What is personality disorder?

The term personality means the group of characteristics that we all develop as we grow up. This includes the way we think, feel, and behave. Our personality traits usually stay very similar throughout our lives.

Someone with a personality disorder thinks, feels and behaves or relates to others very differently from the average person and their personality does not necessarily remain consistent and stable.

The symptoms of personality disorders can have such an impact on day-to-day life.

People may find that they develop other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or substance misuse.

Types and categories of personality disorders

  • Paranoid – irrational suspicion, tend to hold grudges, interpret other people’s motivations as malicious
  • Schizoid – lack of interest in things, social isolation, prefers own company and restricted emotional expression
  • Schizotypal – discomfort interacting with others, distorted thoughts and perceptions
  • Antisocial – easily frustrated, impulsive, irresponsible, disregarded for other peoples rights and no sense of guilt
  • Borderline – unpredictable, difficulty controlling emotions, fears of abandonment and isolation, fluctuating moods
  • Histrionic – dramatic, over-reactions, changing emotions, self-centred and easily influenced by others
  • Narcissistic – self-importance, superior to others, arrogant, dreams of success and envious of others
  • Obsessive/Compulsive – perfectionist, rule-bound lifestyle, sticks to routines, sensitive to criticism and desire to be in control
  • Avoidant or anxious – very anxious and tense, hesitant, self-conscious and extremely sensitive of what others think about them
  • Dependent – seek constant reassurance from others, submissive, a need to be taken care of by others, lack of self-confidence and fear of being abandoned

Possible causes of personality disorders

Causes may include:

  • Genes inherited by parents
  • Problems with brain development
  • The environment you grow up in
  • Neglect, physical abuse or sexual abuse

Triggers may include:

  • Mental health problems, including drug misuse
  • Significant life events
  • Relationship problems
  • The death of a loved one

Helping someone with personality disorder

  • If a person is experiencing a crisis because of their personality disorder, maintain a calm and non-threatning attitude
  • Listen to what they say carefully, make eye contact, provide reassurance and be patient
  • Accept what they say without judgement and try to show your understanding
  • Remind them of the positives you see in them
  • Talk to them and show you care to help bring them out of their crisis
  • If they have already been given a diagnosis, they should have a telephone number to call, such as a local crisis resolution team who will be able to help them

Useful Contacts

Mind – Provides a wealth of information and advice relating to personality disorders
Website – https://www.mind.org.uk/

NHS Choices – Provides information on personality disorders and treatments which are available through the NHS
Website – https://www.nhs.uk/

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood – A charity supporting adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse. Provides a support line and local support services
Website – https://napac.org.uk/
Phone – 0808 801 0331

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