Personality disorder

Personality disorders are mental health conditions that affect how people manage their feelings and how they relate to other people.

A person with a personality disorder thinks, feels, behaves or relates to others very differently to the average person.

There are several different types of personality disorder. This page gives some information about personality disorders in general, linking out to other sources for more detail.

Symptoms of a personality disorder

Symptoms vary depending on the type of personality disorder.

A person with borderline personality disorder (one of the most common types) tends to have disturbed ways of thinking, impulsive behaviour and problems controlling their emotions. They may have intense but unstable relationships and worry about people abandoning them. Read more about borderline personality disorder.

A person with antisocial personality disorder will typically get easily frustrated and have difficulty controlling their anger. They may blame other people for problems in their life, and be aggressive and violent, upsetting others with their behaviour. Read more about antisocial personality disorder.

You can also read about the other types of personality disorder on the Royal College of Psychiatrists website.

Someone with a personality disorder may also have other mental health problems, such as depression and substance abuse.

Treatment for a personality disorder

Treatment for a personality disorder usually involves a talking therapy. This is where the person talks to a therapist to get a better understanding of their own thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

It will last for at least three months but can often last longer depending on the severity of the condition and other problems the person may have.

As well as listening and discussing important issues with the person, the therapist may identify strategies to resolve problems and, if necessary, help them change their attitudes and behaviour.

Therapeutic communities

Therapeutic communities (TCs) are an intensive form of group therapy in which the experience of having a personality disorder is explored in depth.

The person attends at least one day a week and sometimes even five full days a week. TCs have been shown to be effective for mild to moderate personality disorders but require a high level of commitment.

Medication

Medication may be prescribed to treat problems associated with a personality disorder, such as depression, anxiety or psychotic symptoms.

For example, moderate to severe symptoms of depression might be treated with a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).

You can read more about the treatment for borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

You can also visit the Royal College of Psychiatrists website, and charity websites Mind and Rethink Mental Illness for their patient information on treatment for other types of personality disorder.

Recovery

Many people with a personality disorder recover over time. Psychological or medical treatment is often helpful, but support is sometimes all that's needed. There's no single approach that suits everyone – treatment should be tailored to the individual.

Causes

It's not clear exactly what causes personality disorders, but they are thought to result from a combination of the genes a person inherits and early environmental influences – for example, a distressing childhood experience (such as abuse or neglect).

Support for people living with a personality disorder

Having a personality disorder can have a big effect on the person's life, as well as their family and friends, but support is available.

If you would like support for yourself or someone you know, you may find the following links useful:

Ask your GP about support groups for personality disorders near you. Or find out what mental health services exist and how to access them.


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