What you should know about personality disorders

Everyone has their own quirky traits, unhealthy coping mechanisms and meddlesome thought processes. However, some people’s regular behavior varies greatly from social norms, and, at that point, their personality may cause them difficulty  when establishing and maintaining healthy relationships or even jobs. This is further supported by NSU postdoctoral resident Morgan Levy, Ph.D., who said, “[personality issue] becomes a disorder when it’s really impacting lives and becomes a pattern.” According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), personality disorders affect a minimum of two of four areas including how one thinks about oneself and other people, how one emotionally responds to stimuli, how one relates to other people and how one monitors and controls one’s own behavior. There are ten particular types of personality disorders, and a few are described below based on APA resources.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Borderline personality disorder is marked by unstable personal relationships, impulsive tendencies, heated emotional reactions and tumultuous sense of self. Those affected by this disorder are more prone to suicidal ideation and self-abuse. Improving upon these tendencies involves impulse-control and sensitivity-reduction. According to Dr. Levy, BPD is one of the most stigmatized personality orders but is certainly treatable with different individual and group therapies.

Narcissistic personality disorder

Narcissistic personality disorders is characterized by a deficit in empathy, an extraneous sense of self-importance and a need for supple admiration and attention from others. Typically, people with this disorder are particularly sensitive to criticism and exploitative of others. They are focused on gaining power, idealistic love, beauty and more, to a point where their desire impedes upon regular life.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCD)

People with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder are preoccupied with organization and perfectionism to the point where other aspects of their lives are negatively affected. This unhealthy focus can be on schedules or details and may impair time leftover for friendship or new hobbies.

Antisocial personality disorder

To be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, one must be 18 years old. These people display an explicit pattern of disregarding others’ rights, repetitively lie and partake in impulsive action. These people may be described as apathetic, irresponsible, manipulative and remorseless. Often, they recurrently encounter trouble with the law, so they may have colorful criminal records.

Before you jump to any conclusions about yourself or someone close to you based on these descriptors, know that Levy said, “we tend to overpathologize, and if we really look at ourselves, we all have different traits of the different personality disorders — Nobody is perfect.”

For those that are affected by these disorders, Levy encourages them and those around them to recognize “a personality disorder just means that you learned this way of interacting and this way of being when you were a child, and it was reinforced throughout your entire life,” so assuming that a personality disorder means you or someone else is only seeking attention or is damaged, lesser or beyond help is inaccurate.  Moreover, treatment is entirely possible although long-term. Levy said the first step of improving is becoming aware of disruptive behavioral patterns and then practicing better approaches to situations that spark those patterns.

But even when the road to betterment is long, a diagnosis does not determine one’s fate. Levy said there may be a stigma that personality disorders determine how one acts forever, but it’s more effective to think of them as an indicator of the problems a person can begin to work with.

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