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Personality Disorders

Personality Disorders

"Robert" was a charmer. Everyone who met him agreed he had a great personality, was confident and seemed to be able to make things happen. The fact that he was also good looking didn't seem to hurt either. Yes, everyone loved Robert - until they got to know him. He drew people to him like flies to honey, but didn't have a single long term friend. In fact he'd never been able to maintain a long-term relationship of any kind, moving on as soon as things were no longer going his way. He ran away from personal challenge, so had never been able to hold a job for long either. But to hear him speak, you could be forgiven for thinking that he was successful at everything he turned his hand to. He was so convincing that he had come to believe the things that he told others. He saw the world in fairly black and white terms: he deserved everything good, bad things belonged to somebody else and he was interested in other people as long as they were meeting his needs. If they were hurt in the process, that was part of their stuff and nothing to do with him.

What Does A Personality Disorder Look Like?

Because of his initial attractiveness, it's not easy to realise that "Robert" is in fact suffering from a personality disorder - narcissism. Unlike some forms of mental illness, personality disorders are harder to spot because the individual affected, often appears to carry on with life with some degree of success. It is only a closer look that lets us see that there are certain extreme and rigid patterns of thinking and behaving at work. For example, in Robert's case, his belief that life should always give him exactly what he wanted, allowed him to abandon a string of partners (and children) when, from his point of view, the demands of those relationships outweighed the benefits. It also meant that he saw things such as child support as unnecessary, since he didn't gain anything from it.

Broadly speaking, personality disorders fall into three various categories:

  • Odd or eccentric
  • Dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable
  • Anxious and fearful

Common Categories:

  • Paranoid - the person displays high levels of mistrust and suspicion.
  • Antisocial - an absolute disregard for the needs, wants, boundaries and rights of others.
  • Histrionic - characterised by displays of excessive and constantly changing emotion and chronic attention seeking. (Most commonly found in females.)
  • Schizoid/schizotypal - marked by the individual's limited emotional display and their inability/reluctance to form attachments with others.
  • Narcissism - typically shows a greatly inflated sense of self-worth, craves admiration, but completely lacks the ability to see the world through anyone else's eyes. (Most commonly found in males).
  • Avoidant - sufferers are highly introverted, hypersensitive and easily hurt or offended.
  • Dependent - evidenced by clingy / possessive behaviour, a deep fear of abandonment / rejection and a strong need to be taken care of.
  • Obsessive Compulsive - characterised by an overwhelming preoccupation with order, perfection and maintaining control.
  • Borderline - sometimes misdiagnosed as bipolar, these individuals are highly unstable, demonstrate huge mood swings and poor impulse control, have a significant fear of abandonment and may be suicidal.

Despite these many variations, there are also several characteristics which personality disorders have in common.

  • There are certain elements of the person's thinking and behaving which are extreme and inflexible and do not appear to be influenced by reason or logic.
  • These same thoughts and actions cause major distress and disruption to the individual and to relationships with those closest to them.
  • Personality disorders generally begin in childhood and are often triggered by trauma, abuse or neglect.
  • Personality disorders often exist in tandem with substance abuse or addictions.

How Can Counselling Help?

Working with a trained counsellor can be effective not only for the individual who is living with a personality disorder, but for those in their support network, family and friends. Education can better equip people to understand the disorder and position them to make helpful choices. Priority is given to managing self harm and thoughts of suicide. As well as helping individuals to learn new ways of responding to people and situations.

Living with a personality disorder can leave you feeling very isolated and misunderstood. At Point of Change Counselling, you will receive the time, support and attention which can help you towards better management of your unique challenges.

If you need support with a personality disorder, contact Alli at Point Of Change Counselling to make an appointment.

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The information on this website is intended for general information only. For help, diagnosis, or treatment of specific issues, please see a mental health professional.