Most people know about the different types of mental illnesses. While anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders are still taboo in some circles, there is at least a lot more awareness than there once was. The same cannot be said for personality disorders.
An estimated 14.8% of American adults have personality disorders, but much of what the general public knows comes from unreliable sources. Movies and TV shows often use personality disorder as to create a quick-and-easy backstory. Unfortunately, this strategy is more often than not used as a profile for someone dangerous.
Public awareness of personality disorders is crucially important, along with finding the right rehab centers to treat them. But what is a personality disorder in the first place?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a personality disorder refers to “an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture.” In other words, the individual thinks, feels, and acts in certain ways that make it difficult to function within their own society.
These patterns may make it tough to hold down a job and are often responsible for destroying relationships. In very rare cases, a personality disorder may lead to behavior that put others in danger. Far more often, personality disorders put the individual himself in danger.
Not to be confused with OCD (which is actually very different), OCPD is the most common personality disorder, affecting 8% of American adults.
OCPD is characterized by patterns of overly-controlling behavior, perfectionism, fixations with rules and lists, and rigid adherence to moral codes. While people with OCPD may be successful in their work lives, considering the high standards to which they hold themselves, they may also be paralyzed by the constant pressure.
They also struggle to maintain healthy relationships due to the unmeetable expectations they have of others.
PD may be caused by a history of sexual abuse, parental neglect, and models of similar patterns by parents or guardians. It leads to many damaged relationships, difficulty holding down jobs, legal problems, and physical damage.
Less common, but still highly prevalent, personality disorders include:
Paranoid Personality Disorder: The person has an unsubstantiated belief that people are trying to sabotage him/her. A general sense of paranoia and suspicion of people and patterns.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder: The person has an inflated view of their own importance, usually at the expense of others.
Antisocial Personality Disorder: The person has a disregard for the feelings or wellbeing of others, often leading to damaging or criminal acts for personal gain.
Schizoid Personality Disorder: The person avoids social interaction and is uninterested and often oblivious to social cues and expectations.
Avoidant Personality Disorder: The person is excessively shy and harbors chronic feelings of inadequacy.
There are a number of other personality disorders, all of which negatively impact the suffering individual and those around them.
Treatment of personality disorders will differ based on the disorder. Most commonly, personality disorders are treated with a combination of therapy and medication. Medication is used to improve mood symptoms, these are not to be confused with dangerous prescription drugs. Therapy generally aims to help the individual learn to regulate their emotions.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), for example, are both therapies that teach practical skills, such as reality testing. This works by challenging irrational thoughts over and over again until patterns begin to change.
DBT is centered around mindfulness practices, which help individuals regulate strong emotions by changing their relationship to the emotions. Mindful observation of the moment means that the person does not try to resist or hold onto the emotion. When left undisturbed, emotions pass over a matter of seconds.
Personality disorders are very complex and diagnosis should be done by a licensed mental health professional. However, they are far more common than most people suspect, and awareness and understanding is therefore very important. If you suspect that you or a loved one may suffer from a personality disorder, know that help is available and you can learn to live happily and effectively. Learn more about mental health treatment facilities.