What is a personality disorder?
The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) defines Personality Disorders as “impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits.” What this means in layman’s terms is that there are some disorders which affect more than just a person’s mood, thinking and/or judgment; these disorders affect a person’s entire personality and therefore are pervasive in nature and are hard to change. Specifically, the DSM designates eleven different types of Personality Disorders: Antisocial, Avoidant, Borderline, Dependent, Histrionic, Dissociative, Narcissitic, Obsessive-Compulsive, Paranoid, Schizoid and Schizotypal.
Treating Personality Disorders
It is believed that personality is not firmly established until adulthood, and therefore Personality Disorders are not diagnosed until after eighteen years of age. People with Personality Disorders lack personal insight and are often unaware of their behavior and their effect on others. Change is incredibly hard to effect as patients can not see that they have a problem. They struggle to accept that many of the problems they face are of their own making, and rather see them as coming from factors outside themselves. Oftentimes extensive psychological testing can help the patient and family by providing insight on the issues they face and providing a diagnosis.
Additionally, for patients that do seek change Dialectical Behavioral Counseling is often the treatment employed for Personality Disorders. This empirically proven type of counseling helps clients better understand and deal with their own emotions and also better understand the world around them and how others may be experiencing the world.
Oftentimes, the family members of those with a Personality Disorder are seeking help and they can benefit tremendously from counseling services. Unfortunately, many of the relationship skills that work effectively in other relationships don’t hold true when dealing with someone with a Personality Disorders. Therefore, it is important to talk with someone who can understand the unique aspects of this type of relationship. Through counseling family members receive education about the disorder, an understanding of what to expect and how to deal with the relationship, including managing their own emotions and developing and setting healthy boundaries.