DEFINITION OF PERSONALITY DISORDER :
In order to address this question, it seems sensible to first outline what psychotherapists mean by a HEALTHY personality. In general, one would expect someone with a healthy personality to exhibit the following characteristics:
– an ability to engage in satisfying personal relationships
– generally has age-expected thoughts and feelings
– can function relatively flexibly when stressed
– has a clear sense of own personal identity
– are generally well-adapted to their own particular set of life circumstances
– don’t generally experience significant distress or impose it on others
An UNHEALTHY, or DISORDERED PERSONALITY, in stark contrast to the above, will display a personality characteristic, or, far more frequently, a group of personality characteristics (or TRAITS, as they are referred to by psychologists), so extreme as to be way outside the normal range of experience and to subsequently cause the person suffering from the personality disorder SERIOUS PROBLEMS FUNCTIONING IN NEARLY ALL AREAS OF THEIR LIVES.
Problems encountered by the personality disordered individual will often include:
– an inability to maintain relationships
– an inability to interact successfully in the workplace (eg problems with authority)
– inability to integrate successfully into the community
– inability to provide (consistently, or at all) for self
We need not be surprised to learn, given these life-ruining problems, that a person with a disordered personality will, almost invariably, be unhappy, frustrated, angry, and, quite possibly, at times, suicidally distressed.
As if this abject state of affairs were not enough for our heroic sufferer to contend with, the personality problems s/he exhibits will tend to make others impatient, uncomfortable, and angry. In short, the person with a personality disorder will frequently alienate, and even make enemies, of others. The irony, of course, is that the sufferer will often have a profound need for the acceptance and support of the very people s/he seems so intent on driving away. It is a tragedy, however, that terror of rejection (stemming, frequently, from psychologically devastating rejection in childhood from those supposed to be in the role of primary carers) will prevent this from being articulated.
In order to avoid the tremendous difficulties which result from having a personality disorder – a tormented, emotionally impoverished, and deeply lonely life, it is essential to seek therapy. The problems a personality disorder gives rise to tend to interact with, and aggravate, each other (I’ll look at this in detail in my next post) in such a way that the sufferer will often find him/herself caught in a vicious downward spiral from which it is almost impossible to escape from without intervention by professionals highly trained and experienced in the relevant area of psychiatric care.
How Many Personality Disorders Are There?
The most researched personality disorder, and the one that appears to be most closely linked to childhood trauma, is borderline personality disorder (BPD).
The DSM 5 lists 10 types of personality disorders in all. These are:
- Paranoid personality disorder
- Schizoid personality disorder
- Schizotypal personality disorder
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Histrionic personality disorder
- Narcissistic personality disorder
- Avoidant personality disorder
- Dependent Personality Disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).