Personality refers to the unique differences among individuals that involve thinking patterns, feelings, and behaviors. Personality disorders involve patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that diverge from societal expectations and cause significant problems in daily life over an extended period. Individuals who experience personality disorders usually experience problems across different aspects of their lives. For instance, some individuals find it difficult to maintain friendships or relationships, have extremely intense emotional dysregulation that can be overwhelming or frightening at times, and may have the inability to trust others or excessively have feelings of abandonment.
The difficult patterns of behaviors and inner experiences usually begin in late adolescence or early adulthood and can carry on for a long time throughout life if left untreated. There is much stigma placed on having a personality disorder, as for many years they were believed to be untreatable with an abundance of misunderstanding attached to the diagnosis. While it is true that personality disorders can be difficult to treat, mental health professionals have developed evidence-based therapeutic interventions that have helped individuals successfully develop more adaptive ways of thinking and behaving. Much of the research supports that with motivation to change, an individual with a personality disorder can experience positive change.
To be formally diagnosed with a personality disorder, there are certain criteria that must be met over a specific period. The diagnosis of a personality disorder must be made by a mental health professional observing specific long-term patterns of thoughts and behaviors. These patterns are often found to be consistent through the individual’s life starting in late adolescence carrying into adulthood. When considering a diagnosis of a personality disorder, a mental health professional will distinguish that the presence of the emotional disturbance is not linked to a specific event or situational stressors, though it is possible to have a co-occurring diagnosis due to these circumstances.
Mental health professionals use a cluster system to identify and diagnose personality disorders with shared characteristics. Currently, there are ten personality disorders that are broken down into three distinct clusters based on similarities.
Cluster A personality disorders are characterized by patterns of thinking that are considered unusual or odd and involve extreme social indifference, mistrust, or unusual beliefs. Cluster A personality disorders are:
Cluster B personality disorders involve erratic behaviors and highly intense emotional dysregulation, which can lead to aggression or manipulation of others. These include:
Cluster C contains personality disorders characterized by excessive anxious or fearful patterns of thinking or behaviors. It includes:
There is still much debate on the development of personality disorders, and there is no clear answer. However, some research suggests that different factors can contribute to the development of personality disorders, including childhood adverse experiences, genetics, and environmental or social circumstances.
Adverse childhood experiences can involve abuse and neglect or losing a parent. Environmental or social factors can include poverty or discrimination, a lack of support in school, and an unstable or chaotic family life. Genetic factors play a more complex role in the development of personality disorders. Currently, researchers are still on the fence as to exactly how genetics contribute to personality disorders, but some believe the genetic inheritance of temperaments plays a part.
Personality disorders can hold many adverse effects on an individual’s life. The effects of a personality disorder will vary depending on the type of diagnosis, but generally, they can influence cognitive performance, emotional capacity, and occupational functioning. However, it is usually unlikely that the individual with a personality disorder is fully aware of their actions as their thought processes, emotional responses and behaviors are considered normal in their self-belief.
The characteristics of each personality disorder will hold different struggles for each person. For instance, someone with an avoidant personality may find it difficult to find employment or maintain relationships due to their perceived social ineptness or feelings of worthlessness. On the other hand, an individual diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder is usually involved in legal troubles due to their tendency to disregard the rights of others.
Though it may seem that having a personality disorder will make it impossible to function and lead a normal life, with the proper support and treatment, individuals can generally find great success in healing and improving. The therapists at Puglisi Counseling are trained in the ability to work with personality disorders and will help you overcome your internal struggles and challenges. You will be met with a safe and judgment free environment where you can find the confidence in letting your guard down as you work towards healing.