Personality disorders

Personality disorders tend to appear during the late teens or early twenties. There are a lot of misconceptions about them, mainly that they're untreatable. This isn't true. The Mix answers your questions.

A young woman is on her phone in her bedroom

What is a personality disorder?

We guess we could start by asking, ‘what’s a personality?‘ It’s inherently ‘you’ isn’t it? How you think, how you feel about stuff, how you behave. This develops and adapts as you grow up and have different relationships and experiences. Sometimes when we experience difficult or traumatic events in our life, it can affect, not only our mental health, but also our developing personalities – which can sometimes lead to personality disorders.

This can make people question their identity and who they are. It can also make it difficult to form relationships, to stay out of trouble and control feelings or behaviour.

The most common personality disorder is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). People with BPD find it difficult to process emotions and may experience some of the following:

  • Having an extreme fear of being abandoned
  • Having unstable relationships with others
  • Being impulsive and reckless
  • Self-harm
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal feelings or behaviours

Types of personality disorders

Just to make things super confusing, there are lots of different types of personality disorders – some of the most common ones are:

But the problem with this list is, any given person can have a look and instantly freak out and diagnose themselves with four or five different disorders, because some of the symptoms are quite common even without a disorder.

This is because all of us, to some degree, have disordered personalities. We can all be a bit self-obsessed, over-emotional, make bad decisions and get really nervous about silly things. Human beings are ultimately flawed, no matter how hard we try. This doesn’t mean we all have personality disorders.

How do I know if I have a personality disorder?

There are some people who do have personality disorders and need support and treatment with these. The best indicator is to ask these questions: Is the way you behave making you very unhappy and distressed? And/or: is the way you behave often upsetting and harming the people around you? If this is the case, it’s worth going to talk to your GP about what’s going on.

Learn more about talking to others about your mental health

Treatment for personality disorders

The biggest misconception about personality disorders is that they’re a life sentence and can’t be treated. This is completely untrue.

With the right treatment and support, you can live a satisfying and happy life. It’s important to get diagnosed first and then you’ll be directed to the help you need. The important thing to remember is that having a personality disorder is not your fault, and seeking help for it is neither embarrassing or shameful.

Talking therapies – will vary, depending on the type of personality disorder you’re diagnosed with. But common types of therapy include: mentalisation and cognitive analytical therapy (CAT). Lots of the therapies involve group work, which can be great for meeting other people going through the same thing.

Medication – this varies too, again depending on your diagnosis. Though medication won’t ‘cure’ your personality disorder, they can help control some of the symptoms and issues. Antidepressants and mood stabilisers can both help get your brain in check so you’re more receptive to the talking therapies. And in some cases, anti-psychotics are prescribed when you have symptoms of psychosis.

DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) – this is a specific type of therapy designed for people with BPD. Its goal is to alter your thinking of seeing your relationships, environment and life in ‘black and white’ which can lead to destructive thoughts and behaviours.

How can I support someone with a personality disorder?

Learn as much as you can about personality disorders. This will help you understand why your friend might be acting a certain way. It’ll also allow you to support them better. It can be tricky to find accurate information, but the following organisations offer great advice about personality disorders:

The best thing you can do for someone struggling with their mental health is be there for them. Remind them how loved they are, and how you’ll be there to listen or support always.

But make sure you look after yourself too. You’re not expected to fix someone’s mental health, and sometimes you might feel quite overwhelmed. Rethink offers lots of great support for friends and family.

Next Steps

  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 3393
  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 06-Jan-2021