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Personality Disorders

What are Personality Disorders?

The term Personality Disorder is used to refer to long-term patterns of thinking, behaving and relating to others which are very different to the culture you live in. These patterns may cause distress and make it difficult to function in everyday life. People with personality disorders may find it hard to alter their behaviour or adapt to different situations. They may have difficulty forming positive relationships socially and professionally. Someone with a personality disorder finds it hard to regulate their behaviour, experiencing intense thoughts or feelings which makes it difficult to cope with life.

There are many different types of personality disorders, and the signs and symptoms are diverse. Sufferers may seem withdrawn or conversely, some may appear emotional, dramatic or even eccentric. The common feature is that symptoms are serious enough to impact many different areas of life. People with personality disorders often also live with other mental health conditions such as depression and substance abuse.

Types of Personality Disorders

There are many varieties of personality disorders, including:

Avoidant personality disorder: Characterised by hypersensitivity to criticism and a fear of rejection.

Borderline personality disorder: Characterised by impulsivity, risk-taking, extreme distress, unstable moods or an unpredictable temper.

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: Characterised by a preoccupation with perfection, orderliness and routines.

Narcissistic personality disorder: Characterised by a belief that you’re superior to everyone else.

Schizotypal personality disorder: Characterised by a lack of care for others and possibly having unusual beliefs, such as imagining that your thoughts can affect people or events.

Antisocial personality disorder: Characterised by a tendency to not care about others, sometimes displaying aggressive and violent behaviour, or even violating other people’s rights. They get easily frustrated and have difficulty controlling their anger.

People with personality disorders often don’t realise they are affected because their perception and behaviour seem normal to them. However, these symptoms often result in problems with social and professional relationships.


Some signs of a personality disorder include:

• recurrent mood swings
• angry outbursts, moodiness or irritability
• anxiety about relationships or excessive dependence on others
• paranoia or emotional detachment
• social isolation
• narcissism
• trouble making friends or distrust of others
• lack of impulse control and risky behaviour
• low self-esteem
• substance or alcohol abuse.
• self-harm, threatening or attempting suicide

People with personality disorders display extreme behaviour and are usually unable to adjust or alter it.

It is important to mention that sufferers of borderline personality disorder have high rate of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. If you are considering harming yourself or contemplating suicide, seek professional help immediately. Talk confidentially to a trained counsellor by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. In an emergency always call 000.

Causes of Personality Disorder

We don’t yet know what causes personality disorders. However, certain factors can make a person more likely to develop one, including:

• a family history of personality disorders or other mental illnesses
• abuse, neglect or instability during childhood
• significant traumas.

These factors may increase a person’s risk but they do not determine whether a person will develop a personality disorder. Likewise, some people will develop personality disorders without these risk factors.

Treatments for Personality Disorder

Treatment may differ, depending on the type of personality disorder. Some ways to deal with a personality disorder include:

• psychotherapy
• the support of loved ones and/or the community
• in some cases, medication.

Psychotherapy is the most effectual treatment for people with personality disorders. It can help you comprehend your thoughts, feelings and motivations, helping you to cope with your symptoms, and make positive steps and life changes.

Medication works most effectively when combined with therapy.

Self-care is also very important. Taking steps to improve the quality of your sleep and food, exercising regularly, connecting with supportive people, avoiding drugs and alcohol and keeping active can also help.

It is tough dealing with a personality disorder alone. Talking to a doctor or mental health professional will help you get support, a diagnosis and treatment.

Help for Family and Friends

If you have a loved one with a personality disorder, work with their mental health professional to find out how you can offer support and encouragement.

Families of people with borderline personality disorder may also benefit from therapy.

If you would like to discuss personality disorders, seeking treatment, or worried about a loved one, email Wellbeing Therapy Space –

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