Personality Disorders

When we talk of “Personality” people usually think of someone who is good looking, smart, charming and even influential to some extent. In this post, we look at what is meant by personality, different characteristics of personality, and an introduction to Personality Disorders. As there are various types of Personality Disorders, and each requires an in-depth understanding of the dynamics, they are being covered separately in our e-Newsletters under the Mind the MIND section.
What is personality?
The word personality is derived from the Latin word ‘persona’ which means ‘mask’. Thus, it is kind of a façade we put on that is observable to others. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. It is dynamic in nature as we keep evolving with time and different experiences. 
Characteristics of Personality
Persistent and enduring – Even though we all modify our beliefs and behaviours during our lifetime, our core personality traits tend to remain stable over time.
Early emergence – Our stable personality traits begin to manifest in adolescence, somewhere at the age of 15-16 years.
Combination of traits – Personality is dynamic in nature as it is an amalgamation of different of ways of thinking, feeling, perceiving and responding to the environment.
It also involves how we relate to self and others. Thus, it involves both the interpersonal and intrapersonal relations.
Personality Disorders
As mentioned above, our personality comprises of several traits and not all of them are necessarily healthy and adaptive. Some of these traits are bound to be problematic. Personality disorder is a mental disorder in which the person has a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. It represents an extreme or significant variation in personal functioning, a deviation from the way an average individual in a given culture thinks, feels, behaves, perceives, and relates to others. This causes significant problems and limitations in interpersonal relations, social activities, work productivity, and overall functioning.
Characteristics of Personality Disorders
Causes significant distress to the person having a personality disorder, and almost always to those around them.
It is pervasive and global, i.e. it is apparent in a range of personal and interpersonal situations and not restricted to any particular instance or situation.
It impairs the personal, social and occupational functioning of the individual with personality disorder.
Types of Personality Disorders
Personality Disorders are grouped into three clusters, based on similar characteristics and symptoms. Many people with one personality disorder also have signs and symptoms of at least one additional personality disorder. It's not necessary to exhibit all the signs and symptoms listed for a disorder to be diagnosed.
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Cluster A Personality Disorders
Cluster A personality disorders are characterized by odd, eccentric thinking or behaviour. They include:-

  1. Paranoid Personality Disorder 
  2. Schizoid Personality Disorder 
  3. Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Cluster B Personality Disorders
Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behaviour. They include:-
  1. Antisocial Personality Disorder
  2. Borderline Personality Disorder 
  3. Histrionic Personality Disorder 
  4. Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Cluster C Personality Disorders
Cluster C personality disorders are characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behaviour. They include:-
  1. Anxious-Avoidant Personality Disorder
  2. Dependent Personality Disorder
  3. Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is not the same as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, a type of anxiety disorder.
People who suffer from Personality Disorders are unlikely to seek treatment voluntarily as they may blame others and circumstances for their plight. If at all they do, it’s for associated conditions like depression, anxiety, relationship problems, stress, strong feelings that others do not understand them, etc. 
A combination of Psychotherapy and Pharmacotherapy works best for such cases. 
Psychotherapy – This is the most promising method of treatment for people with Personality Disorders. Intense and long-term therapy is required as there may be deep-rooted problems with interpersonal functioning. A strong therapist-client relationship offers the most benefit to people with such problems, yet is extremely difficult to establish due to the dramatic skepticism and inadequate coping skills of patients with such conditions. 
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Establishing rapport is the most challenging task for the therapist, yet the professional seeks to work around it to help the individual see things from a different perspective. There are different types, schools, and techniques of therapy. Depending on the nature of problems and its manifestation, the psychotherapist decides what would be more applicable as it is an individualistic treatment that caters to the needs and uniqueness of each individual.
In addition to psychotherapy, Psychological Assessments also form a significant part of the treatment process as through testing the therapist gets a better understanding of the inner dynamics of the individual's personality which strengthens the case formulation and subsequent treatment plan.

Medicines – As mentioned above, prescribing medicines for the comorbid problems can work well which would also help in improving the overall functioning of the individual. A Psychiatrist prescribes such medicines.