Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are serious mental illnesses affecting both the afflicted and the people in their lives.

When you have a personality disorder, it can interfere with your ability to functioning normally or effectively in your life. It can cause you problems at school or work as well as in your interpersonal relationships and social interactions. Personality disorders are treatable and can be controlled with proper care. The first step to improvement is to identify the existence and type of personality disorder afflicting a person.

While there are many different types of personality disorders, each can be classified into one of three different categories based on the types of behaviors most commonly associated with the mental condition. Cluster A personality disorders are marked by eccentric or odd behaviors and include schizoid, paranoid and schizotypal personality disorders. Cluster B personality disorders are marked by erratic, emotional or dramatic behavior and include antisocial, borderline and narcissistic personality disorder. Cluster C personality disorders are marked by anxious and fearful behaviors and include obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

If you have schizoid personality disorder, then you may be emotionally distant and cold. You may behave in a solitary, withdrawn and introverted manner. People with this condition are frequently absorbed in their own thinking and emotions and experience fear around intimacy and closeness with other people.

Paranoid Personality Disorder

When you have paranoid personality disorder, you tend to interpret the words and actions of other people as intentionally demeaning or threatening. You may be unforgiving, untrusting and have a tendency to act out in anger or aggression with no cause due to your unfounded perception that other people are deceitful, condescending, disloyal and unfaithful. A person with paranoid personality disorder may be scheming and exhibit guardedness, secretiveness and jealousy. They may also appear to others to be intensely serious or emotionally distant. These symptoms oftentimes make it difficult for the individual to seek help themselves. It is more likely that friends and family members find mental health help for those with paranoid personality.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder

If you have schizotypal personality disorder, then there are a number of abnormal behaviors you may exhibit. You may have an eccentric or unusual manner of dress or speech. You may possess paranoid or outrageous thoughts and beliefs. You may also have trouble building and maintaining healthy relationships with others and social settings may bring you extreme agitation. People with schizotypal personality disorder may have inappropriate reactions or no reactions at all to elements in a conversation. Likewise, those with schizotypal personality disorder may have comorbid conditions like anxiety disorders.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

When you have antisocial personality disorder, you have a history of repeatedly violating, exploiting or manipulating other people and their rights. Prison inmates commonly have this condition, as the activity of someone with antisocial personality disorder oftentimes qualifies as criminal. The number of men with antisocial personality disorder far outweighs the number of women. Doctors dispute whether or not antisocial personality disorder is the same illness as psychopathic personality disorder or psychopathy.

It is still unknown what exactly causes antisocial personality disorder. Some experts believe environmental and genetic factors may be involved in causing this condition. Child abuse is one suspected risk factor for antisocial personality disorder, as is having a parent who is either alcoholic or antisocial. If a child exhibits animal cruelty or sets fires, then it could be a precursor to antisocial personality development. Other possible symptoms of antisocial personality disorder include the following:

  • A convincing pretense of being charming and witty
  • Skill in flattery and the manipulation of people’s emotions
  • Recurring law breaking
  • A disregard for the security and safety of oneself and other people
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Arrogance and frequent anger
  • Frequent fighting, lying and stealing
  • An apparent absence of remorse or guilt

There is no specific mental health medication for antisocial personality disorder, however, doctors may prescribe drugs to treat other symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.

Borderline Personality Disorder

When you have borderline personality disorder (BPD), you have exhibited a pattern of long-term emotional turbulence or instability. Often, these turbulent and unstable emotions can lead you to act impulsively and create chaos in your relationships with others. Like antisocial personality disorder, the causes of BPD are not yet known, although environmental and genetic factors are believed to be involved. Environmental factors may include social and familial factors. Borderline personality disorder is more common in females than males and is particularly prevalent among patients hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. You may prone to develop BPD if you have experienced any of the following risk factors:

  • Emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • Poor family communication
  • Disruptions in family life
  • Abandonment during adolescence or childhood

Most people with BPD feel uncertain and insecure regarding the nature of their own identity, leading them to shift values and interests suddenly. Their perceptions of other people can likewise shift all of a sudden. Someone revered one moment can be disdained in the next. People with BPD are also prone to perceiving situations and circumstances in extreme terms, such as unequivocally good or evil. Because of these rapid and extreme shifts, people with BPD often have unstable or intense relationships. Additional BPD symptoms include the following:

  • Recurring crises
  • Repeated self-harm
  • Impulsive actions
  • Frequent bursts of unfounded or excessive anger
  • Frequent sense of boredom or emptiness
  • Inability to withstand being alone
  • Extreme fear of abandonment

Mental health professionals use a psychological evaluation to assess a patient’s history and symptoms in order to determine whether a diagnosis of BPD is present. Talking forms of therapy have been found effective in treating BPD, both individually and groups. Less frequently used to treat BPD are medications, although they can offer indirect improvements, such as moderating mood swings or alleviating co-occurring depression or other mental illnesses.

You may experience gradual improvement of your BPD through persistent, ongoing, long-term treatment that includes talk therapy, although actual outlooks depend on your willingness to be helped and the severity of your condition. Complications sometimes associated with BPD include challenges in social and family relationships and at work or school, alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicide attempts.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

If you have narcissistic personality disorder, then you have an overblown sense of your own importance. You are likely obsessed with visions of limitless success and are always seeking attention. You may also tend to be oversensitive about failing and swing between moods of insecurity and self-admiration. People with narcissistic personality disorder often exploit their relationships with others.

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