd or eccentric disorder group; dramatic, emotional or erratic disorder group; and anxious or fearful disorder group. Specific disorders within the three groups are defined in diagnostic manuals as follows:

Personality DisordersOdd or Eccentric Behaviours

  • Paranoid personality disorder is a pervasive distrust and suspicions of others, such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent.
  • Schizoid personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships, and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal settings.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits marked by acute discomfort, with reduced capacity for close relationships. It is also characterised by distortions of thinking and perception, and eccentric behaviour.

Dramatic, Emotional or Erratic Disorders

  • Antisocial personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others.
  • Histrionic personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of excessive emotion and attention seeking.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or actual behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.
  • Borderline personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, moods, and control over impulses.

Anxious or Fearful Conditions

  • Avoidant personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation.
  • Dependent personality disorder is a pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of, which leads to submissive and clinging behaviour and fears of separation.
  • Obsessive compulsive personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.

To make things more complex, personality disorders may affect you at the same time as other mental health issues such as depressive and anxiety related conditions, substance abuse (alcohol, food, drugs), other addictive behaviours and so on.

Treating a Personality Disorder

Fortunately, personality disorders can be treated, even when they happen with other conditions. Treatment can lead to a much happier and healthier life.

To start, you should be clinically evaluated by an experienced psychologist. Once you have a clearer idea of what the problem may be, you can agree to a comprehensive treatment plan. Such a plan may involve a combination of psychotherapy and lifestyle changes. Sometimes medication may help, and your psychologist would refer you to a medical practitioner for expert advice and prescription if required.

If you recognise some of the symptoms listed above, or you know someone who you believe exhibits some of them, it is best to seek professional assistance.

Personality disorders seldom just “go away”. It is likely they will be with you for your whole life unless you take action. For your quality of life and that of those around you, please seek out a mental health professional for an appointment today.

Dr Malcolm Davies Learning At WorkAuthor: Dr Malcolm Davies, B.Psych.(Hons), M.Psych (Clin), Dip. Clin. Hypnosis, PhD, MASH.

Dr Malcolm Davies is a registered psychologist who holds honours, masters and doctoral degrees in psychology. He is experienced in providing thorough evaluation and coodination of a comprehensive treatment plan, for clients suffering from a personality disorder.