Personality disorders are abnormal personality patterns that are expressed in adults and interfere with their social functioning.
Some individuals can have difficult personalities to deal with. For instance, we can encounter extremely insecure people, avoidant people, dependent people but also demanding people. Similarly, we could also meet people who excessively crave for attention, as well as those who are overtly confident. However, this does not necessarily point towards identifying them as having a personality disorder, as it could be normal variant and aberrations of the normal variant.
Personality disorders are more often than not diagnosed after the age of 18. This is simply due to the fact that prior to that age, an individual’s behavior can be attributable to puberty. Adolescence is a normal development stage that all individuals go through. It is the stage during which wet take the years to form and mold our true identity, get to know and understand our likes and dislikes, based on which we develop our patterns of behavior. Thus, if an individual tends to exhibit an abnormal or socially disturbing pattern of behavior during puberty, one could possibly find its explanation in developmental stages. However, any patterns of behaviors that persist past puberty can rightly be considered as defining traits for a personality disorder.
Normal Personality Traits
In general, personality is characterized by 5 main criteria commonly known as “The Big Five”. These include: Openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, neuroticism (emotionality) and agreeableness. Researchers believe that personality disorders stem not only from unresolved conflicts during some developmental stages (causing anxiety), but also from the overexpression of one or many of the characteristics of normal personality. For example, people with bipolar and histrionic personality disorders have a high level of neuroticism (emotionality and emotional lability) but also of extraversion. However, people with narcissistic personality disorder have a low level of agreeableness and are mistrusting, arrogant and tough-minded.
Types of Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder is a disorder in which an individual perceives things, people and situations as either all good or all bad, with no medium. Such individuals are said to use the defense mechanism called splitting, which is the landmark of this personality disorder. When faced with a situation that they consider as positive, individuals with this disorder tend to feel good and happy. However, when they face rejection, opposition or contradiction, they consider the perpetrators of those negative emotions as “bad people”. This also explains why individuals with borderline personalities suffer extreme mood swings as they frequently and rapidly shift from being happy to being sad. They are also very dramatic in expressing their emotions and tend to exaggerate them.
With paranoid personality disorder, the individual has a deeply ingrained sense of mistrust which makes him constantly doubt and question the actions of everyone that surrounds him.
The same applies to their relationship with their siblings, relatives and co-workers.
Dependent Personality Disorder
Another commonly encountered personality disorder is dependent personality disorder. People who are dependent are in constant need for reassurance for important decisions, but also trivial ones. Dependent people have a very low self-esteem, which is the main reason why they are very insecure about making their own personal decisions.
In avoidant personality disorder, there is a deeply rooted and paralyzing anxiety regarding public spaces, public speaking and social interactions. This is due to the intense fear of rejection that people with this personality disorder display.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a disorder in which the individual exhibits overt feelings of self-confidence and self-importance. Such people believe that they are invincible, always right, and capable of all things. But in reality, this overtly boosted self-esteem is just a reflection of their underlying inferiority complex and feelings of inadequacy.
Antisocial personality disorder belongs to the cluster B of personality disorders, alongside with histrionic, narcissistic and borderline personality disorders.
They lack guilt and are irritable and constantly aggressive. It is said that antisocial personality disorder is a progression of conduct disorder (after the age of 18). In other words, it almost always starts with conduct disorder being diagnosed during teenage years; and if it is not corrected, itcontinues as antisocial personality disorder.
People with Schizotypal personality disorder display a high level of openness to experience, characterized by their odd and magical thinking. Their anomalies, speeches, expressions and behavior are similar to those suffering from schizophrenia, hence the name “Schizotypal”. Research and experience have also shown that compared to other people, people with schizotypal personalities are at a higher risk of developing schizophrenia in the future, which is the reason why it is also called “latent schizophrenia”.
Taking it one step at a time
Some people tend to say that trying to reason with an unreasonable person is truly an unreasonable venture. However, people with personality disorders do not often recognize that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. At the same time, dealing with them might become frustrating for you, especially due to their lack of insight but also because of their often deliberate attempts to manipulate and use you. With that said, living with someone with a personality disorder requires that you establish the perfect balance.
For those of them who tend to care (such as those suffering from the emotional type of personality disorders like borderline or histrionic personality disorders), you could use a more personal and “heartfelt” approach to connect with their emotions. Another important thing to do is to avoid contradicting them, as this might only aggravate them (and also you when they retaliate). Most importantly, we need to give up the dream or the fantasy that they will ever become what we want them to be. We need to accept them as who they are, identify the triggers for their behaviors and always stay a step ahead of time to achieve a better control of our emotions and a peaceful living.