What is personality?

Personality is considered a person’s way of thinking, feeling and behaving that makes them different from another individual. Each individual’s personality is influenced by their own personal experiences, environment (surroundings, life situations) and inherited characteristics.

What is a personality disorder?

A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving or in other words your way of thinking, feeling and behaving deviates from the expectations of the culture. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social activities, work and school because individuals with a personality disorder have trouble relating to situations and others. In some cases, these individuals may not realize that they have a personality disorder because their way of thinking and behaving seems natural and often they may blame others for the challenges faced.

When can personality disorders begin?

Personality disorders usually begin in the teenage years or early adulthood. There are many types of personality disorders some of which may become less obvious throughout middle age.

What are the types of personality disorders?

Personality disorders can be categorized into three clusters, based on similar characteristics and symptoms.
Note: It’s not necessary to exhibit every sign and symptom listed for a disorder to be diagnosed.

Cluster A personality disorders (odd, bizarre, isolative personality types)

  1. Schizoid personality disorder
    These individuals are distant, prefer being alone, and do not feel the need to interact with others. They also have limited range of emotional expression and can be perceived as cold or indifferent because they lack the ability to notice normal social cues. Individuals with autism may seem schizoid but, in reality, they desire social interaction, but are unsure how to connect with others (one of the key criteria for autism).
  2. Paranoid personality disorder
    These individuals tend to be isolative, find it difficult to trust others, and are constantly suspicious of other people’s motives. This can include unjustified, recurrent suspicions that their spouse or sexual partner is unfaithful. They may appear to be “hard to please” with a tendency to hold grudges.
  3. Schizotypal personality disorder
    These individuals often have eccentric or peculiar appearances, ways of dressings, and odd ideas, speech and behavior, with magical thinking. “Magical thinking” — is believing you can influence people and events with your thoughts and beliefs that certain casual incidents or events have hidden messages. Additionally, they can have social anxiety and a lack of or discomfort with close relationships.

Cluster B (dramatic, erratic, emotionally dysregulated)

  1. Borderline personality disorder
    Core features include unstable or fragile self-image, feelings of emptiness and fear of abandonment (especially relationship breakups). These individuals have emotional instability with up and down moods, oIen as a reaction to interpersonal stress, inability to control strong emotions when upset or angry, chronic sadness and recurrent thoughts of suicide and self-harm. They are impulsive and engage in risky behavior such as having unsafe sex, gambling or binge eating. They misuse substances like alcohol and illegal drugs.
  2. Histrionic personality disorder
    These individuals have a pathological need to be the center of attention, tend to only relate to others on a superficial level, and believe that their relationships with others are closer than they actually are. They are excessively emotional, dramatic or sexually provocative to gain attention and place excessive concern on their physical appearance.
  3. Narcissistic personality disorder
    The narcissist has an exaggerated view of their talents and accomplishments when compared to others. These achievements and talents are often exaggerated because of their belief that they are special and more important than others. They are entitled and arrogant, meaning they expect special treatment and constant praise but fail to recognize the needs and feelings of others. They are also secretly insecure and jealous believing that they are envied.
  4. Antisocial personality disorder
    These are individuals who usually have a longstanding difficulty since childhood in following rules, which manifests as criminal behavior, aggression, deceit, and lack of empathy or concern for others. There is persistent lying, stealing, using aliases, conning others as well as recurring problems with the law but a significant lack of remorse for their behavior.

Cluster C personality disorders (anxious, fearful)

  1. Avoidant personality disorder
    These individuals feel inherently inadequate, inferior and unattractive compared to other people, and, as a result, fear being rejected by others. They tend to only socialize with known individuals to minimize the risk of being rejected with extreme shyness in social situations and personal relationships. Unlike social anxiety disorder, this illness manifests from a young age and persons with avoidant personality tend to have low self-worth, which is not a key feature of social anxiety disorder.
  2. Dependent personality disorder
    These individuals have difficulties being on their own or making decisions for themselves which manifests as excessive dependence on others and feeling the need to be taken care of. There is lack of self-confidence, requiring excessive advice and reassurance from others to make even small decisions. The individuals also have high tolerance of poor or abusive treatment, even when other options are available with urgent need to start a new relationship when a close one has ended. They can become quite reliant on community staff and inpatient wards, as well as be quite reluctant to be discharged from healthcare settings.
  3. Obsessive compulsive personality disorder
    These individuals tend to be rigid, preoccupied with rules, details and orderliness, as well as being perfectionists, resulting in dysfunction and distress when perfection is not achieved because of not meeting their own strict standards. They also tend to have quite distant relationships with others and neglect of friends and enjoyable activities because of excessive commitment to work or a project.
    Note: This is distinct from OCD, as their obsessional qualities are not typically distressing to the person.

Myths & Facts about personality disorders

Myth #1: Personality disorders are just character flaws

Fact: Personality disorders are legitimate health conditions caused by biological and environmental factors. Character flaws do not have the same level of impact on one’s life as do personality disorders. Everyone has character flaws, whereas personality disorders are not a universal experience.

Myth #2: till people with personality disorders are manipulative

Fact: Manipulative behavior and personality disorder are not synonymous. Often, people with personality disorders who engage in manipulative behaviors aren’t consciously aware of their manipulation. In reality, those who struggle with this condition are often simply engaging a process they have learned over time to get their needs met.

Myth #3: People with a personality disorder never lead normal lives

Fact: People living with personality disorders can lead fulfilling lives. People with personality disorders have thoughts, feelings, and desires just like anyone else. Having a personality disorder does not prevent one from living a normal life. The condition may require additional hard work and insight into the impact of the disorder on one’s life and relationships. It may mean that some aspects of life will be more challenging, but this can often be managed with the help of a trusted professional who also understands the condition and can help navigate difficulties.

Myth #4: People with a personality disorder are selfish

Fact: Selfishness is a personality trait that can emerge in anyone from time to time, and it is not specific to personality disorders or any other mental health condition. Before labeling someone as selfish, it is important to note the difference between self-preservation and putting one’s own needs above someone else’s in a greedy fashion.

Myth #5: Personality disorders are always the result of childhood trauma

Fact: While it is true that some personality disorders can stem from trauma, childhood trauma and personality disorders are not always linked. The causes of personality disorders are often complex. Some personality disorders have a genetic component, while others are a result of overindulgent childhood experiences without accountability. Because personality disorders can stem from a variety of factors, it is inaccurate to associate the condition specifically with childhood trauma. It is important to avoid making assumptions about people based on their mental health diagnosis, as there is rarely a simple explanation as to why a person has a personality disorder.

Myth #6: People with personality disorders are dangerous

Fact: People who have personality disorders are no more dangerous than any other segment of the population. There is the possibility of danger when anyone is feeling out of sorts or unstable, but this is not necessarily connected to a diagnosis of any kind. These damaging misconceptions further isolate people who need support and understanding rather than judgment and misdirected fear.

Myth #7: Personality disorders aren’t treatable

Fact: Personality disorders can be successfully treated.

When to see a doctor?

If you or someone you know is has difficult in interpersonal relationships or you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of a personality disorder described above, consult your doctor or other primary care professional or a mental health professional nearest to you. Remember, untreated personality disorders can cause significant problems in one’s life and can get worse without the appropriate treatment.

Reference: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/personality-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20354463 (accessed 22/12/14 @11:00hrs)