What is a personality disorder?

What is a personality disorder?

Personality disorders are used as light terms in order to chide, tease or label people. However, having a personality disorder can be a huge problem as it can interfere in all areas of life.

Personality disorder means having an enduring pattern of inner experiences and behavior that deviate markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture. Pattern manifested in at least two areas:  

  • Cognition – ways of perceiving and interpreting self, other people, and events
  • Affectivity – range, intensity, lability, and appropriateness of emotional response
  • Interpersonal functioning  (relations with others)
  • Impulse control

 

The following conditions have to be met in order for a certain pattern of communication, behaviour and internal state to be called a personality disorder. The conditions are:

 

  1. Enduring pattern is inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations
  2. Leads to distress or impairment in functioning  
  3. Pattern is stable and of long duration.
  4. Onset tracked to adolescence or early adulthood  
  5. Not due to any Axis I issues (other psychiatric disorders)
  6. Not due to substance use/General medical condition

 

A few things are therefore clear:

Firstly, it is an aspect, a pattern developed over the years and tends to show in all areas of life. Therefore, just a one-off incident of strange behaviour will not qualify as a personality disorder.

Secondly, this means that this way of being is crystallized over the years, making it extremely difficult to change.

Perhaps the most important point to note here is that when someone has a personality disorder, they have adjusted their lives around it. Therefore, they have already chosen jobs and life situations which either suit the dysfunction or is not actively harmed by it. Therefore, they are highly unlikely to come for therapy for it themselves. There is little or no medication available for this.

 

If at all someone does show up at the therapist’s office, it is because their personality was becoming a problem at home or in the workplace. Therefore the client is very rigid when they come to the therapist and simply do not want to change.

Many are also made to seek treatment because they engage in rash and needless criminal behaviour. Such individuals are all the more set against treatment and therapy. Therefore, success rate in the treatment of personality disorders is very low.

One of the personality disorders which has a lot of research and a very successful rate of treatment (as compared to other personality disorders) is borderline personality disorder.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, or DBT is very helpful with BPD. It can help the person control their mood as well as their all-or-none thinking, which is the main issue in BPD. Research is showing that DBT also looks promising for other personality disorders.

Image source http://dearlavender.blogspot.in/2014/05/understanding-6-faces-personality-of.html