A personality disorder is when the way an individual thinks, feels, and behaves differs from other people’s expectations. Often these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors cause distress or problems functioning. It’s not just having a bad day. It’s a behavioral pattern that continues for an extended period. Personality disorders can impact personal relationships and hurt the person’s overall quality of life. But what causes personality disorders?
The Cause of Personality Disorders
The exact causes of personality disorders aren’t entirely clear. Researchers believe personality disorders may stem from a complex combination of factors that tend to trigger specific issues. Doctors aren’t entirely sure why some people develop these feelings and behaviors, and others don’t. But common factors seem related to the development of personality disorders.
Causes of personality disorders may include:
- Genetics. Some elements of personality are inherited, and certain genes can increase the likelihood of having a personality disorder.
- Childhood Trauma. People diagnosed with a personality disorder are more likely to have experienced trauma growing up. These experiences may include neglect, the death of a parent, or abuse. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic situation will develop a personality disorder. Still, there is a link between the number and type of childhood traumas and the development of a disorder.
- Environmental Factors. The environment and social circumstances you grow up in can affect your personality and lead to a disorder. You may develop a personality disorder if you had instability in your family, family mental health issues, an unsupportive caregiver, or were the victim of bullying or discrimination.
“There is usually a wound in early attachment and an abandonment that leads to an intense fear of rejection. The panic that is felt from the fear of rejection has led to a maladaptive world outlook.”
The Impact of Personality Disorders
Personality disorders can significantly impact people’s quality of life and relationships. This impact results from the disorder affecting how you think about and relate to yourself and others, how you respond emotionally to situations, and your ability to control your behavior.
People with personality disorders have self-identity, emotional, relationship, and impulse control issues.
At Integrative Life Center, Prusinski said clinicians don’t categorize individuals based on a label or diagnosis. Instead, they provide integrated treatment to the whole person. They don’t attempt to treat symptoms but to uncover the root cause of the disorder and help the person heal from there.
Most Common Personality Disorders
While ILC clinicians focus on holistic healing, they recognize that people come to the center with personality disorder diagnoses. There are numerous personality disorders, but the following three are most common.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. This condition causes people to try to be perfect and only do things their way. People with this disorder have an intense need for order and neatness. They believe in following rigid rules and want to maintain a sense of control at all times.
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A person with this disorder overrates their importance, leading to grandiose plans, self-centeredness, and intolerance of others. People with this disorder show a need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. They may act entitled, take advantage of others, or lack empathy.
- Borderline Personality Disorder. This disorder is a state between psychosis and neurosis that can cause a pattern of instability in personal relationships, intense emotions, poor self-image, and impulsivity. People with this condition struggle with relationships and may have extreme mood swings and outbursts. They may fear abandonment, have repeated suicide attempts, display inappropriate, intense anger, or have ongoing feelings of emptiness.
Treatments for Personality Disorders
“We assist in the healing journey of the root traumas that have altered a person’s life,” Prusinski noted. “This includes identifying and finding gratitude for the resulting thought patterns and behaviors that once kept a person safe but just can’t serve them in the way they want.”
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the most useful tools for people with personality disorders. CBT helps people gain insight into themselves and how the personality disorder affects them. A therapist will usually work with the patient to develop helpful strategies to manage the negative behaviors and regain control of their life.
But talk therapy alone isn’t enough, Prusinski said.
“You can’t talk someone out of an irrational thought,” she said. “To make change or learn anything new, humans need to have an experience. Moving, knowing their body, breathwork, nature, dancing, and then, yes, talking about their profound experience is what really makes change and keeps a person invested.”
Coping Strategies for People with Personality Disorders
If you have a personality disorder, you can take steps to handle the issues the disorder causes. Once someone identifies their list of unhelpful chaotic behaviors, they can make a new agreement with themselves to set a daily intention to respond more helpfully, Prusinski stated.
If you have a personality disorder:
- Educate Yourself. The more you know about your condition, the more empowered you will feel to cope with it’s symptoms.
- Be Physically Active. Physical activity releases endorphins that makes you feel emotionally healthier.
- Avoid Substance Use. Using substances may temporarily relieve symptoms of your disorder, but it’s likely to cause you bigger issues in the long-term. People with personality disorders also are more prone to addictions.
- Seek Professional Support. The support of loved ones is valuable, but guidance from a mental health professional is critical to the management of your symptoms.
Helping Loved Ones with Personality Disorders
Personality disorders also impact people who know and love those who have them.
If you have a loved one with a personality disorder, be:
- Patient. Don’t take your loved one’s behavior personally. Give them time and space to recover.
- Practical. Offer practical support, such as scheduling therapy appointments and offering transportation.
- Available. Let loved ones know you are willing to join them in therapy or help them in any way.
- Vocal. Speak out and tell your loved ones how much you appreciate their efforts to overcome their personality disorder.
- Mindful. Don’t use language that blames or accuses your loved one. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, rather than saying, “You scared me when…,” try saying, “I felt scared when you…”
- Educated. Do your best to understand the disorder so you can emphathize with what your loved one experiences.
Prusinksi said treatment is critical for people and their family members to understand personality disorders.
“Many times clients find resilience by identifying as having a diagnosis of personality disorder. This empowers them to read literature, consume media, and connect with others,” she said.
Information is power, according to Prusinksi.
“We are honest with clients about any diagnosis they may have and if they fit the criteria for a personality disorder,” she said. “We assist them in choosing the language they want to use for themselves.”
How ILC Can Help with Personality Disorders
At Integrative Life Center, we take a trauma-resolution approach to treatment and strive to help clients heal the wounds “driving” their personality behaviors. This heart-centered approach treats the whole person and helps you move forward into healing, health, and recovery. Integrative Life Center is here to help with personality disorders. Contact us today.