Are you concerned that you or a loved one are struggling with a personality disorder? You may have heard the term thrown around, especially when discussing people who have problematic relationships. But what is a personality disorder and how does it differ from a mood disorder? What does personality disorder treatment look like?
What is a personality disorder?
A personality disorder refers to a pattern of thought, belief, and behavior that make it difficult for a person to interact with others and form healthy relationships. This causes difficulty in the person’s life as they struggle to maintain friendships and romantic relationships, and have a hard time working with others.
It is not entirely clear what causes personality disorders, but most major theories pinpoint experiences in early childhood. These experiences may be a pattern of abuse or neglect, abandonment, trauma, and turmoil at home.
There are three different types of personality disorder.
Cluster A: Characterised by eccentric behavior. Includes Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal personality disorders.
Cluster B: Characterised by erratic emotional behavior. Includes Borderline, Narcissistic, Antisocial, and Histrionic personality disorders.
Cluster C: Characterised by patterns of anxious and fearful thought and behavior. Includes Avoidant, Dependent, and Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorders.
What is the difference between personality disorders and mood disorders?
Personality disorders are different from mood disorders in a number of ways. Mood disorders are characterised by extreme emotional highs and/or lows. Behavior and thought are impacted, but the major disruptive concerns are emotional. So, while oversleeping and negative thoughts are symptoms of depression, it is the emotional patterns such as despair, numbness, and intense sadness that truly characterise the disorder.
Personality disorders, on the other hand, are characterised most poignantly by their patterns of behavior and thought. Certain thoughts and behaviors can be triggered by strong emotions, but they persist even in the absence of emotional triggers. While an individual suffering from depression may interpret a loved one’s brief absence as abandonment during an emotional low, an individual suffering with a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) may interpret that absence as abandonment even when they have not been feeling emotionally triggered.
How does personality disorder treatment look?
Personality disorders are treated with a combination of therapy and medication. Medication can mitigate the impact of mood symptoms such as depression and anxiety. But since personality disorders seem to arise in response to specific events and patterns of experience, the individual needs to learn to recognize those patterns and subsequently learn to manage experiences in a healthy manner.
One of the most popular personality disorder treatments today is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT uses a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness to help individuals manage thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. CBT skills are used to challenge distorted thinking while mindfulness helps the individual pause before reacting in an unhealthy manner. It also helps the individual feel their emotions in a healthy way before they become overwhelming.
Personality disorder treatments are steadily improving as we learn more about the causes and patterns associated with various disorders. While personality disorder treatment is more complicated than treating mood disorders, it can be as effective and individuals can recover to live happy, healthy, meaningful lives.