What Is A Personality Disorder

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Everyone has personality traits that
characterise them. These are the usual
ways that a person thinks and behaves,
which make each of us unique.
Personality traits become a personality
disorder when the pattern of thinking
and behaviour is extreme, inflexible
and maladaptive. They may cause
major disruption to a person’s life and
are usually associated with significant
distress to the self or others.

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What Is A Personality Disorder

  1. 1. What is a personality disorder ?
  2. 2. What is a personality What are the main types disorder? of personality disorder? Everyone has personality traits that There is a wide range of personality characterise them. These are the usual disorders. All of them involve a pervasive ways that a person thinks and behaves, pattern of behaviour, which means that the which make each of us unique. characteristic behaviours and thoughts are evident in almost all aspects of a person’s Personality traits become a personality life. disorder when the pattern of thinking and behaviour is extreme, inflexible There are three clusters of personality and maladaptive. They may cause disorders: odd or eccentric disorders; major disruption to a person’s life and dramatic, emotional or erratic disorders; are usually associated with significant and anxious or fearful disorders. Specific distress to the self or others. disorders are as follows: Personality disorders begin in childhood Paranoid personality disorder is a and persist throughout adulthood. pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others, such that their motives are The prevalence of personality disorders interpreted as malevolent. is not firmly established and varies for the different disorders. Borderline Schizoid personality disorder is a personality disorder is experienced by pervasive pattern of detachment from about one in 100 people. social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal While personality can be difficult to settings. change, with early and appropriate treatment and support, people with Schizotypal personality disorder is a personality disorders can live full and pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal productive lives. deficits marked by acute discomfort with reduced capacity for close relationships. It is also characterised by distortions of thinking and perception and eccentric behaviour. Antisocial personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others.
  3. 3. Histrionic personality disorder People with borderline personality is a pervasive pattern of excessive disorder are likely to have: emotion and attention seeking. • Wide mood swings. Narcissistic personality disorder is • Inappropriate anger or difficulty a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in controlling anger. fantasy or actual behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy. • Chronic feelings of emptiness. Avoidant personality disorder • Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures is a pervasive pattern of social or threats, or self-harming behaviour. inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, • Impulsive and self-destructive and hypersensitivity to negative behaviour. evaluation. • A pattern of unstable relationships. Dependent personality disorder is a pervasive and excessive need • Persistent unstable self-image or to be taken care of, which leads to sense of self. submissive and clinging behaviour and • Fear of abandonment. fears of separation. • Periods of paranoia and loss of Obsessive-compulsive personality contact with reality. disorder is a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, Co-occurring mental health perfectionism, and mental and problems interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency. Personality disorders often co-occur with other mental illnesses. For more Borderline personality disorder is information on mental illness, read the a pervasive pattern of instability of brochure What is mental illness? and the interpersonal relationships, self-image, other brochures in this series. moods, and control over impulses. Harmful alcohol and other drug use Understanding borderline personality often co-occurs with personality disorder is particularly important disorders, particularly borderline because it can be misdiagnosed as personality disorder. This makes another mental illness, particularly a treatment more complex, and mood disorder. effectively managing alcohol and other drug use is important.
  4. 4. What causes What causes borderline personality disorder? personality It is well established that the disorders? tendency to develop borderline personality disorder runs in families. Personality disorders develop in This is similar to a predisposition to childhood and the thoughts and other illnesses, such as diabetes and behaviours become increasingly heart disease. ingrained in adulthood. There is some evidence that Some personality disorders are borderline personality disorder may more common in men (ie antisocial be related to a chemical imbalance in personality disorder) and others the brain. are more common in women (ie borderline personality disorder). Childhood abuse, neglect, and child separation from caregivers or Many people with a personality loved ones are believed to be major disorder do not seek help until contributing factors, particularly after years of distress, if at all. This sustained and severe abuse. contributes to our lack of knowledge about their causes and development. Women are more likely to develop borderline personality disorder than Different causes appear to be men. associated with the different types of personality disorders. However, like most mental illnesses, the causes appear to be a complex combination of genetic factors, biochemical factors, and individual, family and environmental factors.
  5. 5. What treatment is It teaches people how to manage their emotions, and re-learn ways to available? react to people and situations. An important aim of treatment for The range of treatments for people with borderline personality personality disorders is growing. The disorder is managing self-harm and type of treatment depends on the suicidal behaviour. DBT has been type of personality disorder. shown to be effective in bringing Many personality disorders are related suicidal behaviours under control. to other mental illnesses, although the While our understanding of the behaviour is usually more enduring effective treatment of personality and chronic. For example, obsessive disorders is still growing, the earlier compulsive personality disorder treatment is sought the more is related to obsessive compulsive effective it is likely to be. disorder, schizoid personality disorder to schizophrenia, and avoidant The family and friends of people with personality disorder to social phobia. a personality disorder can often feel Consequently, some similar treatment confused and distressed. Support approaches may be used. and education, as well as better community understanding, are an For borderline personality disorder, important part of treatment. psychological therapies are the main treatment approach. Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive behavioural therapy that targets mood instability and impulsivity.
  6. 6. Where to go for help About this brochure • Your general practitioner. This brochure is part of a series on mental illness funded by the Australian • Your community health centre. Government under the National Mental • Your community mental health Health Strategy. centre. Other brochures in this series include: For information on services, check the • What is mental illness? Community Help and Welfare Services and 24-hour emergency numbers in • What is an anxiety disorder? your local telephone directory. • What is bipolar mood disorder? For immediate counselling assistance, • What is a depressive disorder? contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. Lifeline can also supply you with contacts, • What is an eating disorder? further information and help. • What is schizophrenia? More information is available at: Free copies of all brochures are available www.mifa.org.au from Mental Health and Workforce Division of the Australian Government www.sane.org Department of Health and Ageing: GPO Box 9848 CANBERRA ACT 2601 Tel 1800 066 247 Fax 1800 634 400 www.health.gov.au/mentalhealth Insert local contact details here

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