What is a personality Disorder?

A personality disorder involves having a rigid pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving, that tends to create problems across a variety of contexts. Someone with a personality disorder frequently misreads situations or the intentions of others, and reacts in ways that deteriorate relationships.  As a result, relationships tend to be unstable, fleeting, or marked with conflict, tension, and hurt feelings.

Often, the person with the personality disorder has trouble realizing how their behaviour is contributing towards the tensions in their relationships with others.  They tend to feel like the victim of other people’s actions. By failing to realize one’s role in interpersonal dynamics, the interpersonal problems tend to be repeated across time and context. They can feel like “everyone’s” out to get them, or like “no one” understands them.  This can lead to problems in a variety of life domains, such as problems at work or school, or in relationships or social activities.

Personality Disorders and Personality Functioning

At the core of Personality Disorders is difficulty with elements of the self (identity and self-direction) as well as interpersonal elements (empathy and intimacy).

Identity: Being able to experience oneself as a unique individual, with boundaries that separate oneself from others. It involves having a stable sense of self-esteem, as well as knowing who one is, and what one is capable of. It encompases the ability experience and regulate a wide range of emotions.

Self-direction: Involves being able to set and pursue life goals that are personally meaningful, to demonstrate cooperative behaviour, and to use self-reflection effectively.

Empathy:  Being able to understand and accept the feelings, viewpoints, and motivations of others, even when they differ from one’s own.  Understanding how one’s behaviour can impact others.

Intimacy:  The capacity to develop relationships that are close, connected, and long-standing, as well as mutually satisfying and respectful.

Personality Disorders and Therapy

People with personality disorders tends to go through many different therapists, and often feel unsatisfied with how others are trying to help them. Interpersonal dynamics tend to show up in the therapy room.  Therefore, therapy is most effective when concerns are addressed in an appropriate manner – such as telling the therapist how one is feeling – as opposed to venting to others not directly involved. By working through problems in the therapy room with the therapist, valuable learning can take place. This reparative work and skill building can then be applied to relationships outside of the therapy room.

What are the different types of Personality Disorders?

Please click on the links below, to learn about some different types of Personality Disorders (some articles are not yet availaible).

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