Personality disorders

What are these disorders?

A person’s personality is a unique combination of character traits, emotional reactions, attitudes and behaviours that remain relatively stable and that differentiate one individual from another. Our personality develops from birth through adolescence and early adulthood, when it solidifies and becomes stable. This is when personality disorders can appear.

A common component of personality disorders is the rigidity of certain personality traits, which leads to distress and makes it difficult for people to function. A personality trait becomes pathological when it significantly impairs functioning or causes a person to suffer.

A personality trait is not problematic in itself, rather it is the intensity and rigidity of a trait that becomes maladaptive. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) currently recognizes ten personality disorders. It is very common, however, for a person without a pure personality disorder to possess traits that stem from several of the personality disorders.

People living with paranoid personality disorder have difficulty trusting others because they are constantly suspicious and interpret the intentions of others as malicious.

People living with schizoid personality disorder feel very few emotions and have little interest in social relationships, which they see as unimportant. They enjoy solitary activities and often live detached and withdrawn from others.

People living with schizotypal personality disorder exhibit behaviours, thoughts, and ways of expressing themselves that are eccentric and out of the ordinary. They are often very uncomfortable with intimate relationships.

People living with antisocial personality disorderdisregard and disrespect the rights of others. They often go against laws and social conventions. They can also manipulate others and show little remorse.

People living with borderline personality disorder often experience a great deal of instability in their relationships, in the way they perceive themselves, and in the emotions they experience. They often act impulsively due to their rapidly changing emotions and frequently engage in self-destructive behaviours such as self-harm, drugs or unsafe sex.

People living with histrionic personality disorder seek the attention of others in different ways and are overly emotional.

People living with narcissistic personality disorder seek the admiration of others, have a sense of grandiosity/superiority and often have little empathy for others.

People living with avoidant personality disorder are very sensitive to criticism from others. They constantly feel inadequate, inferior or uninteresting. They avoid relationships for fear of being rejected and ridiculed.

People living with an addictive personality disorder need to be cared for, have decisions made for them and have other people take on their responsibilities. They are submissive, avoid arguments and often agree to do things they find unpleasant so as not to be rejected.

People living with obsessive-compulsive personalitydisorder are extremely preoccupied with order, perfectionism and control. Their need for mental and relationship control and rigidity makes them inflexible and closed down. They place more importance on following rules and on doing things a specific way than on completing tasks efficiently.

How does this impact loved ones?

Being in a relationship with someone who lives with a personality disorder can be extremely difficult at times, since the person’s personality dictates how they enter into and behave in relationships. Personality disorders therefore have a direct impact on all areas of life (work, intimate relationships, family, friends). The person’s friends and family often find it challenging to interact with them, compared to other people.

What about seniors?

Personality disorders appear early on in life and can continue throughout adulthood and into old age. Sometimes a person adopts ways of acting and coping that make the personality disorder less of a problem as they age, to the point where they no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder. However, normal age-related changes may pose greater challenges for these individuals because of their rigid personalities, making it more difficult for them to adapt to aging. The course of a personality disorder in seniors varies greatly from person to person.

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