Living with a personality disorder may mean your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are more difficult to understand and manage. This may also mean that your attitudes and actions are different from others. Some people might not understand this, which can leave you feeling low and insecure.
On this page, we'll explore what personality disorders are and the treatment options available.
We recognise that the system of personality disorder diagnosis can be considered controversial. It is completely your choice which term, if any, you want to use, knowing that your doctor or care team may use another.
We appreciate that the feelings and behaviours associated with personality disorders are very difficult to live with, and everyone deserves understanding and support. We recognise the diversity in understanding of experiences and preferences around terms individuals may wish to use. We are also aware that some professionals disagree with the system of personality disorder diagnosis, and that some people given the diagnosis find it unhelpful and stigmatising.
The terms used on Counselling Directory are those that are generally used in the UK, currently. We refer to these terms throughout, with the hope of reaching and supporting as many people as possible.
What are personality disorders?
Our personalities are a collection of thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviours that make us unique. We all have our own individual personalities which make us who we are, so it's understandable that not everyone will think and feel the same way.
However, someone whose personality is disordered thinks, feels and behaves in a different way from someone without a personality disorder. This typically means the person struggles to relate to others and even themselves.
Personality disorders will usually become noticeable in adolescence and continue into adulthood. You may find it hard to build and maintain relationships and you may struggle to work with other people effectively.
A personality disorder can show itself in different ways. There are currently 10 known types of personality disorders, which can be grouped into three clusters: A, B and C.
Cluster A personality disorders
According to Mental Health UK, someone with a cluster A personality disorder may find it difficult to relate to others. They may show behaviour patterns that other people may describe as “odd" or "eccentric”. The personality disorders within cluster A include:
Cluster B personality disorders
If someone is diagnosed with a cluster B personality disorder, they may struggle to regulate their emotions. Those with a cluster B personality disorder may be described as "erratic" or "unpredictable".
- antisocial personality disorder
- borderline personality disorder (BDP) or emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)
- histrionic personality disorder
- narcissistic personality disorder
In this video, chartered clinical psychologist Dr Chancy Marsh talks more about emotionally unstable personality disorder - the most commonly diagnosed - and how therapy can help.
Cluster C personality disorders
Personality disorders included in cluster C are those in which anxious and fearful behaviour is central. Individuals with these personality disorders are often regarded as “antisocial" or "withdrawn”. Cluster C personality disorders include:
- dependent personality disorder
- avoidant personality disorder
- obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
Treatment for personality disorders
The form of treatment offered to you and how effective the treatment is will depend on both the severity of your condition and what is available to you. Whilst there is no 'one size fits all' approach, generally, treatment will involve a course of psychological therapy. This may include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or psychotherapy. Treatment tends to be long-term, usually lasting at least six months, but this will depend on your situation.
Your counsellor or psychotherapist will aim to help you regulate your thoughts and emotions, and understand yourself better. Often, sufferers will find that their personality disorder improves as they age. This suggests, perhaps, that as they grow older, they gain more life experience and develop a better understanding of how to manage and live with their responses and interactions with others.
It is this interaction with others that many people with a personality disorder find difficult, but it is also an area that counselling and psychotherapy can address. Some sufferers will unknowingly stir up emotions in others. A professional can help work through this, usually through suitable supervision and by providing an opportunity to talk in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
Specifically, psychotherapy and CBT are considered to be among the most effective treatment methods. Group therapy has also been shown to help. Being in a group situation will differ from real life because any disagreements or upsets will occur in a controlled environment. Here, professionals and other sufferers can help you overcome and learn from any issues that arise.
Counselling for personality disorders
Counselling for personality disorders will help you understand your thoughts and behaviours better. You will learn how to focus on your beliefs, understand how to control your emotions and learn how to manage symptoms. It is important to talk about what you are going through, whether it be with a friend, family member or suitably qualified professional.
While there are many different treatment options available, it will depend on your situation. Your counsellor will work with you to understand and decide which one will be most effective.
An important part of your treatment is the relationship between you and the professional. Having someone who you trust and know will support, listen and believe in you is crucial in making sure you are getting the most out of your treatment.
How can I find a counsellor?
The first step of your journey will be to find a professional that resonates with you. On Counselling Directory, we have a proof policy in place. This ensures all professionals listed with us have provided proof of membership with a counselling regulatory body. To help you learn more about them and the way they work, we encourage our members to fill their profiles with plenty of information.
What should I be looking for in a counsellor or therapist?
While there are no official laws or regulations that stipulate what level of training a counsellor dealing with personality disorders needs, it is recommended you check that your therapist is suitably qualified and has experience in the treatment you are seeking.
The NHS recommends the following forms of therapy for those with a personality disorder:
For more information regarding the different forms of personality disorders, visit the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Living with a personality disorder can leave you fearing other people. This can often lead to social isolation and in turn, leave you feeling alienated from others.
Yet, with the right support and information, you can begin to understand what you are going through. You can learn how to build relationships, understand others, cope with your feelings and live a fulfilling life.
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