We are not all born the same, all you need to do to see this is to observe infants: some are calmer, some more sensitive, others more sociable. As we grow, our personality is shaped by our environment but it doesn’t fundamentally change. Rather, it develops to adapt to our life so that we can cope with it more effectively.
However, for people with personality disorder, this process is more difficult and they find themselves confined to a more limited range of behavioural patterns, feelings and emotions, which becomes more obvious as they reach adulthood. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to social isolation as those suffering from a personality disorder may feel misunderstood, often hurt, or simply that they are not like everybody else. Likewise, others find it difficult to socialise with and relate to them.
Symptoms of personality disorders
Although it can sometimes be noticed during childhood, the onset of a personality disorder usually takes place in adolescence or early adulthood.
From a psychiatric point of view, there are several categories of personality disorders, each with specific traits of behaviour, but like with anything related to the human mind, nobody ticks all the boxes of a single checklist, and it is common to see aspects of several disorders in a person. Therefore, although those categories can be helpful in developing the broad lines of a treatment, they should not be seen as the be-all and end-all.
What characterises personality disorders is that you find it difficult to start and maintain friendships and relationships, in all areas of your life, social and work, because of certain behaviours. It could be that:
- You can’t trust others (Paranoid personality disorder);
- You feel little interest in connecting with others (Schizoid personality disorder);
- You act recklessly and impulsively with little regard for how it affects others (Antisocial personality disorder);
- You have difficulty managing your emotions and have a tendency to overreact (Borderline personality disorder);
- You need to be the centre of attention at all costs, as is seen in people with histrionic or narcissistic personality disorders;
- You avoid social contacts for fear of being rejected or judged (Avoidant personality disorder);
- You allow people to take excessive responsibility for your life (Dependent personality disorder);
- You need everything to be perfect and in order (Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder)
What causes personality disorders?
Although the role of genetics and inheritance in developing a personality disorder is controversial, it is accepted that family circumstances are a significant factor. If you felt neglected or unsafe as a child; if you were often criticised or if there were many changes to your family unit, you will have grown up finding it difficult to trust anybody, form warm bonds or express your feelings. Children who experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse are also more prone to developing personality disorders.
What treatments are available?
With the right treatment and professionals to support you, you can learn skills to help you manage your problematic behaviours and improve the quality of your relationships with others.
Talking therapies have proved very beneficial, but in order to be effective, it is important that you are honest with yourself, take responsibility for how the way you act affects your social interactions, and don’t blame your condition for it!
There are several types of talking therapies which are helpful with personality disorders, and which one is more appropriate for your will depend on your own diagnosis.
The two therapies that you are most likely to encounter are Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).
CBT will encourage you to examine your dynamics and challenge the beliefs that create your relationship issues. It has been shown to be especially helpful to treat avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.
DBT’s effectiveness for Borderline Personality Disorder is well documented. It focuses on teaching you to tolerate and accept the distress caused by your intense feelings, helping you to manage your daily life and emotional crises better.
Individual therapy is usually the norm, but group therapy can be a useful complementary structure, especially for people with avoidant personality disorder, as they can learn practical strategies to help them function better socially.
DBT Therapist in Auckland at the Robert Street Clinic
The Robert Street Clinic is a private clinic composed of highly skilled and experienced practitioners, covering all areas of mental health: psychologists, counsellors, psychotherapists and psychiatrists, which allows us to devise comprehensive, individual treatment plans under one roof, including prescribing medication.
We pride ourselves on offering a friendly and non-judgemental environment in which you will be able to explore your feelings and thoughts safely.
If you find it difficult to maintain relationships and are wondering whether you may have a personality disorder, or are worried about a loved one, email the Robert Street Clinic or call us on 09 973 5950, for experienced and approachable counselling in Auckland.