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Are Personality Disorders Genetic?

An anxious female with both of her hands covering her face while sitting on the floor

People with personality disorders can exhibit a spectrum of behaviors. If you or someone you love has a personality disorder, you wonder, “Are personality disorders genetic?” After all, you would want to know if the illness can pass from one generation to the next. Genetics plays a role in personality disorders, but there is a myriad of other factors too.

What are Personality Disorders?

A personality disorder is a mental illness with a rigid pattern of thinking, functioning, and behaving. People with personality disorders have difficulty perceiving and relating to situations and people. This difficulty can cause issues in their everyday lives.

There are many types of personality disorders. They usually appear in the teenage years or early adulthood. 

Mental health professionals place personality disorders in three categories:

  1. Cluster A. People with eccentric thinking or behavior that causes them significant distress.
  2. Cluster B. These people are overly dramatic and unpredictable. They have extreme emotional reactions to events. 
  3. Cluster C. Anxious, fearful thinking or behavior are common for those in this group.

Common personality disorders include:

  • Paranoid Personality Disorder. This disorder consists of symptoms like suspecting that others are trying to harm or deceive you, avoiding people out of fear, misinterpreting people’s remarks as against you, and harboring bitterness. 
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder. People with this disorder may not have regard for how their actions affect others. Symptoms include lying, stealing, violence, and lack of regret.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder. Those with this disorder suffer from impulsivity in relationships and dramatic emotional swings. 
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder. People with this disorder also have drastic mood swings. And they’re uncomfortable when they aren’t the center of attention. 
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder. These people lack empathy for those around them. They need admiration, feel entitled, and can’t admit when they’re wrong.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. These people have extreme preoccupations with orderliness, perfectionism, and control.

These personality disorders are just some possible diagnoses. Personality disorders are among the most common severe mental health conditions. They often happen alongside other mental illnesses, like substance use disorders, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders. Experts estimate that 10-15% of the world’s population has a personality disorder.

A depressed teenager with its head on her lap sitting on the floor by the window

Are Personality Disorders Genetic?

The question, “Are personality disorders genetic?” is not easily answered. Unfortunately, experts don’t know what exactly causes personality disorders. But mental health experts think genes are part of the equation. Experts think a combination of genetic and environmental factors causes personality disorders.

Your parents may pass down your temperament. This gene may make you vulnerable to developing a personality disorder. Likewise, the environment in which you grew up may trigger the development.

Risk factors for personality disorders include:

  • Family history of personality disorders or other mental illness
  • Trauma, abuse, or instability during childhood
  • Childhood conduct disorder diagnosis
  • Variations in brain chemistry and structure

How ILC Can Help

Personality disorder diagnosis requires you to meet a specific set of criteria. It might take several sessions of assessment with a trained mental health professional. But people with personality disorders can live a fulfilling life, in part by learning to cope with the symptoms.

Evidence-based treatments for personality disorders include:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy. This therapy teaches you skills, like conflict management and mindfulness, that help decrease personality disorder symptoms.
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy. This treatment helps you learn how to restructure your negative beliefs and thoughts. It also helps you with emotional regulation and modifying negative behaviors.
  • Group Therapy. Group therapy provides a safe space for people with similar mental health disorders and therapists to come together. Groups can help you feel less isolated and alone with your condition.
  • Medication. Psychiatric medications can help you ease personality disorder symptoms. Mental health professionals prescribe mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety medications for personality disorders.

It’s essential to find a coping strategy that works for you. A mental health professional at Integrative Life Center can help you find specific coping strategies, including therapies. 

Contact ILC today to get started on your journey to a healthier, happier you.

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