"A personality disorder is identified by a pervasive pattern of experience and behavior that is abnormal with respect to any two of the following: thinking, mood, personal relations, and the control of impulses. Personality disorders are not illnesses in a strict sense as they do not disrupt emotional, intellectual, or perceptual functioning." (FocusAs.com)
Personality disorder types include paranoid, schizoid, avoidant, sociopath (psychopaths, or anti-social), schizotypal, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, compulsive, and passive-aggressive.
Myths about Personality Disorders
- Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand - has a (short) list of myths about mental illness.
Information by Condition
- Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand - See also the Table of Contents for general information on Personality Disorder.
- Merck Manuals Online: Personality Disorders - lots of information on personality disorders.
- Internet Mental Health - has a massive collection of links on a variety of personality disorders. Click on the Disorders link in the left frame and then scroll down to Personality Disorders.
- eMedicine.com - more doctor-ly articles relating to personality disorders. Click on the links at top find articles relating to specific disorders.
The following links have to do with specific personality disorders. This isn't a complete list by any standard, but I hope you will find these resources useful.
Please don't read the following list and then start assigning personality disorders to your friends, family, and associates!!! I've seen characteristics in the list below that describe me, because each list describes a list of personality traits that we all have. Remember, "a deeply ingrained, inflexible pattern of relating, perceiving, and thinking serious enough to cause distress or impaired functioning is a personality disorder." (NMHA) People can be mentally healthy and still be difficult to deal with. See the Dealing with Difficult People section.
The following descriptions are from this article from the National Mental Health Association, but the links were added by me.
- WebMD.com - Topic Overview includes links to some of the other things those with BPD might suffer from, including eating disorders, depression, and substance abuse.
- Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder: A Defect of Philosophy, not Anxiety - OCPD is not the same as OCD. Click to learn the differences.
Schizoid Personality Disorder
Schizoid personalities are introverted, withdrawn, solitary, emotionally cold, and distant. They are often absorbed with their own thoughts and feelings and are fearful of closeness and intimacy with others. For example, a person suffering from schizoid personality is more of a daydreamer than a practical action taker.
Paranoid Personality Disorder
The essential feature for this type of personality disorder is interpreting the actions of others as deliberately threatening or demeaning. People with paranoid personality disorder are untrusting, unforgiving, and prone to angry or aggressive outbursts without justification because they perceive others as unfaithful, disloyal, condescending or deceitful. This type of person may also be jealous, guarded, secretive, and scheming, and may appear to be emotionally "cold" or excessively serious.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder
A pattern of peculiarities best describes those with schizotypal personality disorder. People may have odd or eccentric manners of speaking or dressing. Strange, outlandish or paranoid beliefs and thoughts are common. People with schizotypal personality disorder have difficulties forming relationships and experience extreme anxiety in social situations. They may react inappropriately or not react at all during a conversation or they may talk to themselves. They also display signs of "magical thinking" by saying they can see into the future or read other people's minds.
Antisocial Personality Disorder
People with antisocial personality disorder characteristically act out their conflicts and ignore normal rules of social behavior. These individuals are impulsive, irresponsible, and callous. Typically, the antisocial personality has a history of legal difficulties, belligerent and irresponsible behavior, aggressive and even violent relationships. They show no respect for other people and feel no remorse about the effects of their behavior on others. These people ware at high risk for substance abuse, especially alcoholism, since it helps them to relieve tension, irritability and boredom.
Borderline Personality Disorder
People with borderline personality disorder are unstable in several areas, including interpersonal relationships, behavior, mood, and self-image. Abrupt and extreme mood changes, stormy interpersonal relationships, an unstable and fluctuating self-image, unpredictable and self-destructive actions characterize the person with borderline personality disorder. These individuals generally have great difficulty with their own sense of identity. They often experience the world in extremes, viewing others as either "all good" or "all bad." A person with borderline personality may form an intense personal attachment with someone only to quickly dissolve it over a perceived slight.
Fears of abandonment may lead to an excessive dependency on others. Self-multilation or recurrent suicidal gestures may be used to get attention or manipulate others. Impulsive actions, chronic feelings of boredom or emptiness, and bouts of intense inappropriate anger are other traits of this disorder, which is more common among females.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
People with narcissistic personality have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, are absorbed by fantasies of unlimited success, and seek constant attention. The narcissistic personality is oversensitive to failure and often complains of multiple somatic symptoms.
Prone to extreme mood swings between self-admiration and insecurity, these people tend to exploit interpersonal relationships.
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Avoidant personalities are often hypersensitive to rejection and are unwilling to become involved with others unless they are sure of being liked. Excessive social discomfort, timidity, fear of criticism, avoidance of social or work activities that involve interpersonal contact are characteristic of the avoidant personality. They are fearful of saying something considered foolish by others; worry they will blush or cry in front of others; and are very hurt by any disapproval by others.
People with avoidant personality disorder may have no close relationships outside of their family circle, although they would like to, and are upset at their inability to relate well to others.
Dependent Personality Disorder
People with dependent personality disorder may exhibit a pattern of dependent and submissive behavior, relying on others to make decisions for them. They require excessive reassurance and advice, and are easily hurt by criticism or disapproval. They feel uncomfortable and helpless if they are alone, and can be devastated when a close relationship ends. They have a strong fear of rejection. Typically lacking in self-confidence, the dependent personality rarely initiates projects or does things independently. This disorder usually begins by early adulthood and is diagnosed more frequently in females than males.
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
Compulsive personalities are conscientious and have high levels of aspiration, but they also strive for perfection. Never satisfied with their achievements, people with compulsive personality disorder take on more and more responsibilities.
They are reliable, dependable, orderly, and methodical, but their inflexibility often makes them incapable of adapting to changed circumstances. People with compulsive personality are highly cautious, weigh all aspects of a problem, and pay attention to every detail, making it difficult for them to make decisions and complete tasks.
When their feelings are not under strict control, events are unpredictable, or they must rely on others, compulsive personalities often feel a sense of isolation and helplessness.
Tips on Dealing with People who have Personality Disorders
The following are from my notes taken at a Regional Welfare Training given in July 2005 by Marci Remington of LDS Family Services. Remington used a booklet by Susan Fee called Dealing with Difficult People as the basis of her presentation. Fee's words are in quotes, my notes have the bullets.
The talk topic was specifically personality disorders, but the information below can be useful in a variety of situations.
Remington especially directed her remarks to Bishops and Branch Presidents who often have inappropriately heavy demands made on them by unit members.
- Teach people you don't what your time stomped on [by setting interview times]. For example, people with borderline personality disorders are irresponsible with meetings. If it's not a genuine crisis, give them your clerk's number and the times you're available for interviews, saying "Here's when I can help."
- You are not their victim; you are not available unless it's a crisis.
- Help them focus on future behaviors by setting goals. For example, if a husband is dealing with a problem in a marriage by giving his wife the "silent treatment", set a goal to speak to the wife. If nothing happens, in a subsequent interview the Bishop might say, "We've talked about this before, and we haven't made progress. Let's try someone else [like a professional counselor]."
- Ask what can/can't I let go of?
- For example, a working mother who cleans the baseboards in her house daily may be doing so because she was "raised that way". Help hear learn that's not the way it necessarily has to be.
- Learn that it's okay to cut things for your well-being. You will be okay if you have to drop something.
- Say, "We've talked about this before, and we haven't made progress. Let's try someone else [-- a professional counselor]."
- For example, a three time divorcee who cuts herself is in the Bishop's office every week. She constantly retells the same story over and over again, never resolving the issues. She is a good referral to LDS Family Services.
- People with personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder, may flip disorders when one stops working for them.
- When dealing with people who have personality disorders you must be very careful to keep confidences. They are often distrusting and already "know" that everyone is judging them.
- When someone comments to you about someone's odd behavior, simply say "Yes, they do struggle" and STOP.
You Teach Others How to Treat You
"Learn this relationship rule and you'll relieve a lot of stress in your life. People can't push your buttons unless you show them the panel! Setting boundaries with others will teach them how to treat you and others in their relationships."
Lose the Victim Mentality
"Dealing with difficult people can be exhausting. And most of the energy drain comes from blaming them for making your life difficult. Continue to set boundaries with others and you can not only feel empowered but teach them to not expect others make their problems okay. No one has to be a victim."
"Assertive communication means maintaining your rights while respecting the rights of others. Tha's far different than an aggressive style that violates the rights of others, or passive, in which you allow your own rights to be violated. Speaking assertively is taking ownership of your feelings and requests and the feelings and request of your client"
Focus on Future Behavior
"People aren't the problem; it's how they choose to behave. What is he or she doing that you want changed? If you can't answer that question, you're not ready to have a conversation. A person can only change future behavior. A conversation filled with personal attacks and a history of mistakes generates defensiveness."
"When it comes to your relationships, what's negotiable and non-negotiable? What standards do you have that no matter what you will not allow to be violated? These are your boundaries for defining the relationship. Once a boundary is crossed, ask yourself what's keeping you in the relationship? If a non-negotiable becomes negotiable, re-read the first tip."
Know When to Refer to a Professional
"Know when one's problems are more complicated than what you can help them with. It's time to walk away when you're putting in more energy than you have to give."
LDS Family Services
- LDS Family Services - official website. Has a comprehensive list of LDS Family Services worldwide.
- LDS Family Services: Articles - list of online articles and resources from LDS Family Services
Disclaimer: This document is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to serve as medical advice or to replace consultation with your physician or mental health professional.
Please share your resources on helping those with personality disorders in the comments section below.