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Personality Disorders

There are approximately 11 different personality disorders, each with a different medical name and specific symptoms. Some deviations may be quite mild and interfere very little with the individual’s home or work life, while others may cause great disruption in both the family and society. Specific situations or events trigger the behaviors of a personality disorder. Personality disorders can be the most difficult to treat, as they are often unrecognized by the individual experiencing it.

Many people who have a personality disorder don’t seek help because they are able to live normally in some ways – keeping a job, for example. Individual and group psychotherapy, combined with anti-depressants and mood stabilizers have shown promise in treating personality disorders, and new treatment programs are also showing promise.

Some common symptoms:

  • Difficulty getting along with other people. May be irritable, demanding, hostile, fearful or manipulative
  • Patterns of behaviour deviate markedly from society’s expectations and remain consistent over time
  • Disorder affects thought, emotion, interpersonal relationships and impulse control
  • The pattern is inflexible and occurs across a broad range of situations

One example from the approximately 11 diagnosable personality disorders is:

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Specific symptoms of BPD include:

  • Highly unstable patterns of social relationships. While they can develop intense but stormy attachments, their attitudes towards family, friends, and loved ones may suddenly shift from idealization (great admiration and love) to devaluation (intense anger and dislike);
  • May experience intense bouts of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last only hours, or at most a day. These may be associated with episodes of impulsive aggression, self-injury, and drug or alcohol abuse;
  • Distortions in cognition and sense of self can lead to frequent changes in long-term goals, career plans, jobs, friendships, gender identity, and values;
  • Sometimes people with BPD view themselves as fundamentally bad, or unworthy;
  • They may feel unfairly misunderstood or mistreated, bored, empty, and have little idea who they are;
  • Such symptoms are most acute when people with BPD feel isolated and lacking in social support, and may result in frantic efforts to avoid being alone;
  • Highly sensitive to rejection with a fear of abandonment;
  • Other impulsive behaviors, such as excessive spending, binge eating and risky sex.

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