What are the different types of personality disorders?
Firstly, a personality disorder (PD) does not mean that there is anything ‘wrong’ with your personality.
The term personality disorders refers to a long-term pattern of thinking, behaviour and emotion that can cause some people distress, and make it difficult to function in everyday life.
People with personality disorders can find it challenging to change their behaviour or adapt to different situations, perhaps causing them anxiety and making them avoid certain situations.
As a result, they may have trouble sustaining work or forming positive relationships with others. They may be over critical of themselves, and feel that people view them negatively although they may have no proof of this. They may find it difficult to maintain a meaningful relationship due to how their emotions can fluctuate, and also possible thoughts of abandonment. These issues can stem from childhood or teenage years.
Different Types of Personality Disorders
There are many different types of personality disorders.
It is also true that every single person carries some traits of one or more personality disorders. It is fair to say that no matter who is being assessed, we would likely show that we all have some traits of any given personality disorder, just purely by the nature of our personalities.
For example, a high percentage of people may have a fear of being ‘abandoned’ or left alone, or feel they are not ‘good enough’. However it is when these characteristics become an issue with daily functioning, that a diagnosis of a personality disorder may be given. Anything that impacts on daily life negatively and interferes with a person’s ability to cope is when support is needed.
A few examples of the different types of personality disorders are:
- Schizoid personality disorder;
- Antisocial personality disorder;
- Borderline personality disorder;
- Histrionic personality disorder;
- Narcissistic personality disorder;
- Avoidant personality disorder;
- Dependent personality disorder;
- Emotionally unstable disorder.
This is not a fully comprehensive list of the different types of personality disorders, however they are generally categorised into 3 areas or clusters:
- Emotional and impulsive – examples of this might be borderline, histrionic and narcissistic PD.
- Anxious – avoidant, dependent and obsessive compulsive PD.
- Suspicious – paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal and antisocial PD.
Treatment for Personality Disorders
Treatment for personality disorders (PD) is based on a multi-disciplinary approach.
This can include contact with a doctor, counsellor and psychiatrist, and informal ongoing support from perhaps friends, families or groups.
Anti-depressant medication may be prescribed alongside possible mood stabilisers, and in some cases, anti-psychotic medication.
Talking therapies can also be a positive step forward, to discuss feelings and thoughts you may be having.
Sometimes people with personality disorders can experience thoughts of self-harm and suicide that they may or may not act upon. When experiencing these thoughts it is imperative that support is provided to ensure the individual feels supported and safe.
To assist with these thoughts, there are psychosocial models and CBT methods. However talking therapies are quite effective, and can provide support when experiencing such thoughts as ‘the need’ to self-harm.
Support from family and services can literally save people’s lives. Knowing someone is there who understands, and can offer help and support when it is needed, can prevent someone from possibly acting impulsively and harming themselves.
Managing a personality disorder alone can be extremely difficult as there can be complexity and confusion, which require the person to fully understand the diagnosis, and for coping mechanisms to be established and implemented.
Personality disorders are genuine mental health disorders that can cause suffering, so if a diagnosis is given then it is important to enable people to seek professional support.
As there are different types of personality disorders and each person is unique and individual, there isn’t just one answer to this question.
We do know that medication can help in some instances, perhaps working with a mental health team, seeing a psychiatrist and undertaking talking therapies.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has shown to work well and have good results.
In my opinion, talking about your feelings, thoughts, and moods is essential. A mood diary can enable individuals to keep track of how they feel day to day and this enables discussions to look at how your mood may have possibly fluctuated day-to-day, during counselling sessions.
Some days you may not feel like writing very much, so even a happy/sad/confused/alone face can be enough to work with.
Symptoms of personality disorders can sometimes lead to anger and anxiety issues, which is where we would look at anger management and anxiety management programs. These can be excellent tools, providing good results.
A crisis plan is also important for a person to have, for times when they feel they may be headed towards feeling completely out of control.
The main point to focus on, is that treatment can work and support is out there.
What about Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is one of the most common diagnoses.
If you are a person with borderline personality disorder, you may:
- Not have a strong sense of who you are, and it can change depending on whom you’re with.
- Feel very worried about people abandoning you, and do anything to stop that happening.
- Have very intense emotions that last from a few hours to a few days and can change quickly (for example, from feeling very happy and confident in the morning, to feeling low and sad in the afternoon).
- Find it very hard to make and maintain stable relationships.
- Act impulsively and do things that could be harmful to yourself (such as binge eating, using drugs or driving dangerously).
- Have suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviour.
- Feel empty and lonely a lot of the time.
- Get very angry, and struggle to control your anger.
It is a myth that being diagnosed with this condition means you have a ‘bad’ personality.
Everyone has different personality traits; it is when they stop you from living your life as you wish that this diagnosis could become an unmanageable problem.
From the list above, everyone could relate to feeling similar at some point in their lives; you may feel like that now. It is all about the impact rather than the diagnosis. If you physically hurt your leg and have a long term injury, then it is about when and to what severity it impacts on your functioning each day and how best to manage this. I feel this is the same with a mental health issue.
If you identify with some of the issues above, and it feels intense and is impacting on your ability to cope – the first person to see would be your doctor, who may refer you to other professionals.
Talking therapies could include speaking with a counsellor to manage the feelings you might be experiencing, utilising programs as mentioned. Sometimes these feelings can be intense and seem completely unmanageable – speaking to a third party in itself can off load some of the pressure. There are also counselling techniques to help you try and regain a sense of control of your own life.
Primarily, it is about understanding personality disorders, working out a care and treatment plan, and incorporating this into your daily life.
Author: Liz Taylor, BA (Hons).
Liz Taylor is a social worker with over ten years’ experience in helping people with personality disorders and other mental health issues. Liz’s counselling strategies are drawn from the Relapse Prevention Model, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). She is passionate about enabling her clients to function and feel a sense of control in their lives, and to achieve the goals and outcomes that they wish.