We all have unique personalities - individual difference in our characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour. We don't, however, always think, feel and behave in exactly the same way - it depends on the situation we are in and the people we are with.
Personality disorders (PD) are a type of mental health problem where your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours cause you longstanding problems in your life because of difficulties in how you think about yourself and others. These patterns may be difficult to change.
Recognising personality disorders: what are the signs?
You might be given a diagnosis of personality disorder if the following are pervasive:
- The way you think, feel and behave causes you or others significant problems across different aspects of your life
- You may struggle to start or keep friendships, to control your feelings and behaviour or get on with people socially or at work - there may frequently be conflict with others
- You may feel unable to trust others; often feel abandoned (when you haven't been)
- Your behaviour has a negative effect on others and leaves you and them feeling unhappy and even angry
- These problems have been present for a long time, often starting in childhood or adolescence and continuing into adulthood
Personality disorders are generally grouped into three categories:
- Suspicious - paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal and antisocial
- Emotional and impulsive - borderline, histrionic and narcissistic
- Anxious - avoidant, dependent and obsessive compulsive (anankastic)
Most personality disorders in fact don't come to the attention of mental health services as they don't seek help. Roughly 5% of the population of the UK would be diagnosed with a PD of some sort if they presented to a psychiatrist.
Probably the most common PD seen by psychiatrists is borderline personality disorder (BPD). It is better known and described as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD) and has the following core features:
- You feel very worried about people abandoning you, and would do anything to stop that happening - you have abandonment issues
- You experience very intense and changeable emotions that may last from a few hours to a few days and can change quickly (e.g. from feeling very happy and confident in the morning to feeling low and sad, angry and even suicidal in the afternoon).
- You don't have a strong sense of who you are, and it can change depending on who you're with - a poor self-image
- You find it very hard to make and keep stable relationships and make frantic efforts to avoid perceived abandonment
- You act impulsively and do things that could harm you (such as binge eating, using recreational drugs or driving dangerously) that you regret - you often feel out of control