Personality Disorders: What are They and How Did They Affect You?

By Wasim Kakroo

PERSONALITY is the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves that distinguishes them from others. Experiences, environment (surroundings, life situations), and inherited characteristics all influence an individual’s personality. Once developed, a person’s personality tends to remain consistent throughout life. A personality disorder is a manner of thinking, feeling, and acting that differs from cultural norms, produces distress or impairment in functioning, and persists over time.

Personality refers to how a person thinks, feels, and acts in ways that set them apart from others. Individuals’ personalities are influenced by their experiences, environment (surroundings, life situations), and hereditary characteristics. The personality of a person tends to be consistent across time. A personality disorder (PD) is a way of thinking, feeling, and acting that is out of step with cultural standards, causes distress or impairment in functioning, and lasts for a long period.

Personality disorders are of 10 specific types. Long-term patterns of behaviour and inner experiences that differ greatly from what is expected are referred to as personality disorders. In the lives of people with PD, by late adolescence or early adulthood, a pattern of experience and behaviour gets developed that produces distress or issues in functioning. Personality disorders can endure a long time if they are not treated. At least two of these areas are affected by personality disorders:

The way a person thinks of oneself or others
The way a person responds emotionally
The way a person interacts with other individuals
The way a person controls one’s own behavior


1. Antisocial personality disorder is characterised by a pattern of neglecting or violating others’ rights. Antisocial personality disorder is characterised by a refusal to comply with social norms, a pattern of lying or deception, and impulsive behaviour.

2. Avoidant personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of intense shyness, feelings of inadequacy, and acute sensitivity to criticism. People with avoidant personality disorder may be hesitant to get engaged with others unless they are sure they will be liked, be fearful of being criticised or rejected, or believe they are not good enough or socially incompetent.

3. Borderline personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of instability in personal relationships and emotions, poor self-image, and impulsivity. A person with borderline personality disorder may go to extremes to avoid being abandoned, attempting suicide multiple times, displaying inappropriately extreme anger, and experiencing persistent feelings of emptiness.

4. Dependent personality disorder is characterized by a need to be looked after, as well as submissive and clingy conduct. People with dependent personality disorder may find it difficult to make daily decisions without the support of others, or they may feel uneasy or helpless while alone due to a worry of not being able to care for themselves.

5. Histrionic personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of excessive attention seeking. People with histrionic personality disorder may feel uncomfortable when they are not the focus of attention, use their physical appearance to bring attention to themselves, or have emotions that change quickly or are beyond proportion.

6. Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of demand for praise from others while having a lack of empathy for others. A person with narcissistic personality disorder may have an inflated sense of self-importance, a sense of privilege and may exploit others for their purpose.

7. Obsessive-compulsive Personality disorder is characterised by a preoccupation with orderliness, perfection, and control. A person with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may be too focused on details or routines, work excessively, leaving little time for leisure or friends, or be rigid in their morals and values. (NOT to be confused with obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD.)

8. Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by a tendency of being distrustful of people and perceiving them as cruel or malicious. People with paranoid personality disorder frequently believe that others will harm or deceive them, therefore they avoid confiding in or becoming close to them.

9. Schizoid personality disorder is characterized by being disconnected from social ties and displaying little emotions. Such people do not desire deep relationships, prefer to be alone, and appear unconcerned about admiration or disapproval from others.

10. Schizotypal personality disorder is characterised by a pattern of extreme discomfort in interpersonal relationships, as well as warped thinking and odd conduct. A person with schizotypal personality disorder may have strange views, strange or abnormal behaviour, or extreme social anxiety.

What causes personality disorders?

Genetics, abuse, and other variables may have a role in the development of various personality disorders.
Some people used to believe that people with personality disorders were simply lethargic or even malicious. However, fresh study has begun to look into possible causes such as heredity, parenting, and peer pressure:

1. Genetics: Some plausible hereditary causes behind personality disorders are being identified by researchers. One group, for example, discovered a faulty gene that could be a contributor in obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Other researchers are looking for the genetic connections to aggression, anxiety, and fear, which are all traits that might contribute to personality disorders.

2. Childhood adversity: Traumatic childhood experiences such as childhood abuse and neglect are among the potential risk factors for the development of PD. For instance, childhood sexual abuse has been shown to be particularly common in people with borderline personality disorder.

Abuse of any kind, including verbal, can have a role in the development of personality disorder. Research has shown that children who are subjected to chronic verbal abuse are more likely than other children to develop borderline, narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, or paranoid personality disorders.

3. Role of parenting: The role of parenting is of particular interest because PDs have been hypothesized to result in part from maladaptive or poor socialization during childhood and adolescence, when many personality traits tend to become evident. For most children, the home environment is regarded as one of the most essential sources of socialization. Because parents play such an important role in their children’s upbringing and early socialization, the socialization deficiencies seen in people with PD may be due in part to poor parenting. Some parenting styles, such as harsh discipline and a lack of parental warmth or caring, have been linked to an increased likelihood of children of such parents developing PDs that last into adulthood. As the number of different types of poor parenting behaviors increases, the total likelihood of any offspring developing PD may tend to increase. Problematic parenting is linked to an increased risk of antisocial, avoidant, borderline, depressed, histrionic, paranoid, and schizotypal personality disorders. Interventions that encourage enhanced parental communication, warmth, and caring, as well as those that assist parents in using less aversive patterns of behaviour toward their children, may help to reduce the risk that their children will acquire PDs that will last into adulthood.

4. Peers. Certain factors can aid in the prevention of personality problems in youngsters.

According to psychologists, even a single strong relationship with a relative, mentor, or friend can counteract bad influences.

How is a personality disorder treated?

Most personality problems are treated with a course of psychological therapy. This usually lasts at least six months, if not longer, depending on the severity of the disease and any co-occurring issues.

I. Psychological treatments:

Psychotherapy is a type of treatment that entails talking about one’s ideas, emotions, and behaviours with a trained professional. All psychological therapies seek to improve people’s ability to control their thoughts and emotions.
Some therapies focus on dysfunctional thoughts, while others emphasise self-reflection and awareness of one’s own mind. Some therapies, particularly group therapy, assist people in better understanding of social relationships.
Many personality disorders can benefit from psychological therapy. They should, however, only be administered by a trained professional with experience working with personality disorders and other psychiatric illnesses. This is due to the fact that personality disorders are serious conditions that can lead to high-risk behaviours such as self-harm.
In addition to listening to and discussing key concerns with you, the psychotherapist can propose problem-solving strategies and, if necessary, assist you in changing your attitudes and behaviour.
To treat personality problems, a variety of psychotherapies are used. They can be broadly divided into three categories of therapy, which are discussed below.

1. Psychodynamic psychotherapy: Psychodynamic psychotherapy is founded on the concept that many adult behavioural patterns can be traced back to unfavourable early childhood events. These experiences produce patterns of flawed thinking and ideas that, while understandable in childhood, do not function in adulthood. The purpose of therapy is to investigate these distortions, understand how they formed, and devise effective methods to counteract their influence on your thinking and behaviour. Psychodynamic psychotherapy may be particularly useful for borderline personality disorder (BPD).

2. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT is founded on the idea that how we think about a situation influences how we act in that situation. Our behaviors, in turn, can influence how we think and feel. As a result, it is important to alter both the act of thinking (cognition) and the act of behaviour at the same time.
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), a kind of CBT, has been shown to be effective in helping people minimise impulsive self-harming behaviours, particularly in Borderline Personality Disorder. DBT is intended to help you cope better with emotional instability while also encouraging you to behave more positively.

3. Interpersonal counseling:
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is founded on the idea that our interactions with other people and the outside world in general have a significant impact on our mental health. Several personality disorders have been linked to feelings of poor self-esteem, anxiety, and self-doubt as a result of difficulties connecting with others. During IPT, the therapist will discuss any negative difficulties with your interpersonal interactions and how to fix them.

II. Medication:
There is currently no medicine approved for the treatment of any personality disorder. Medications, however, may be administered to treat related issues such as depression, anxiety, or psychotic symptoms.

For example, if you have moderate to severe depressive symptoms that make it difficult to approach your therapy with confidence, you may be prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which is a form of antidepressant (SSRI).

Some people, particularly those with BPD, have found mood-stabilizing medication to be beneficial.

The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar). He works at Kashmir Life Line, a free mental health counseling service. Author can be reached at [email protected]

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