What Does it Mean to Have a Personality Disorder?
Personality is defined as a combination of behavioral and mental traits that form an individual’s character and makes us unique as humans. Personality disorders are thus defined by a pattern of experiences and behaviors that deviate from social/cultural norms and expectations (American Psychological Association, 2013). Individuals with personality disorders may experience difficulties in thinking, emotion regulation, relationships, or impulse control (Borges & Naugle, 2015).
Personalities formed at Childhood evolve through a combination of:
- Some personality traits may be passed on to a child through his or her parents. These traits that are inherited are considered to make up an individual’s temperament.
- The surroundings an individual grows up in, events an individual has experienced, and relationships with family members or others can all contribute to an individual’s personality.
The mix of genetic and environmental influences are often thought to be the cause of a personality disorder. An individual’s genes may make them vulnerable to developing a personality disorder, and a life situation or traumatic event may trigger the actual development (Hopwood et al., 2011).
Signs & Symptoms of Personality Disorder
Personality disorders are characterized by persistent behavioral problems often associated with personal, social, and occupational disruption. An individual diagnosed with a personality disorder may experience unhealthy coping skills, leading to personal problems that may increase anxiety, distress, or depression (Choi-Kain, 2016).
Displayed Symptoms of Personality Disorder:
- Intense, rapid changes in mood and affect
- Problems with emotion regulation
- Emotional lability or severe mood swings
- Destructive and self-harming behavior
- Issues with self-identity
- Unhealthy relationships
How We Diagnose Personality Disorders
Here at Fairmount, a comprehensive assessment is completed with each patient upon intake. The assessment include questions about an individual’s psychiatric and medical history, family history, functioning at school and work, stressful or traumatic life experiences, and social and intimate relationships. Information is also collected from collateral informants such as parents or partners. From these first initial steps, we begin our diagnosis.
Although each personality disorder has its own set of diagnostic criteria, the DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) states that the diagnosis of a personality disorder includes long-term marked deviation from cultural expectations that leads to significant distress or impairment in at least two of these areas:
Lead Areas of Distress/Impairment:
- The way you perceive and interpret yourself, other people and events
- The appropriateness of your emotional responses
- How well you function when dealing with other people and in relationships
- Whether you can control your impulses
After identifying areas of distress, here at Fairmount, we determine specific personality disorder types. Categorizing the types of personality disorders helps understand the patient in great detail. The types of Personality Disorders are as follows:
Personality Disorder Types:
- Paranoid Personality Disorder: a pattern of distrust and suspiciousness regarding the motives of others.
- Schizoid Personality Disorder: a pattern of detachment from social relationships and limited range of emotional expression.
- Schizotypal Personality Disorder: a pattern of extreme discomfort in close relationships, paranoia, and unconventional beliefs.
- Antisocial Personality Disorder: a pattern of disregard for morals, social norms, and the rights and feelings of others.
- Borderline Personality Disorder: a pattern of instability in relationships, self-image, and impulsivity.
- Histrionic Personality Disorder: a pattern of excessive emotionality and attention-seeking.
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder: a pattern of exaggerated feelings of self-importance, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.
- Avoidant Personality Disorder: a pattern of social avoidance, feelings of inadequacy, and fear of rejection.
- Dependent Personality Disorder: a pattern of pervasive psychological dependence on others.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: a pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and control.
*It is important to determine that the personality disorder is not due to the psychological effects of a medical condition.
Personality disorders are often diagnosed in early adulthood after experiencing problems at work or school, and in their social lives and relationships. Mental health professionalsV, often times psychiatrist, will review the amount, type, and severity of symptoms the individual is experiencing before coming to a diagnosis of a Personality disorder.
Our Treatment for Personality Disorders
Here at Fairmount, a multidisciplinary team will work together to develop a treatment plan best fit to the needs of the individual. A psychiatrist, nurse, social worker, and therapist will work together to identify the specific needs of the individual depending on the particular disorder, its severity, and life circumstances.
Personality disorders are often treated through a combination of medication and therapeutic interventions.
At Fairmount Behavioral Health System, we aim to utilize dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) techniques to equip patients with skills in preventing emotional crisis and self-injurious behaviors by promoting mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and building on interpersonal skills (Chapman, 2006).
If any of these symptoms are causing concern for you, a family member or a friend, please contact Fairmount Behavioral Health to schedule an evaluation at 215.487.4100. You can also visit our Admissions Page for additional information.
Victoria E. Bowen, B.S./B.A.
Master’s Level Psychology Practicum Student
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Borges, L. M. & Naugle, A. E. (2015). An experimental examination of the interaction between mood induction task and personality psychopathology on state emotion dysregulation. Behavioral Sciences, 5. doi: 10.3390/bs5010070
Chapman, A. L. (2006). Dialectical behavior therapy: Current indications and unique elements. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 3(9), 62–68.
Choi-Kain, L. (2016). Overview of Personality Disorders. [Website].
Retrieved from http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/personality-disorders/overview-of-personality-disorders
Hopwood, C. J., Donnellan, M. B., Blonigen, D. M., Krueger, R. F., McGue, M., Iacono, W. G., & Burt, S. A. (2011). Genetic and environmental influences on personality trait stability and growth during the transition to adulthood: A three wave longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(3). doi:10.1037/a0022409