The Mighty Logo

What TF Is a Personality Disorder?

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I’ve been diagnosed with a personality disorder. Rather unceremoniously too (no bells, whistles, parades or even a luncheon). My psychologist called my psychiatrist to talk about me, considering I was suicidal and self-harming. When she got off the phone she said to me, “You didn’t tell me you’ve been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.” Well that’s because I didn’t know! But what TF is a personality disorder? How do they come about? What does it mean? Please tell me there is a treatment for it!

Personality disorders aren’t as horrific as they first sound. It doesn’t mean you’ve got a shit personality or that you are like a malfunctioning robot. No steam is going to come out of your ears, and you won’t lose a spring or pop rivet. Personality disorders are mental disorders that are basically long-term patterns of behavior which can make it difficult to function on the daily. I’m hoping mine provides me with the perfect excuse for never making my bed… But seriously, it can make it hard to sustain a job and form a positive relationship in the long-term. It can be tricky to recognize you have a personality disorder, which often leads to people not receiving the best kind of care they can get. These disorders go hand-in-hand with other forms of mental illness, like depression and anxiety, so usually we just try to treat those and feel like we keep failing.

Personality disorders do come in many different packages, so my disorder may not look the same as yours might. There are three main groups of personality disorders. The first group of disorders are usually described as being “odd” or eccentric. These include paranoid personality disorders, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder. The next group are for the emotionally unstable and/or impulsive (it’s like they know me!). These disorders include antisocial personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. The third package stores avoidant personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and dependent personality disorder.

The causes of personality disorders are not well understood. There is a link between genetic factors and early environmental factors. There is no single gene involved in causing someone to develop a personality disorder. However people with personality disorders (particularly those such as borderline personality disorder) do generally come from unstable childhood homes. These homes usually have a high rate of childhood trauma, abuse or neglect. It comes from a complex interaction of negative early life experiences and genetic factors, as well as a lack of positive caregiving from one or both parents in early childhood can have a negative impact on personality development.

Personality disorders are next to impossible to manage on their own. If you think you fall in to the category of possibly having a personality disorder then the first step is to go to your local GP, but also jump on the web page for Black Dog Institute, which is an amazing resource. Don’t just settle for any old Dr. Nick Riviera. Find the one who is right for you. The one who listens and does what needs to be done in partnership with you. They can refer you to a psychiatrist who is able to give you an actual diagnosis, and who will also be able to link you in with a plethora of resources.

One type of therapy are psychotherapy courses, which are meant to provide a better long-term solution than medication. These courses include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. These require a commitment as they usually run over a number of sessions. However the information you can get from them is invaluable. They are offered through psychiatrists or psychologists. Either will be able to help you with each.

Medication is such an individual thing. I have tried many a form of antidepressant and anti-anxiety meds. Just know that the first medication may not work. You may go through 10 or so meds until you find the right one. But just stick with it.

Understanding what you have is the first step. And it is a bloody big one. If think you may have a personality disorder and you want to do something about it, full props to you, my friend. Without the right help you can continue down a path of a long-term and pervasive pattern of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that cause distress and interfere with your ability to cope with much of what life has to throw at you. There are many ways to cope. It’s just a matter of finding the right ones.

Sending love to you all.

Follow this journey on We’re All Mad Here.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty image via g-stockstudio

Originally published: February 19, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home