Personality disorders are a class of mental disorders characterized by enduring maladaptive patterns of behavior, cognition, and inner experience, exhibited across many contexts and deviating markedly from those accepted by the individual's culture. These patterns develop early, are inflexible, and are associated with significant distress or disability.
Those who struggle with a personality disorder have great difficulty dealing with other people. They tend to be inflexible, rigid, and unable to respond to the changes and demands of life. Although they feel that their behavior patterns are “normal” or “right,” people with personality disorders tend to have a narrow view of the world and find it difficult to participate in social activities.
Some experts believe that events occurring in early childhood exert a powerful influence upon behavior later in life. Others indicate that people are genetically predisposed to personality disorders. In some cases, however, environmental facts may cause a person who is already genetically vulnerable to develop a personality disorder.
Sometimes, but not always, people with personality disorder have experienced
- physical or sexual abuse in childhood
- violence in the family
- parents who drink too much
If children are taken out of this sort of difficult environment, they are less likely to develop a personality disorder.
Severe aggression, disobedience, and repeated temper tantrums in childhood.
Some people with antisocial personality disorder have very slight differences in the structure of their brains, and in the way some chemicals work in their brains. However, there is no brain scan or blood test that can diagnose a personality disorder.
- using a lot of drugs or alcohol
- problems getting on with your family or partner
- money problems
- anxiety, depression or other mental health problems
- important events
- stressful situations
- loss, such as death of a loved one
There are many types of help available for the different personality disorders. Treatment may include individual, group, or family psychotherapy. Medications, prescribed by a patient’s physician, may also be helpful in relieving some of the symptoms of personality disorders, including problems with anxiety and perceptions.
Psychotherapy for patients with personality disorders focuses on helping them see the unconscious conflicts that are contributing to or causing their symptoms. It also helps people become more flexible and is aimed at reducing the behavior patterns that interfere with everyday living.
In psychotherapy, people with personality disorders can better recognize the effects of their behavior on others. Behavior and cognitive therapies focus on resolving symptoms or traits that are characteristic of the disorder, such as the inability to make important life decisions or the inability to initiate relationships.