HBH Treatment & Therapies

Personality Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Types

Treatment therapy for Attachment Disorders, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) or Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED), in Western MA and Greater Boston Area

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We know that personality is a central part of every person, but what defines a personality, and how does a personality disorder develop?

A personality embraces the way we think, feel, and behave in the world, and it is most clearly expressed in our interactions with others. We develop a strong sense of who we are through our behavioral characteristics, both inherent and developed over time.

If our personality traits begin to cause disturbances in our everyday life and interpersonal relationships we might be diagnosed as having a personality disorder.

“Someone with a personality disorder might be unable to manage their emotions either by being easily overwhelmed or by avoiding their emotions; they also might have distorted beliefs such as being hurt or rejected by others. They’ll struggle to maintain

healthy relationships because of their inability to manage their emotions and distorted beliefs.”

– Lindsay Thompson, LMHC at HBH Therapy

Personality disorders interfere with a person’s social and work life, and cause great distress in their ability to develop healthy relationships.

If you suspect that you or your loved one might be suffering with a personality disorder, please consider scheduling an appointment with one of our trained mental health professionals at HBH Therapy. Our trained therapists and counselors in our offices around Western MA and Eastern MA will apply advanced treatment and individualized care to these notoriously hard-to-treat disorders. To learn more about personality disorders, causes, symptoms, and our specialized treatment at HBH Therapy, please read on. We can also be reached by phone at (413) 343-4357.

What is a Personality Disorder?

“People with a personality disorder have pervasive patterns of thinking and acting that differ from the social norm. The unconventional rigidity in their personality traits cause distress in their everyday functioning, and interpersonal relationships.”

– Lindsay Thompson, LMHC at HBH Therapy

Under the current DSM-5, personality disorders include 10 diagnosable psychiatric conditions. Each condition is influenced by personality traits that cause disturbances in people’s relations to the environment and social group.

Personality disorders affect at least two of these areas of a person’s life:

  • Ways of thinking about oneself and others
  • Ways of responding emotionally
  • Ways of relating to other people
  • Ways of controlling one’s behavior

What are the Types of Personality Disorders?

The DSM-5 organizes personality disorders into three clusters – A, B, and C – based on shared features.

Cluster A: Cluster A personality disorders tend to be characterized by odd or eccentric behavior. People with cluster A disorders often experience disturbances in their relationships because their behavior can be perceived as detached, peculiar, or suspicious.

  1. Paranoid personality disorder: Chronic, pervasive distrust of other people; suspicion of being deceived by others, including friends, family, and partners.
  2. Schizoid personality disorder: Social isolation and indifference toward other people; cold or withdrawn behaviors, rarely having close relationships with other people, and preoccupied with fantasy.
  3. Schizotypal personality disorder: Odd speech, behavior, and appearance; strange beliefs and difficulty forming close relationships.

Cluster B: Cluster B personality disorders tend to experience extreme emotions or engage in impulsive, theatrical, promiscuous, or law-breaking behaviors.

  1. Antisocial personality disorder: Disregard for rules, social norms, and lack of remorse for other people. Typically shows up in early childhood.
  2. Borderline personality disorder: Instability in interpersonal relationships, emotions, self-image, and impulsive behaviors.
  3. Histrionic personality disorder: Excessive emotionality and attention seeking that leads to socially inappropriate behavior in order to get attention.
  4. Narcissistic personality disorder: Self-centeredness, exaggerated self-image, and lack of empathy for others; motivated by a fragility in the sense of self.

Cluster C: Cluster C personality disorders tend to experience extreme and pervasive anxiety and/or fearfulness; introverted, anxious, and fearful personalities.

  1. Avoidant personality disorder: Social inhibition and avoidance motivated by fears of inadequacy and criticism by others.
  2. Dependent personality disorder: Fear of being alone; often causes those who have the disorder to get other people to take care of them.
  3. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: Preoccupation with orderliness, perfection, and control of relationships.

What Causes a Personality Disorder?

Personality disorders are among the most common but least understood severe mental health conditions. Research suggests that genetics, childhood trauma, and childhood environment all contribute to the development of a personality disorder.

Most personality disorders develop in teenage years, when the personality further develops and matures.

A personality disorder might develop as a way of coping with a painful situation or unreasonable stress experienced in childhood. A teenager who was neglected as a child might develop an avoidant personality disorder: withdrawing from social situations to cope with fear, pain, and anxiety that exists in their surroundings.

How are Personality Disorders Treated?

“My goal as a therapist is to help improve my patients’ life-satisfaction in all areas of their life, from work to personal relationships. We work together to find healthy coping strategies and minimize their everyday distress, finding balance in life.”

– Lindsay Thompson, LMHC at HBH Therapy

Despite the difficult-to-treat reputation of personality disorders, group psychological treatments and/or individual talk therapies can help individuals suffering with personality disorders. The following treatment types show promise:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Aims to teach people how to change their negative thought patterns so they can better cope with everyday challenges, and improve their interpersonal relationships.

Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT): Aims to teach people how to manage their emotions, using healthy skills. A treatment specifically used for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Mentalisation-Based Therapy (MBT): Aims to improve people’s ability to recognize and understand their mental states, and other people’s mental states. Helps people examine their thoughts about self.

Medications: While there aren’t any medications approved for treatment of personality disorders, the following types of medications can be helpful in reducing various personality disorder symptoms:

  • Antidepressants: can improve a depressed mood, anger, or impulsively
  • Mood stabilizers: can prevent intense mood changes and reduce irritability
  • Antipsychotic medications: can reduce symptoms of psychosis like hallucinations and delusions
  • Anti-anxiety medications: can relieve anxiety, agitation, and insomnia

How to Seek Personality Disorder Treatment?

From bipolar personality disorder to narcissistic personality disorder, each personality disorder has its own unique set of diagnostic criteria. All personality disorders are serious and pervasive mental health conditions that will not go away without treatment.

If you or your loved one is suffering with a personality disorder, please contact HBH Therapy at (413) 343-4357. Our trained mental health professionals in Amherst, Wilbraham, West Springfield, Franklin, and across Massachusetts will answer all of your questions, and guide you toward a path of healing and recovery.

Contact us today at (413) 343-4357 or request an appointment online.

About The Author

Nettie Hoagland Headshot

Nettie Hoagland is a writer with experience in local news reporting and nonprofit communications and community development. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts from Saint Michael’s College. Nettie is a believer in the healing power of the arts to create connection and community. She is passionate about using writing and storytelling as an instrument for personal and social growth in the field of mental health. Nettie is endlessly curious about all things mental and behavioral health.

Lindsay Thompson, LMHC Headshot

Lindsay believes in a person-centered approach that sees the input of individual the individual being supported as a vital part of the therapeutic process. It is important that the client’s wants and desires are at the forefront of the goals are set and, eventually achieved.