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What is Personality Disorder ?
Personality Disorder is a type of mental disorder whereby the person has enduring and rigid pattern of thinking, their functioning and behaviours deviate from the usual cultural norm.
People with personality disorders tend to have difficulties in integrating or relating to situations or people. It is not uncommon that they face enduring challenges in their day to day functioning like their work, schools, and personal relationships.
What causes personality disorders ?
Personality Disorders usually begin in late teens or adulthood. It is not fully understood what causes personality disorders but it is believed that these factors may contribute to the development of personality disorders.
One study has found a link between childhood traumas and development of personality disorders. For instance, people with borderline personality disorder had especially high rates of childhood sexual abuse, or other forms of childhood traumas.
Poor Parenting During Childhood
Studies have consistently found a link between poor parenting practices and poor parent child interactions. For example, if a child had never been taught boundaries or discipline, and he/she gets whatever he/she demands for, the child is likely to grow up feeling very entitled and may develop into narcissistic personality.
Although this factor needs to be researched better, studies have identified a malfunctioning gene that is a contributing factor for obsessive-compulsive disorder, and genetics are linked to aggression in some people with personality disorders.
What are the types of personality disorders ?
There are 10 types of personality disorders. They are classified into 3 categories or clusters. Cluster A, B and C.
Cluster A are those that have suspicious, unusual or eccentric thinking. They are paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.
People with this condition have pervasive mistrust and suspicion on people without justifiable reason. They frequently believe that people are out to harm or threaten them.
People with this condition do not have any interest in having a relationship with anyone. They prefer to be alone and detached from others. They also have a restricted range of emotions when interacting with others.
People with this condition consistently display intense discomfort with and have limited need for close relationships. They have distorted and suspicious views of relationships and display odd eccentric behaviours.
Cluster B are those that display dramatic and erratic behaviours. People in this cluster tend to be very impulsive, reactive, and have unstable and intense emotions. They are Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
People with this condition tend to show a lack of respect toward other people and they are resistant to following social norms, rules and regulations. They have a tendency to break the law or cause physical or emotional harm to people with little regard for their actions or consequences.
People with this condition tend to have marked difficulty in regulating their emotions. They have mood swings, low self esteem, impulsive behaviours and interpersonal problems with relationships. They also tend to have self harming behaviours and suicidal tendencies.
People with this condition have a distorted image of self. Their self esteem is very dependent on approval of others and they have an overwhelming need to be noticed by others. As such they tend to display dramatic behaviours or eccentric behaviors to get attention from others.
People with this condition have a consistent pattern of perceived superiority and grandiosity. They have an excessive need for praise and admiration from others.
They are unable to have empathy for others and will tend to be controlling and demanding for attention from others. Their thoughts and behaviors often stem from low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence.
Cluster C personality disorders are characterised by excessive anxiety and disorder. They are Avoidant Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.
Avoidant Personality Disorder
People with this condition have chronic fear of being judged by other and chronic feelings of inadequacy. They are highly sensitive to people’s views about them and tend to believe that people would negatively judge them. To avoid feeling the sense of inadequacy, fear of being judged or being rejected by others, they will avoid social interaction with others.
People with this condition have an excessive need to be taken care of by someone. In order to maintain relationship with the significant person, persons with dependent personality disorders tend to focus on pleasing the other person, subjugate themselves and be submissive.
They can be passive and clingy as they are fearful of rejection or separation. They also have a constant need for reassurance and are fearful of making their own decisions.
People with this condition are highly rigid. They have a consistent and extreme need for perfectionism, control and orderliness, perfectionism and control. They can become highly anxious when things are not done in their way or within their control.
The obsession for perfectionism , or control hinders them from completing tasks and affects their day to day functioning and their relationships. People with obsessive compulsive personality disorder tend to have little awareness of how their disorder is impacting on their lives.
Treatment for personality disorders
There are different types of treatment for personality disorders. Schema Therapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and Internal Family Systems Therapy are therapies that have good efficacy in treatment of these disorders.
Goals of therapy may include:
- Raising their awareness of how their personality disorders are impacting on themselves and their loved ones
- Better management and regulation of their emotions
- Building greater capacity for mindfulness and change in behaviour
- Processing and healing underlying childhood traumas that may have contributed to the personality disorder
Sylvia Tan - Founder, Principal Counselling Psychologist, MPsych (SRP Registered)
Sylvia is a Counselling Psychologist practicing in Singapore. She holds a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology from Curtin University of Technology ( Perth, Western Australia) and is currently a registered counselling psychologist and a clinical supervisor with the Singapore Register of Psychologists (SRP).
After her graduation in 2002, Sylvia lived and worked in Australia for many years before her relocation back to her home country Singapore in 2014. To date, Sylvia has over 20 years of experience working in a range of settings both in Australia and Singapore.
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