Personality Disorder

What are Personality Disorders?

- People suffering from personality disorders often have problems in many areas of their lives, including social skills, moods, and emotional states. People with these disorders have difficulty establishing normal, healthy relationships.

- In many of the disorders, sufferers lack the ability to have genuine emotions including empathy for others.

- In some disorders, sufferers have no desire to have social relationships or they want relationships, but are scared to reach out to people.

- Personality disorder symptoms stem from basic personality traits that developed over time. A person does not suddenly "get" a personality disorder.

- Because personality disorder traits are deeply ingrained in the personality of suffers, there is no quick treatment. Treatment is typically based on psychotherapy which evaluates faulty thinking patterns and teaches new thinking and behavior patterns.

- A problem in treating individuals with personality disorders is that many do not believe they have a problem.

Biological Cause

Many mental health professionals feel that personality disorders are primarily a result of the person's experiences during childhood and adolescence. However, some data from family, twin, and adoption studies has suggested that biology does play a part in these disorders. Contributing to the biological model, some basic personality traits have been found to be inherited. A strong genetic link has been found for antisocial and borderline personality disorders.

Electroencephalograms (EEG), measurements of brain waves, have shown abnormalities in people with antisocial and borderline personality disorders. Some believe that this is a result of their abnormal thinking patterns, while others believe the people may have developed character abnormalities due to some subtle brain injury or defect. Did the abnormal electrical patterns result in abnormal thinking patterns or did abnormal thinking patterns result in abnormal electrical patterns? The debate continues.

Behavior therapy

Behavior therapies are used in some personality disorders to teach sufferers different kinds of social skills. For example a person with avoidant or schizoid personality disorders might find this therapy useful for challenging his or her fears of social situations. Someone with a dependant personality may find these techniques helpful in learning how to be more assertive. A person with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may also find this type of therapy useful in teaching themselves more flexibility.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

As the name implies, cognitive-behavioral therapy combines cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy techniques. The behaviorist theory of why we do the things we do believes we are solely a product of our environment. Everything we do is in response to our surroundings. We simply respond without thinking. The cognitive theory concentrates on our thinking patterns and changing negative thinking patterns. According to a cognitive psychologist, we are not simple, responding robots and we definitely have a choice about what we think about and react to our surroundings. Cognitive-behavioral therapy believes that our surroundings have an impact on our thinking and behavior and that we must be aware of what is happening around us so that we can more carefully choose our behavior and our thoughts.

Treatment Basics

Personality disorders are deeply ingrained attitudes and behaviors that developed as the personality developed. They cannot be changed quickly. Mental health professionals were once pessimistic about treating these disorders. Now, there is new evidence that some types of psychotherapy may be effective. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is the most commonly used. It is similar to psychoanalytic therapy which focuses on past events and long repressed feelings, but the psychodynamic model integrates the past with the patient's current life. Behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy are also used treating personality disorders. Because many personality disorder symptoms are part of the person's disposition, medications have little effect. Medications are usually only used to treat other disorders or specific symptoms the person may have, such as depression, psychotic symptoms, or anxious symptoms.